Some Belated Thoughts on the ‘Parenthood’ Finale

Parenthood

PARENTHOOD: 6.13 “May God Bless and Keep You Always”

There’s been very little on TV lately that I’ve wanted to write about. And the few things that I have wanted to write about, I haven’t had time. But here in the few days after the finale of Parenthood, now that I’ve mopped up all my sentimental tears, I did want to say a few words about our last hour with the Bravermans.

I couldn’t have thought of a better finale. Sure, it was sappy — but if it weren’t, it just wouldn’t be Parenthood. And maybe it was unrealistically optimistic (Crosby saves the Luncheonette; Adam becomes headmaster at Chambers), but it was just what we needed.

And while nothing groundbreaking happened, some large moments did. Sarah got married, which was a perfect way of getting the whole clan together and happily taking pictures of all of them in all sorts of small groups. Heck, it even got Haddie to return (even if I did still find her annoying, self-centered, and irritating, even as she was trying to be nice to Max — how did she still come across as abrasive and obnoxious?). But we got to feel like we were celebrating with them. And that was nice. We deserve a happy ending.

Of course, we had Zeek’s death. It was sad, but not surprising. It’s the moment we had all been expecting all season. And quite frankly, it was well done. The entire episode wasn’t brought down by a heartbreaking scene, a dark funeral, and teary eulogies. It was a simple discovery, topped off with an appropriate family moment of spreading ashes and celebrating a life through fun and play. Another opportunity to put the family side by side and show what they really are like when they got together.

Of course, there were some surprises. Joel and Julia adopt a brand-new baby girl, for one, which was just wonderful. And then we discover in the flashes forward, that she wasn’t their last baby. They later have a little boy — and get a puppy. Crosby and Jasmine are expecting again. Even Amber had a little girl with Jason freakin’ Street — or at least his doppelganger. And Ryan got his happy ending too, after apparently getting his life together and getting to spend time with his son (thank goodness).

Max even smiled.

Ultimately, it was just a satisfying, uplifting ending on all counts. One that helped us remember the family that we followed for the last six years and rooted on in times of trouble: whether that was Kristina’s cancer, Sarah’s failed relationships, Joel and Julia’s marriage troubles, Crosby’s struggle to become a responsible family man, or even potential cancellation. And it helped remind us that even though the show might end, the Bravermans live on.

So I raise a glass at that famous table, with the lights strung in the trees above, and I say, “Bravo.” It was a great way to end a series. And it may just stand out as one of the most memorable — and maybe one of the best — finales I’ve seen.

Parenthood

*Photos by NBC

Parenthood: Because You’re My Sister

PARENTHOOD: 4.15 “Because You’re My Sister”

I have no idea whether last night’s episode of Parenthood was the last or just the last of season four. I hear the creator is optimistic, but I’m not sure what that really means. What I do know, though, is that if NBC doesn’t renew this puppy after this incredible season, they’re crazy.

On the bright side, I won’t have any lingering issues or questions that will remain unanswered.

I’m entirely pleased with last night’s finale. Not only was it heartfelt — sheesh, just sitting in judge’s chambers for Victor’s adoption ceremony (would you really call it a ceremony) would make your heart grow three sizes that day — but you really felt comfortable with where each character was headed. Drew (*coughcoughANDREWHOLTcoughcough*) is headed to Berkeley. Jasmine and Crosby are on their way to child number two (with a happy mother-in-law in tow). Kristina is cancer-free. And are Amber and Ryan headed down the aisle? Whether their glances at rings were real or not, they’re happy either way.

The only question remaining unanswered is that of Sarah, who was left wondering whether she should move to Minnesota to be with Hank. Her final scene had her celebrating Drew’s success, not pining over a guy. And while we did get a dismal scene of Mark walking alone through the school halls, I’m not all too worried about him. Overall, I choose to believe that Sarah’s final Berkeley-clad scene showed that choosing between guys was meaningless compared to the family she has there. I hope that means she chose neither guy.

