Parenthood has such a large cast that it can be hard to know what to do with them all. For the most part, the show achieves a nice balance of switching up who they focus on from week-to-week while letting others hang out in the background in smaller stories. It’s admirable that each of these characters are so well-developed that often these runners are still interesting television and sometimes are subtly morphing into something bigger. It can still be hit or miss — and whether or not I love an episode depends on which characters are at the front and center. “Just Like At Home” was fine, but it wasn’t my favorite.
While the Parenthood writers seem to delight in making us cry every week, this season has been particularly devastating as it centers more and more on the dissolution of Joel and Julia’s marriage. Joel and Julia are some of my least favorites on Parenthood, though I’ve always had a problem articulating exactly why. They are not exactly boring, but they’re not interesting, either. They are hypocritical and prone to overreactions — and any story with them is bound to involve Sydney who is, without a doubt, the worst of the Parenthood children. I don’t ever fully buy Joel and Julia’s problems (including this marital one, maybe I’m horrible?) but I can recognize that it’s some pretty heavy writing. Tonight’s approach was a bit repetitive, once again remarking on this struggle to adjust to a new, separated life. But I liked the smaller touches with the children and the way the writers really understood the tiny things that kids will put an emphasis on when they can’t grasp the whole story: it’s bad enough my parents aren’t living together, but now I have to carry another backpack?
This did make for two nice moments, though. First, Adam, Crosby, and Sarah visit Julia with wine and Chinese food to help her feel better. It’s one of those common Braverman family get-togethers but it’s common because they always work so well and always show how much this family cares for each other. Second, there was the ending with Victor, scared in his father’s new apartment (even with the pool and video game systems!) who just wants to hear his mother’s voice so he can fall asleep.
Drew had my favorite story this week. He’s been a great character to get to know for the last few years and I love that he’s still around despite being in college (Haddie, on the other hand, I don’t miss too much). The show is approaching Amy’s problems cautiously — we know that she is having a rough time at her college but we’re not sure exactly why and this makes it fairly universal to anyone who had a rough first semester of adjusting. It definitely does go deeper than that and has to do with her unwillingness to open up (to Drew or to anyone) so it didn’t even feel out of left field when Drew carefully brought up the abortion. Drew always manages to be nice and sensitive without being that awful, unbearable kind of nice and sensitive. He also manages to both help Amy out (with some advice from Amber; their sibling relationship is perfect) by convincing her to go home and talk to her parents while also helping himself out — Amy was, as Natalie put it, taking over Drew’s entire world.
Then there’s Sarah. I am so bored with Sarah’s endless love triangles. (I am so bored by love triangles in general.) Hank, played by Ray Romano, is someone that I didn’t think I would ever come around on but Parenthood pairing him up with Max and revealing that Hank himself may have Asperger’s has been a nice step for his character. He cares about Sarah and wants to function better for her, for lack of a better term, but doesn’t know how to. He tries, though. He recites an apology, he forces himself to make eye contact, and he eventually admits that he thinks he may be on the spectrum. It’s a shame they’re just going to throw him back into this love triangle.
As for the rest of the Bravermans? Adam and Kristina enjoy an uninteresting spa weekend — I’m okay with this storyline because lately, the less of them the better and it looks like next week might be the return of the dreaded cancer storyline. Crosby and Jasmine have temporarily moved into Zeek and Camille’s house. Crosby is upset that Zeek’s thinking about selling the house they all grew up in but it’s a nonstarter of a story because Kristina is probably going to buy it for her new school endeavor, right? Either way, the house is definitely going to stay within the family and there wasn’t enough happening in this plot to make it worthwhile. But there was plenty happening elsewhere for a solid episode.