I had absolutely loved the first two seasons of The Kominsky Method. And yet I was in two minds whether to give Season 3 a watch. Reason? The absence of Alan Arkin. Despite the show being named after Sandy Kominsky — played by Michael Douglas, who also functions as its executive producer — few will argue against the fact that it was Arkin’s Norman Newlander, with his brazen mix of wit and wisdom, who made the show what it is in the 16 episodes that comprised its two seasons. The show, across two seasons, was a poignant and yet humorous look at ageing, with Norman and Sandy’s friendship at its centre.
Norman, a highly successful Hollywood agent struggling to cope with the demise of his beloved wife, had Sandy, an acting coach who had never really tasted true success as an actor, forever by his side, even as the two — flawed, funny and yet fabulous in their own weird ways — gave us some terrific television, playing off each other as an irascible odd couple. Buoyed by them, The Kominsky Method functioned as a masterclass of acting in itself.
In Season 3, that ‘masterclass’ is delivered by Morgan Freeman no less, but more on that later. My trepidation about tuning in to the new season was reinforced by its first shot — Norman solemnly looking on from a giant-sized photograph at his funeral service. Would this season be worth my time I kept wondering, especially given its first 10 minutes — filled with some awful, out-of-character speeches and B-category drama — turned out to be pretty disastrous. But I stuck on. And I am glad I did.
To be honest, Douglas was given short shrift in the first two seasons. The best lines were reserved for Arkin, and Douglas, at best, was saddled with a few toilet jokes (pun intended) dealing with Sandy’s failing prostate. In Season 3, Sandy is given a better arc, and who better than Douglas — who did win a Golden Globe for the show a few years earlier — to dance out of the crease and wallop it straight out of the stadium. This season belongs to Sandy, with the show created by Chuck Lorre (the man behind big TV winners like Dharma & Greg, Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory) humanising the man. That happens courtesy the entry of Roz (played by Kathleen Turner), Sandy’s ex-wife, with the initial scathing interactions between the two giving way to a tenderness and warmth that looks at life and death through a lens that will tease a smile as well as a tear.
Norman does pop in through some scenes that have played out before, but it’s not long before one is able to move on from him and focus on Sandy, trying to cope with not only the death of his best friend, but also the loneliness that comes with age. In comes Roz, and it’s the changing relationship between her and Sandy that gives The Kominsky Method a new dimension, even as the show continues with its tradition of delivering spot-on one-liners. That mostly happens courtesy Sandy’s would-be son-in-law Martin (Paul Reiser), with a winning cameo by Morgan Freeman, playing himself, sealing the deal.
But the show, in Season 3, is no longer a comedy, hitting home with its look at regret and how time heals, with the bitterness of past relationships giving way to forgiveness and understanding. Roz and Sandy’s growing friendship —sometimes caustic, oftentimes tender — is the heartbeat of this season, and Kathleen Turner wins us over, slipping easily into the vacuum left behind by Alan Arkin. The bittersweet ending — Sandy winning something he’s always wanted but losing so much else — brings on the perfect ending to a show that knows to bow out with a flourish when its ahead.