…an episode reminding us all the importance of “getting to a save.”
Of all the television families populating our screens right now, none of them seem to come alive quite like the Bravermans. Due in large part to the mind-blowingly talented cast, each character truly feels like a personal relative. In my experience, this is one of the fastest-moving hours of television—despite that fact that there haven’t been (to my recollection) any car chases or shootouts to intensify the proceedings**—because of our deep investment with each character on this show.
**Though, to be fair, any time a spontaneous Braverman family dance party breaks out, that’s bound to get your pulse racing.
For this reason, I thought I’d approach my review and recap of Parenthood a little differently. I’m going break it up into discreet chunks, focusing in on the characters one section at a time.
This episode featured all manners of heartbreak but was also delightful and funny? Parenthood, you crazy! Let’s get to it!
Crosby & Jasmine
If ever there were a collision of two characters in desperate need of its own spin-off episode it’s Jabbar and Oliver Rome. Who wouldn’t love to see these two bonding over video games and ruminating on the very meaning of life? Seriously, I loved this plot so much, right from the moment Oliver waltzes into Crosby’s living room and greets Jasmine as “Mrs. Crosby” and Jabbar as “Spawn of Crosby.” He needs a place to stay while working through his most recent spat with his band? Sure! Welcome to Casa de Crosby. Let the comic gold ensue!
What I appreciated the most here was that what could have come across as little more than a recycled sitcom trope (a la The Odd Couple) managed to paint the insufferable lead singer of Ashes of Rome in a new light. He marvels at the inspiring wonders of family dinners! He shows Jabbar Jaws well after his bedtime! He sings melancholy jingles to decorative knick-knacks! (#MrStarfish) But really, he’s just a guy searching for more.
Having Jasmine—initially irate over Oliver’s intrusion and none too shy about conveying it—as the person to coax Oliver into discussing his artistic insecurities did wonders for both characters. Chief amongst them, it reminded me that Jasmine is not a petulant, soul-sucking succubus hell-bent on pushing mini-van agendas. She is an intelligent and kind person with things to say! Nice to see you again, Jasmine! I’ve missed you! And that Oliver emerges as a more complex character will certainly serve the goings-on at the Luncheonette moving forward.
Plus, he writes a song to Jasmine for her words of wisdom! Best! Houseguest! Ever!
Julia & Joel
Meanwhile, on a branch of the Braverman family tree without so much as a nervous giggle in earshot, the Julia and Joel saga reached its breaking point. I’ll be honest, this hasn’t been my favorite storyline for these characters (though Sam Jaeger and Erika Christensen are doing amazing work). The flirtatious temptation Julia shared with Ed seems too reminiscent of ground already covered with Adam and his assistant, and Joel is becoming an insufferable character with a blind martyr complex***. The one-eighty that happened seems too abrupt and, in some regards, unearned.
***When he spits out to Julia that he doesn’t think their marriage worth saving and that his kids (adopted son Victor and uber-brat Sydney) might be the only thing keeping him in it, I physically cringed. It’s exactly the sort of horrible thing one spouse might throw at the other in the midst of a heated argument without meaning it. But its realism aside, I didn’t care for it. No sir, not one bit.
Having said that, the scene in which Julia finally shares her struggles with Joel requires some heavy lifting on the parts of these two fine actors, and they pull it off amazingly. The scene plays so real, from Julia’s insistence that the kiss “meant nothing” for her to Joel’s classification of her relationship as an “emotional affair,” that watching these two work made my previous ambivalence almost a non-issue. Powerful stuff: real, raw, and painful.
With this once-enviable couple seemingly headed for a separation, I can’t help but feel all the feels. Say it ain’t so!
Max & Adam
There are few certainties in life: the sun will rise, the sun will set, I will never not put potato chips on my sandwiches, and any story involving Max Braverman will reduce me to tears. This week, Adam and Kristina learn that Max had a falling out with his one and only friend, the wheelchair-bound Micah.
Max initially tells Adam that Micah might be holding a grudge after he called his interest in basketball (and then wheelchair basketball) stupid. At Adam’s encouragement, Max finds Micah at the gym, apologizes, and invites him to a pro basketball game. Micah, surrounded by his new friends, declines the invite while his new buddy, possessed of truly Shakespearean wit, mocks Max for his insistence that there will be nachos at the game.
Hear that? It’s the sound of my heart shattering.
I loved that we focused on how Adam (and not, as we might expect, Kristina) struggles with this because it yet again highlights Adam’s powerlessness. Max’s Aspberger’s diagnosis. Kristina’s cancer. Kristina’a mayoral defeat. And now, Max’s (somewhat inevitable) social isolation****.
****Middle school is the worst….
This most recent in a string of events completely beyond his control simply reminds us what a powerful internal struggle Adam faces. He cannot fix that which means the most to him: his family. Although he grapples with calling Micah’s parents, Adam dismisses it, walking the fine line between protecting and overprotecting, a balancing act all parents must negotiate. And the fear and anxiety, powerfully rendered by the criminally underappreciated Peter Krause, ultimately lead Adam to what he can control: being a present father for his son when he needs him the most.
That this episode also features Ryan re-enlisting but not before sharing a tearful goodbye with Amber (at Zeek’s insistence), as well as Sarah and Hank embarking on a joint photography project together (YES!) is yet another reason why Parenthood is one of television’s best series. This episode ran the gamut from the hilarious to the bruising to the poignant inside forty-four minutes, and not a moment of it rang false.
Is it Thursday yet?
Conversation Around the Dinner Table
– Oliver: “We’re breaking bread together.”
Jabbar: “Yeah, it’s gluten free!”
– Ryan: “Thank you, Zeek. Thank you so much. You’ve done so much for me.”
– Hank: “Careful with your game show host neighbor!”
– Max: “He has new friends that play basketball, and they think I’m weird.”