Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Come Cry With Me: A Parenthood Season Finale Recap

Hang on while I grab a beach towel to dry my tears after that finale...

Phew. Now that was a good hour of TV.

Parenthood always knows how to tug at my heartstrings, but last Thursday's, "The Pontiac", really knocked me out. From Victor reading his winning essay, to Zeek and Camille's last dance in their empty home, the moments here were all so beautiful, and to quote my mom, "so human", the quality that in my opinion defines Parenthood and makes it so special. My mom and I have been watching Parenthood since it started airing back in 2010, and it's something I've always felt so lucky to be able to share with her. In college, every Tuesday night at 11, I'd call her from my kitchen and we would unpack everything that happened to the Bravermans that week. No matter how soapy or goofy some of the stories got at times, there was always a realness there and a genuine compassion for and between the characters season after season that would keep us talking late into the night. What I've always loved about this show is how you can see the perspective of almost every character - no one is inherently good or bad, people are just human and they make decisions that aren't always the best, but their family is there for them whether they succeed or screw up royally. That's all we can hope for in life, right? To know we have a group of people behind us who accept us for who we are and love us even if we do dumb things. No one is perfect, but we all have the potential to be better to each other, and if there's one thing to take away from the characters on Parenthood, it's to never stop trying, even when it's hard.

Every year the show gets better and better, and the ensemble cast (who is shockingly NEVER recognized at awards season for their incredible work - WAKE UP EMMY VOTERS!) has been tighter than ever this season. I'm always blown away by the chemistry this group of people have with each other, and how incredibly real their conversations are. The Bravermans are the only family on TV (aside from the Belchers of Bob's Burgers) who talk like my family when they get together, and the cast has said that the ability to improvise together is what makes those big group scenes so natural and close to home for viewers. Between the top notch acting and the soundtrack that never fails to blow me away every week, this season has been a joyful, tear-filled journey that was hard to say goodbye to.

Now it's time to get into that finale! I wouldn't call Parenthood a "spoiler heavy" show, but if you haven't gotten a chance to watch yet or if you've never seen the series before, just know that I will be giving away some important things below.

The only real miss-step that the show has done recently was essentially forgetting about Haddie entirely, but they sure tried to make up for her disappearance in this episode. Turns out, Haddie hasn't been calling as much from college lately because she's in a relationship with a girl (played by Rookie founder, Tavi Gevinson!) and was nervous about coming out to her parents. The scenes between her and Kristina and Adam were played to perfection, and after her long absence, it was great that they actually gave Haddie an interesting story to go out on. Both Sarah Ramos and Mae Whitman have been excellent at showing the similarities between their characters and their respective mothers (Mae Whitman and Lauren Graham are so similar it's easy to forget they aren't really related) and I liked how in these scenes we really saw some of Monica Potter's speech patterns and facial expressions reflected in Ramos' performance.

The Holt family also had some interesting romantic developments this week. Drew and Natalie (BOO) are officially a couple in love, and thanks to Zeek - in another water-works moment - Drew is now the proud owner of the Pontiac he's been fixing up all season. Miles Hizer is just so adorable (his thin chain - I just can't.), and his drive up to Portland was a great way to complete his character's journey this season, even if the girl he was driving up to be with is less than my favorite. Amber has also moved forward with Ryan after taking care of him in the hospital, and while we don't know if they're getting back together as of yet, her calm purchase of a pregnancy test at the drug store speaks volumes about what she really wants (another shout out to Mae Whitman - she's not only the best crier in the business, but she's consistently hilarious and perfect in her role - just watch her and Hizer pretending not to be high at a family dinner in this year's "Limbo" and try not to crack up). And the biggest and most exciting thing of all - Sarah and Hank are together again!! Lauren Graham and Ray Romano have the best chemistry on TV right now, and their honest conversation in the car about his Asperger's and its potential effects on their relationship was wonderful. After Sarah tells Hank her concern that he can't look at her sometimes, Romano's quiet reading of "I look at you" just killed me, and I expected that to be the end. But of course this is Parenthood after all, so Sarah marches into the photo shop and silently kisses Hank, bringing me more happiness than I knew what to do with.

Ray Romano, you never stop surprising me with this performance. Floored. Every week.
If that isn't enough heartwarming wonderfulness for you, we also have Victor's adorable essay about fixing the car with his grandfather (did anyone else feel bad that he won't be getting the Pontiac? No offense Drew, but you didn't even help build it, just saying), and the potential reversal of Julia and Joel's "conscious uncoupling". I like that the season didn't end with Julia revealing to Joel that she had sex with Mr. Knight (sorry Zachary Knighton, but you'll always be Dave from Happy Endings to me), since it wouldn't serve the story at all, and in my opinion, if you're separated and your husband doesn't want to get back together, then for god's sake, get it girl! Instead, we got a sweet moment between Julia, Joel, and Sydney, but no big "they're getting back together!" moment either. In fact, Joel wasn't even at the last big dinner at Adam and Kristina's (the torch has officially been passed and their backyard is the new Braverman hang out, as it should be) but we can decide for ourselves what might happen with those two for now, and I like that.

Finally, we get a great send off to the Braverman home with a hilarious Adam and Crosby stair-sledding scene, and the aforementioned Zeek and Camille living room dance that had me reaching for the tissues. I think we can all agree there's nothing sadder than seeing an empty house (especially one that we've spent the last five seasons in) but that scene took the classic TV trope and made their leaving a beautiful tribute to the memories they made there together (plus they're moving to a beautiful home in San Francisco with an awesome deck, so let's not get too sad).

I truly hope this isn't the series finale, but if I'm being honest with myself, it would make a pretty damn good one. A lot of important things were wrapped up, but then again, like life, some plot lines, like Amber's potential pregnancy and Joel and Julia's reconciliation, weren't tied up so neatly. Still, I just can't imagine a world without Parenthood on my TV, and I'm kind of hoping that those plot threads were left dangling for a potential sixth season. So goodbye for now, Parenthood. Until we know for sure if you're coming back, there's always Netflix which is currently streaming seasons 1-4, so don't wait - for a much needed dose of optimism, start your marathon now! Watch it with your family - trust me, it'll get you talking...and crying. But you knew that already.

NEXT WEEK: Orphan Black! Orphan Black! Orphan Black is back, and we'll have two episodes to discuss! There will be clone-spiracy (nailed it!) theories, questions, and plenty of CAPS LOCK EXCITEMENT. Get pumped, Clone Club - it's time for Season 2.

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