What I don’t want, if the show were to be renewed, would be to find out that we’re still hung up on the Sarah love triangle. Let’s put that plot line to bed. After all, that was the worst of all the storylines this season. Why NBC played that up in almost every promo — especially near the end of the season — we’ll never know. Because so much of the strength of the series was in Kristina, Julia, Amber, and even Crosby.

All that being said, while I’m content with the end, I’m not content if it is the end. This series really surprised me this season. For the last three seasons, I spent episode after episode going, “Really?” or “Uggh, I hate ____” (Haddie, Jasmine, fill-in-the-blank) will they battled ridiculous storylines like sex-dialing and sleeping with your cousin’s boyfriend. This season took the show to an entirely new level AND THEY DID IT WELL. That can’t be emphasized enough: They did it well.

Kristina’s breast cancer was by far the hardest plotline to do right, and they did everything right, even down to seeing her friend return to chemo in the final episode. Poignant, emotional, and real, they knew what they were doing.

And that should be commended. And frankly, it should be renewed. So hear me, NBC, if you want to have smart television, take another look at Parenthood. You can be sure its fans will.

Parenthood: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

PARENTHOOD: 4.14 “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back”

After last week’s incredible episode of Parenthood, I was left with a loss of words. The show handled Drew’s storyline so well, even if I did hate the final result. My only irritation was that of Sarah, who seemed oblivious to anything going on in her son’s life, even after Mark pointed it out. While I realize that was supposed to symbolize a very real perception of the secret life of an American teenager (see how I did that there?) that even the parents don’t see, in the end, we have Sarah, who is so wrapped up in her own world to take notice of anyone else.

This week builds on that Sarah irritation, with promos and previews dedicated to the love triangle between Sarah, Mark, and Hank. We’re only lucky the entire episode didn’t revolve around that.

What really stood out to me in this episode was not that story of Sarah, but everyone else. I loved seeing Julia’s reaction to Victor’s attitude toward her. While Joel so blindedly fought forward to get Victor as part of the family, Julia stepped back, wondering if it was really right. Not only because it hurt her, but because Victor deserved a mother/son relationship that was loving and nice. I was particularly impressed with Crosby — yes, I said that right — when he gave her his pep talk. That was rather adult and helpful of him, which is unusual to say the least.

Speaking of Crosby, I was also rather impressed with him when he chose to open up a discussion with Jasmine’s mother. Now, he certainly couldn’t handle criticism, and he handled the second half of that conversation terribly, but he was smart to bring it up. I also think he has a point to tell Jasmine that she needs to learn to stand up to her mother. Jasmine gave no support in that conversation — even during the calm discussion that started it — leaving Crosby on his own. While Crosby certainly had his faults, Jasmine isn’t 100% innocent either.

I was also pleased to see Ryan reappear on the show. I was wondering what would happen between him and Amber by the season’s end (which is next week), and I’m glad he’s back. Here’s hoping for more.

But before we get there, let’s take a moment to think about that horrible direction we’re going in for Sarah. Personally, I think this is the weakest storyline of the show, and it just needs to go away, not stretch out as the series’ ongoing “Will they won’t they” storyline. I could care less who she picks (but if she doesn’t pick Mark, she’s a moron). As much as I really enjoy Ray Romano on the show, I think it’d be the smartest decision to pick neither of them, just so we can give Sarah a fresh start if this series continues.

And hopefully it will. Because here we have another week with yet another great episode. And I rarely get to say that.

Finally, I’m Responding to Last Week’s ‘Parenthood’

PARENTHOOD: 4.12 “Keep on Rowing”

Is there anyone still out there? I realize Raked’s been a little quiet since Christmas (perhaps still licking my wounds after Leverage ended), but I have been watching what little new TV has been on as of late, and I did plan to write about Parenthood in a timely manner.

Unfortunately, while I was wholly invested in the episode — I believe I yelped and jumped the minute that bat left Victor’s hand — I ran a blank every time I thought about writing about it. With such a reaction during the hour, why did I run out of things to say?

