…an episode reminding us all the importance of “addressing the big tomato in the room.”
Let’s face it: Parenthood is a perennial bubble show. Thankfully, its creator, Jason Katims, goes out of his way to wrap up each season with tangible closure; after all, its solid-but-unspectacular ratings could have spelled cancellation on any number of occasions. The fact that Katims treats each season finale as a potential series finale leaves us with a sense that–should this be the end–we would feel satisfied. Sure, dangling plot threads tantalize for future seasons, but each year, we find the majority of the ongoing narratives at least intimating at some kind of definitive resolution.
Fortunately for us, this year proved no different because this ep had it all. Couples reunited! Huge life changes transpired! Crosby and Adam mattress-tobogined down some stairs! Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t love everything about the finale (Joel had to stick it to me one last time before the credits rolled, didn’t he?), but the episode’s clear intention, leaving its loyal audience satisfied, helped me overlook some of the more problematic developments. After all, Parenthood remains my TV blind spot; I’ll never not love this damn show. I’m sorry I’m not sorry: it just makes me feel all of the feels!
Well what do you say, shall we dive in one final time, for old time’s sake?
Haddie and Lauren
Fantastic news! Haddie did not fall down a well, meet a clan of CHUDs, and run for mayor of their underground society never to be heard from again! Actually, she’s been at college this whole time. Ha! Classic Haddie! Turns out, she vanished from the face of the earth because she’s been struggling with her sexuality. I’m not sure about you, but this was not such a surprising development; I’m no sleuth, but even I was all, “Wait a tick, Missy” when she introduced the delightful young lady clambering out of the taxi as her “good friend” Lauren.
But then even for those of us denser than Adam,** the truth likely became evident when Haddie and Lauren proceeded to make mouth noises with each other while sitting on Haddie’s bed. “Oh, they’re together!” you likely exclaimed, reality finally dawning on you. Of course Max is the one to barge in on this intimate moment and essentially out his sister to Kristina while suit shopping because, as Barney Stinson knows, there ain’t no truth telling party like a custom-tailored truth telling party.
**How sweetly pathetic was Haddie’s attempt to come out to her father in the kitchen? Dude couldn’t see past his own nose for real, just kept droning on about how college friends are the best kind of lifelong friends, blah blah blah. Such a great, understated scene. Kitchens were important for Adam throughout this process because it finally occurs to him what Lauren really means when she tells him how much she loves Haddie. It gave Adam some real food for thought, huh? (#CulinaryPuns)
Inevitably, of course, Haddie’s “very Berkley” parents are supportive and wonderful when she finally does tell them that she is in love with Lauren, and as an added treat we get a vintage Kristina-Haddie bedroom chit chat. On the one hand, this felt like a fairly abrupt character development for someone who’s been MIA for awhile now. Even though I do like how Haddie’s coming out wasn’t the “big event” of the episode, I still can’t shake the feeling that this could have been handled with a tad more subtlety and patience.
Still, that brief adorable moment between Haddie and Lauren hanging up lights, followed by Kristina’s happy-my-daughter’s-happy smile? Perfect.
Hank and Sarah
It’s time to address the tomato in the room: Hank is totes the best! I mean, he even stayed overnight in San Diego just to make sure Sarah and Amber were hanging in there. Aww, shucks, Hank, you big softie you. It seems perfect that what finally draws Sarah back to him, despite her initial admitted recalcitrance,*** stems from his interaction with Amber; for Sarah, it makes sense that a man who takes an interest in her kids would turn her crank. She’s totally DILFing all over the place, right?
***What a real, honest conversation during Hank’s car ride home with Sarah, am I right? How refreshing to see adults acting like adults on television. You listening, every Chuck Lorre show ever?
