Parenthood, we need to talk. This is not how you pace a final season. You do not give us the ultimate Julia and Joel cliffhanger then make us sit through a played Hank and Ruby house party plotline the following week. You do not make Zeek seem healthy for five episodes, then show a preview for next week’s episode in which he appears to be on his deathbed. You don’t also then GIVE AWAY the outcome of said Julia and Joel cliffhanger in the preview for next week. The preview for next week was more satisfying than what I saw this week!
Needless to say, I felt unsatisfied with this week’s episode. There was some decent character development among fresh faces like Dylan and Ruby, but in a 13-episode final season, I’m just not sure establishing new(ish) characters is the way to play it. I wanted to see Adam and Sarah, not just to hear them referenced. Why are various members of the Braverman family suddenly out of town so often? I’m sure Parenthood producers are trying to hold off on using — i.e. paying — all of their lead actors on every episode, but it’s starting to become obvious in a not great way.
As for what did go down this week, I have to give my respect to Monica Potter, i.e. Kristina Braverman, and the writers who put together her touching speech to Max about love. As it turns out, Dylan doesn’t like Max — a hard truth he discovers when he sees Dylan kissing someone named Aaron Brownstein in the kitchen of Chambers Academy. Max’s coping method involves distributing fliers calling for Aaron’s expulsion and making a poster highlighting factual evidence of why Dylan should love him. Max learns a lesson that hurts this week: attraction is not beholden to logic. For someone whose emotions are precise, this is difficult to accept. Dylan goes full teen drama when she finally erupts at Max: she doesn’t love him, and she never will. By assuring Max that not every girl is going to feel this way, Kristina is able bring a quantifiable element to Max’s struggle to understand. It’s been really nice to see the way Parenthood has leveled up in communicating with Max as the character has progressed into his complicated teen years. That said, I really liked Dylan and think it was mature of her to come to Kristina earlier in the episode, but I imagine this is the end of that character.
Hank also struggles to communicate with his teenager in this week’s episode. He convinces Sandy to let Ruby stay the night alone while Sandy travels for work, but Ruby betrays his trust by throwing a cool teen rager complete with kegs and a soundtrack of Daft Punk (told you she’s cool). Hank is really hesitant to break up the party, and ultimately does so in a way that suggests that he’s totally uncomfortable. It sort of felt like Hank was acting like a capital-D Dad for the first time ever, 16 years later. Sandy seems wooed by this and tries to get Hank drunk on cheap Brandy, again leaving me to wonder if she’s trying to win her husband back (she totally is). Ruby says a hurtful thing to Hank, which he later realizes she didn’t mean (lol hormones). Not the most original plotline, and I spent the whole time thinking, “Wait, is Victor at this house party? Are Julia and Joel going to break it up and fall back in love while playing good cop-bad cop? Is there a God?”
Speaking “lol hormones,” Amber! Her and Crosby are on a quest to save the Luncheonette from having to record commercial jingles at discounted rates. They want to sign some band called Cornfed, whose name they’d obviously need to change yesterday, but Amber goes into false labor while Crosby is arguing with the door man at the club over weed. (Parenthood writers: have you ever been to a rock show? Do you want me to take you to one? No one is like, heckling the “old dude” in line, and no old white dude doorman is randomly frisking another old white dude. Overall, weird point to make here.) Jasmine is kind of not having any of this (“this” meaning Crosby doing his job, albeit not very well). She’s decided to be the Responsible Mom to Crosby’s Cool Dad by getting a Real Job. Crosby can’t stand this, and I can’t stand how he’s letting stereotypical gender roles about who provides what for the nuclear family get in his way.
Similarly, Drew has convinced himself that it’s on his shoulders to provide for his pregnant sister (and his mother), which means he MUST major in economics. I can’t even get into how dumb this is on multiple levels, not to mention patronizing to Amber even though Drew clearly has good intentions. But if I justified all the problems throughout the history of Parenthood with “oh, but so-and-so had good intentions,” then Parenthood would seem like the perfect show. Alas.