Well, perhaps because it was surprisingly good, enthralling television. Much like the Christmas episode that I also had a hard time reacting to (and didn’t write about), Parenthood actually just seems to be doing better and better, despite that it’s using one of the most difficult storylines to do freshly — Kristina’s cancer.

The cancer storyline has been done in so many dramas, and while I don’t want to say it’s cliche, it is one to do in a new and different way, just because so many others have proceeded it. And when you add in the fact that TV desperately wants to play with a viewer’s emotions as much as possible, you can generally guess that the main character will eventually say their final good-bye, and you’re left tear-stained, wiping your nose on the couch.

But with Kristina, they’re making the story a lot more three-dimensional. They’re adding close calls. They’re adding interactions with her family. It feels real. So when she lost her hair this week in the cold open and immediately shaved her head, not only was I surprised how fast that happened (I thought for sure that it’d be mid-episode), but I appreciated the fact that her realization of what others thought of her was something I would have thought as well. To her, shaving her head was liberating. She was free, and it was part of the process she wasn’t going to be ashamed of; she was going to embrace. But others didn’t see her that way. They gave her looks like she was sick, like they might get sick, too. And while in a moment of weakness, she looked at wigs online, it was really just showing her own sensitivities.

Possibly my favorite part of the episode was Adam’s attempt to get Kristina a wig. Not because I knew it was a bad idea (and it was a bad idea) but because I could see the inner workings of the husband mind versus the wife mind. To him, he thoughts, “Find problem. Fix problem. Kristina’s upset she has no hair. She looked at wigs. I’ll buy her a wig!” To Kristina, his buying her a wig just fed into her insecurities. If her own husband was embarrassed to see her bald head, what would the rest of the world think? Plus, look at what he brought her? If that horrible wig is what he got, he must think anything is better than how she looked!

Of course, it all worked out. She realized her emotional response and apologized, and they even got a date night out of it. But I just like how real the show is taking this entire situation.

There was so much more going on in this episode, some of which I remember, some of which I don’t. So I’ll just respond in some bullets to the other family members:

  • Sarah’s driving me nuts. As much as I like Hank on the show, I hate this whole relationship she has with him. Plus, the fact that she got jealous over Mark’s New Year’s kiss on the cheek was just uncalled for when she’s sleeping with someone else already.
  • Crosby also is driving me nuts. It’s one thing to be caught off-guard when an in-law might move in. But instead of looking at how she may dominate (and we know he’s had issues with her dominating in the past, like her religion), he focuses on how he doesn’t get his man cave anymore. That’s just selfish and juvenile.
  • Based on the last scene with Victor, I think we’ll be seeing him running away pretty soon. I think Julia was right, that she needed to make it clear that his actions were not acceptable and not an accident, but when your husband says she needs to explain that she’s not angry at him, she’s angry at the behavior, she should have taken note. Leaving that overnight just made Victor think more that she’s not his real mom and she doesn’t even like him anyway. Don’t they know never to go to bed angry?

Anyway, those are my thoughts on last week’s episode, and I’ll do my best to be a little more timely with this week’s episode. I’ve been pleased with Parenthood so far this season, and it’s just showing me more and more that when a show is good, it’s harder to write about. So just know that my silence may not be a bad thing.

Parenthood: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

PARENTHOOD: 4.09 “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

Even though I don’t write about Parenthood on a regular basis, the show is actually one of my favorites on TV right now. I’ve never been a huge fan of family dramas, but for whatever reason (probably because of the all-around excellent acting and usually great writing), I eagerly look forward to the show every week. In this particular week, there were three stories that really stood out for me.

First, Adam and Kristina. The actors and writers have been handling the cancer storyline perfectly, keeping it sad and poignant without it becoming maudlin; they’ve even been able to slip some comedy into such a dark subject, as evidenced by the pot storyline last week. In the latest development, Kristina fears that Max’s refusal to go his first school dance might mean that she’ll never be able to see her son hit that milestone. In a really wonderful scene, Adam sits down with Max and in a careful, logical progression, explains why going to the dance, which is so hard for Max, would really mean so much to his mother. I also appreciate that the writers refuse to temper Max’s condition or behavior. Even the concession to attend that Adam wins from Max is highly conditional; he’ll only go for 15 minutes, and Dad will be waiting in the car to take him home. As I watched the look on Adam’s face as he stood in the doorway, watching Kristina and Max practice dancing, I suddenly wondered if the writers were going to let the cancer run its course and kill her. I hope they don’t, because she’s a valuable addition to the cast, but it would be interesting to see Adam attempt to navigate life as a widower. On top of that, Parenthood is one of the only shows that I can think of that would be able to properly handle such a profoundly sad event. Yes, there would be a tidal wave of tears, but I don’t think that the show would manipulate our emotions.

I also really liked Joel and Julia’s story, which dealt with Julia trying to accept and deal with her life now that she’s no longer a high powered lawyer. Joel and Julia have always been the inverse of the traditional family; here, for so long, Dad has taken care of the kids and the home, while Mom has been ambitious and driven in her career. Now, unfortunate circumstances have reversed these roles, and Julia’s at home, where she’s finding herself extremely bored and unfulfilled; as a result, she takes her frustration out on Joel for failing to consult her a second time before accepting a full-time job and blaming him for putting his job ahead of their kids. Joel is justifiably angry, responding that he never stood in the way of her professional ambitions and never told her to put away her work on a family vacation because he respected her too much. Once she realizes she was wrong, things get patched up pretty easily, but I liked seeing the shoe on the other foot here, and the incident was a reminder that their relationship really needs to be an equal partnership in order to work.

Finally, a brief word on Amber and Ryan, a relationship that I think has really been one of the standout stories in this season so far. We don’t see much of them in this episode, but the little that we do see tells us that Ryan is still dealing with some heavy issues after his time in Afghanistan. Amber confides in her grandfather, hoping that as a war veteran himself, he’ll have some insight on how to help. The scene where she describes how scared she is for Ryan, and how she wishes she could help, was just so wonderfully done. Zeke had his back turned to Amber when she said this, but you could see by the grave and serious look on his face that he knows exactly where Ryan is coming from because he was there himself at one time. It was a small but significant moment that made you really feel for all three characters at once. I think there will be some rough parts ahead for these two kids, but I really want to see them continue to grow together. Ryan is a great addition to this cast and I hope he stays around for a while.

I suppose I should mention Sarah’s swiftly disintegrating relationship with Mark, something that frankly I could see coming from a mile away. She seems to constantly make such bad decisions with very little thought for the consequences or how they might affect other people. At this point, Crosby is more mature than she is. A few commenters over at Alan Sepinwall’s post on this episode suggested that she’s acting as an enabler for the potentially alcoholic Hank, which would fit with her history given that she used to be married to an alcoholic. This would be a really interesting angle to explore, especially if the consequences of this upcoming three person relationship car crash force her to question her co-dependent nature. Unfortunately, I don’t think the writers have something this much in-depth in mind; I think they’re just intent on blowing up Sarah and Mark’s relationship for dramatic effect and judging by the previews for the next episode, that’s probably going to happen in gory detail next week.

Parenthood: One More Weekend With You

PARENTHOOD: 4.08 “One More Weekend With You”

Poor Kristina. I’ll start with that, but to be fair, between last week and the beginning of this episode, when she refused to believe what she was going through and proceeded to eat sugar, carry her daughter around, invite Max’s friend to stay over for the weekend, she was driving me nuts! I just wanted her to realize that people are there to help, and she can’t do everything anymore.

Unfortunately, Kristina learned the hard way. And by the mid-point of last night’s episode, I honestly just felt bad for her. How could you not, seeing what she went through? It was refreshing to hear her say that, somehow, she thought she’d be immune to the side effects of the chemo, and it was heartbreaking seeing her go through them. When Max walked in on her on the floor of the bathroom, my jaw dropped. That’s something she didn’t want anyone to see — whether it was viewers or Max.

About Max. I’ve noted before how hard it is to accept Max now. When we were in the first season and he was young, his autistic behaviors were much more understandable. But now that he’s older and we don’t see every episode surrounding him (and how the Bravermans are reacting to it), we realize how hard it is to accept them. And this episode was awful. All I wanted to do was make Max hear Adam, to just do what he said. But every word out of his mouth was selfish and argumentative. Kudos to Adam for handling it, along with two other kids along the way. (Also, kudos to Max’s friend, who seemed to not react to how rude Max was being.)

In other child-related news, we had Sydney getting fed up with all the attention on her new brother. I was a little surprised how lightly they took her “running away,” but I loved Julia’s reaction the next morning — that her fit worked on Joel, but not her. In the end, Sydney did get what she wanted, but I see a rough road ahead. Traditional siblings are easy. You grow up with a baby, learning to adjust to the attention change. But when you’re so close in age (and isn’t Victor older?), it’s much tougher.

Then there’s the older kids: Should we discuss Drew? While I’m still horrified to see Drew having sex (I thought it was a bad idea at the end of last season), I liked that we’re really seeing Sarah adjust to having another person around that resembles a parental figure. For me, it’s much better drama than some dumb storyline with Hank (which it looks like might be coming back next episode). And frankly, I like Mark! I want him to stay around, even if I really don’t see wedding bells in the future for these two.

Amber, meanwhile, had probably the best story of the episode. I love Ryan, and I hope we keep him around. They add a dynamic that’s refreshing, smart, and compelling. While I predicted that his friend killed himself, seeing Amber’s reaction and his declaration that he is not his friend was great. These two should be featured in every episode. Just fantastic.

As for Crosby? Another juvenile fight, all to make up in the end. I don’t think there’s anything to add her.

Overall, great episode. A smart return after a few weeks off.

Parenthood: I’ll Be Right Here

PARENTHOOD: 4.06 “I’ll Be Right Here”

Parenthood is really bringing it this season, isn’t it? I was very nervous when they first introduced the breast cancer storyline, not only because it’s a difficult one to do well, but with cancer hitting a family that has such strong personalities as Kristina and Haddie, I thought it would grind my nerves to no end.

Surprisingly enough, and you can throw this back in my face later if you’d like, I actually liked Haddie in this episode. She was mature, adult, and generally supportive the entire episode. She didn’t have her attitude issues, and she even helped Max as he stepped to the podium to do his speech. I was really impressed, and frankly, pleased. I could — and I can’t believe I’m saying this — actually enjoy having her around for a while.

Which is why it frustrated me so much to see that at the end of the episode, Adam and Kristina lied to her. She was such a help, even calling the dean’s office herself, and they lied, telling her the cancer was gone. I can’t imagine this is going to go well when Haddie discovers the truth. I understand where they’re coming from: They want their daughter to go back to school. They want to protect her. And maybe they just haven’t accepted the prognosis yet. But still, I was so disappointed to see that in the end, they took a step backward and hid the results.

I also hate to say it, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of Kristina in this episode. I wish we could have seen her dealing with the surgery a little more. Instead, she was focusing on Max, lamenting moving the surgery because she wouldn’t get to hear his speech. I’m not sure if that was supposed to be a coping mechanism or not, but it just felt ridiculous. Here, you have cancer and you’re getting a treatment that could potentially cure you, and you’re focusing your attention and worry on a middle school election. It bugged me.

In other, non-Kristina news, we had Sarah moving in with Mark — with Drew in tow. We all know that Sarah’s reason for moving in with Mark entirely had to do with her kiss with Hank (uggh), but I hate that Drew got caught in the middle of it. Every once in a while, Sarah does forget her own kids, and while she said she did think about Drew, I don’t think she did. Now, I don’t see how this really impacted Drew as much as he claimed (perhaps he’s getting teased for having a teacher that will be his step-dad in the first place), but it was nice to see his reaction. And I’m happy they got a somewhat happy ending in front of the TV.

Finally, Amber. Oh, I’m so in love with her cute little courtship with Ryan. Seriously, he’s adorable. And I’m such a fan of Amber. I just hope we can see more of this week to week.

Oh, and as for Crosby? I’m not even going to go there. We all knew that’d be a disaster when Adam told him what to do.

Until next week!