I’m not sure anyone found themselves hornswoggled (#BringingItBack) by this turn of events, but YAY! Not much else to report, but kudos to Parenthood for making Sarah’s journey back to Hank last for the duration of the season; it felt neither rushed nor contrived, thanks to a pair of utterly spectacular performances from Lauren Graham and Ray Romano. On the heels of that iconic kiss in the photography studio, I’m just going to throw it out there: the thought of Hank becoming a full-fledged member of the Braverman clan delights me to my very core. Oh man, I think I’m coming down with something…I hope I’m not catching…The fever!
Cue “Burning Down the House” and grab your dancing shoes, Hank. I love where this is headed!
Julia and Joel
Parenthood has a unique skill: it can sell implausibility with aplomb by encasing it in heart-melting emotions. Last year, Max defied logic by becoming Student Council President, but who cared? I was too busy bawling my eyes out to question it. This time, the unlikely turn of events had a similar emotional heft: Victor wins an essay contest. Never mind that the boy could barely read early in the season, but sure because aww. If you didn’t melt into a watery puddle of tears when Victor read his essay about the metaphorical significance of building the Pontiac with Zeek, then you sir or madam have no heart and should donate your heartless body to science. So there!
Despite this considerable narrative leap, I dug how Victor’s academic success brings Joel and Julia closer together, a nice circular touch since the issue of holding him back was one of the first wedges in their marriage earlier in the season.
After a day of sugar comas and near-normalcy, however, Sydney is not ready to say goodbye to Joel and asks him to stay. In true Sydney fashion, this initial request soon devolves into bratty caterwauling and arm pulling, leaving Joel with little choice but to acquiesce to his daughter’s emotional manipulation. Ugh. The. Worst. Joel not only sticks around but also creates the lower bun of a Sydney sandwich: lying in bed with his wife and daughter, he recounts the epic tale of Sydney’s birth, or The Day That Joy Died as its known in some Satanist circles. It becomes clear, however, that such an account means more to him than the power to order Zeek out of the delivery room–as hinted at previously, Joel’s love for his family defines him.
From a storytelling standpoint, I like that the episode refused to end with a huge declaration of recommitment on Joel’s part.**** On the other hand, the fact that he didn’t means that this aggravating storyline could bleed over into next year. For a show that takes pride in its self-contained seasons, why–for all that is holy–does this plot still linger? If next season doesn’t find Joel and Julia working toward making their marriage work, I’ll be so mad, you guys.
****Though, admit it, you wanted him to make an eleventh hour appearance at the family dinner, cliches be damned, didn’t you?
Let’s put this problematic plot behind us, shall we? You know I love you Parenthood, but one season of this tried my patience. But a second season? I might have to pull a Sydney. And no one wants that.
Elsewhere, Zeek and Camille move out of The Braverman Homestead but not before sharing a sun-dappled dance through their empty home, Crosby comes clean about a grade school birdhouse, Amber buys a pregnancy test (ahem, immaculate conception much?), Ryan plans to return with his mother to the Wyoming town he abhors, and Drew inherits Zeek’s Pontiac***** and drives to Oregon to reciprocate Natalie’s declaration of love .
*****An absolutely excellent resolution for Zeek to pass it on to his grandson, even if he’s the worst mover of the lot. Maybe now Drew can drive himself to a barber shop and get an actual haircut. Sorry, Drew, but #ToughLove.
It’s been a mostly excellent season of Parenthood, wouldn’t you say? Certainly not perfect, but then again what family is? Even when Sydney makes me want to punch a puppy or Joel acts decidedly un-Joel, this remains one of the best network dramas for a simple reason: even when the bigger overarching plots don’t fully work, there’s no other show on television that depicts the nuanced minutia of life as well as Parenthood.
If nothing else, that’s got to land us a sixth season. Thanks for reading!
Conversation Around the Dinner Table
– Hank: “Here’s some coffee.”
Hank: “It tastes like pepper and soap.”
– Adam: “Why are you so uncomfortable with your soft side? It’s a beautiful birdhouse. Very feminine.”
– Ryan: “This isn’t for you to fix, okay?”
– Hank: “Yeah, I’m sticking around.” #BestInLawEver