The Shrink Next Door Episode 7: “The Breakthrough” Breakup

Ike (Paul Rudd) grabs Marty's (Will Ferrell) face to reassure him all is good.
Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd in The Shrink Next Door, now streaming on Apple TV+.

The following contains spoilers for The Shrink Next Door Episode 7, “The Breakthrough” (written by Catherine Shepherd & Sas Goldberg and directed by Jesse Peretz)

A breakthrough in therapy can happen multiple times—it’s the moment you first begin to realize the damage you are inflicting on yourself, the moment when you can pinpoint triggers and begin to find ways to adjust so they aren’t so bothersome anymore. It can also be the moment when you begin to truly open up and explore your past. In The Shrink Next Door, Marty Markowitz (Will Ferrell) has been dealing with close to 30 years of mental abuse and manipulation brought on from his therapist, Doctor Ike Herschkopf (Paul Rudd), and in its Final Episode Eve (which I know isn’t a thing, but I’m making it one), Marty finally has that breakthrough and finds the courage to break up with Ike.

It’s sad that this series only has one more episode because I really feel as though there was such a slow burn to build up Marty’s trust in Ike that the consequences of that trust have really been rushed through. I’ve enjoyed watching Will Ferrell’s performance as Marty because he’s really been able to capture the change in his physicality and mentality. That said, I wish we could physically see those repercussions rather than have them relied upon to be represented in an actor’s performance. 

I know I keep coming back to the podcast, but there was just so much information within it that I feel the series has fallen short in representing it. Marty spent years basically being a servant for Ike: cleaning the Hamptons house, being ignored during actual therapy sessions, tricked into spending hours on end typing Ike’s detective stories (that included details from other patients), and also typing up Ike’s medical files on his other patients. Marty had become so dependent on Ike that he even altered his will, leaving his estate to Ike’s twin girls.

In order to tell their story, The Shrink Next Door takes liberties with these events, which is completely fine because it’s television. Devoting three episodes to building Ike and Marty’s trust enough for Marty to separate himself from Phyllis (Kathryn Hahn) was a waste of precious storytime. Those first three episodes span such a short period of time that by the time you hit Episode 4, the audience should move out of the courting stage and into the “engage” stage—that moment in the early stages where there are things hinted at more and we get to see Ike getting Marty to change his will. It would be here where having the fantasy image of Ike’s novel coming to life with them plays out, not this week’s episode. Instead, The Shrink Next Door focused so much at its beginning that it really didn’t know how it was going to go into a second act. So we are left with a quick climactic episode that loses the bite that the rest of this series managed to hold.

Some may consider how Marty stranded Miriam at the gas station in the last episode as the climax to how far he was willing to be pushed, but we never got to fully dwell on the repercussions of him having done that. We only saw that he was regretful for what he did. The last shot was him standing on the street corner feeling down about it, yet this week he remains with Ike, still hosting house parties, typing away, and cleaning up after everyone. 

Years of labor have begun to show their effects on Marty. Do you know that feeling of working long hours every day while running around without having a moment to breathe? How exhausted you feel and how you wish you could sleep all the time but can’t? Well, that feeling is how Marty looks. He’s hunched over, looks constantly in pain, haggard, and small (which is a testament to Will Ferrell’s portrayal because Ferrell is usually the biggest personality on the screen). 

Marty (Will Ferrell) in a hospital gown completely out of place at a house party.
Will Ferrell in The Shrink Next Door, now streaming on Apple TV+.

Not only that, Marty hasn’t been to the hospital because Ike has discouraged him from doing so, and because of that his health has also deteriorated. In “The Breakthrough,” Marty begins to exhibit pain in his lower chest area which turns out to be a hernia. When he goes in for his surgery, he has to stay over in recovery. In reality, this is the moment that the real Marty Markowitz realizes just how messed up Ike is because, for the length of his stay, Ike never visits or sends any messages. 

I understand The Shrink Next Door playing this up because the show did promote itself as a comedy, but throughout this series so far a lot of that comedy has been really grounded. Having Marty stage an escape in “The Breakthrough” because Ike hasn’t shown up and having him crash the Hamptons beach house party while still in his hospital gown with his butt hanging out is a peak Will Ferrell comedy moment that I feel takes away from the seriousness that this moment needs to have. Marty has spent years catering to this man’s every need out of a friendship that has been one-sided. For years Ike has told him over and over about how they are family and how Marty is like a brother to him. Even when Marty shows up to the party asking why Ike never came, he’s being reassured that Ike was there in spirit, having taken care of his room and the doctors in the first place (Lord only knows if even that is true).

Instead, the big breakthrough scene comes when Marty discovers that one of his fish in his pond had died from not receiving his medicine. He hasn’t had any family or social life. All the parties held at the house have been filled with Ike’s people (something Bonnie makes known). Besides Ike, the only other social interaction he’s had has been taking care of the fish in their pond. They had become the closest thing to having children that he’s experienced. I don’t know if the real Marty had this same attachment, but I understand why the show’s Marty would look at this and have it be the final straw. Ike gifted him this very fish; to Marty, it was a symbol of their partnership. With its death came the death of their bond and any trust Marty had in him.

This death, which brings clarity to Marty for the first time since he first took his steps into that doctor’s office, allows him the breakthrough to start figuring things out for himself. He makes the decision to move his family’s furniture company to New Jersey in order to save it, which was something Ike refused to do. Ike would rather watch it crumble and fail than make any investment into it, even though it’s that furniture company that allows Marty to keep that house in the Hamptons. It’s when Ike tries to argue with him on it that Marty says in front of everyone that he’s through with Ike.

Marty (Will Ferrell) receives applauds after telling Ike off.
Will Ferrell and Cornell Womack in The Shrink Next Door, now streaming on Apple TV+.

Usually, movies and even television give us a period where we get to see the relationship fully play out and allow ourselves to decide if it’s a good one or bad. The big issue I have with The Shrink Next Door is that, up until this episode, it still feels as though Marty and Ike are in their dating phase. From listening to Marty’s actual story, it feels as though we should really see their “love story.” These last two episodes have Ike being a bully and a jerk. Even in the scenes where Ike and Marty speak privately, it’s to build up to something else. I never sense there’s a moment where we can honestly call them a couple, and they need that feeling in order to have this “breakup” hit much harder than it actually did.

As of now, that breakup feels more like a temporary one, which is not a promising feeling when there is one episode left. There have been many series that I’ve watched where the beginning has been so perfectly planned only to discover that the ending is falling short due to the poor structure of the middle. The Shrink Next Door is feeling like one of those series, and it will be interesting to see how Georgia Pritchett decides to wrap up this series.

Written by Katie Bienvenue

Katie is a writer, cosplayer, craftswoman, and Barista. When she isn't talking about Chainmaille she is usually found discussing some television series, film, or how to properly make one's latte.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *