Ten seconds. That’s about all it took for me to get choked up watching the season finale of Parenthood last night. The phone rang in the middle of the night, Sarah answered, and as I watched Lauren Graham’s face I thought “This is going to be a hell of an episode.” Honestly, can someone give that woman an Emmy already?
The physical aftermath of Amber’s accident was surprisingly brief. Everyone showed up to the hospital, because Bravermans are like that. Amber was in surgery and everyone was really, really worried. The hospital was a great way to highlight some of the dramas that have been playing out over the course of the season, and I was really happy with how almost all the storylines came together. Let’s review, starting with the most heartbreaking.
Sarah, Amber and Drew
Lauren Graham, Mae Whitman and Miles Heizer all acted the hell out of their scenes this week. Sarah and Drew broke my heart as they waited to get news on Amber while she was in surgery.When they were finally allowed to see Amber, it was even more heartbreaking. They didn’t need to use words to portray their love and worry for Amber, it was all over their faces.
Once Amber was home, things got more complicated and more emotional. Amber was OK, considering the circumstances. Her face was all cut and bruised, she had an injury to her spleen and a broken rib and wrist. But considering she could have died or been disabled, that’s nothing. Gary was fine, but facing a DUI charge. The problem was, Amber wasn’t showing any remorse. She wasn’t showing any regret, any guilt, any fear, anything. There were no signs that she’d learned from the accident, that she’d realized how stupid she’d been acting. It angered Drew and terrified Sarah.
On top of all this, Sarah had to prepare for the reading of her play. I’m glad the play was just a reading and not an actual performance, because it made it all much more realistic. More realistic that it could happen, that it could happen this fast, and that Zeek would get to play himself. That was awesome. With the stress of everything Sarah snapped at the actors for not getting it right, but the show did go on. I loved that Gilliam told the cast that Sarah’s daughter had died in order to get them to be nice to her.
Amber had three scenes with three different people, making three different apologies and each scene blew me away.
First, when Zeek took her to see the smashed up car. He knew Sarah was terrified that Amber hadn’t learned her lesson. And really, the only thing more sickening than having your daughter in that kind of accident would be the idea that it could easily happen again. At first, she wasn’t responsive when he took her to see the wreck. She knew she could have died, but she couldn’t quite comprehend what that would have done to her family. I don’t think Amber was being insensitive or selfish or stupid. I think she was too overcome with emotion, guilt and fear after the accident to even acknowledge or deal with it in any way. When Zeek told her how he’d dreamed about having a family, having grandchildren, during the war, it was a breakthrough for her. She broke down into tears and sobbed that she was sorry. It was so well done, because it wasn’t over or under played. I truly believed that that was exactly how someone like Amber would react. She had spiraled out of control, but she’s not a bad person.
Next came her apology to Drew before the play, which was much more understated. I loved how perfectly the scene suited their characters. He was quiet, because that’s how he is. She said she was sorry that she was so stupid and asked him to be her friend again, because he’s the only one she likes. It was simple, but sweet.
The most heartwrenching scene, of course, came when she apologized to Sarah. Amber was overcome with emotion during the play and stepped out, and Sarah followed her. You could see then just how guilty and scared Amber was feel. The idea that she could have lost everyone, that she could have missed her mother’s big moment, was ripping her apart. And she felt bad. She felt so, so bad that she put her family through that. And Sarah was just so relieved to hear her say all those things. The tears were flowing, as I’m sure they were for most viewers as well. Again, I thought the scene just perfectly suited the characters and what we know about them. It was beautiful. I know some critics thought the season finale featured too much of Amber crying, but who wouldn’t sob for a few days (or weeks, even?) after going through what she did. She was coming to terms with letting down her family and herself, and I thought it really worked.
Adam, Kristina, Haddie and Max
One thing I thought was really well done in this episode was how Max’s Asperger’s came into play even though it wasn’t an episode about Max having Asperger’s. The first moment that really resonated was at the hospital, when Max threw a tantrum over not getting the pancakes he’d been promised. He said some awful things at the worst possible time. Sure, no one blames him. Everyone who was there knows what the deal is. But it didn’t make it any less painful. Later, when Adam tried to talk to Max about his behavior and why he needed to apologize to Sarah, Max didn’t quite get it. Adam and Kristina have a tough road ahead of them, I think, in helping Max to understand that it’s not his fault he has Asperger’s, but still sometimes having to apologize for behavior caused by Asperger’s. It’s a really difficult situation.
The second moment was when Adam was mad at Max for losing his retainer. It would be expensive to replace, and Adam seemed to know things were not going well at work. Adam snapped when Max wouldn’t cooperate in looking for it, and Max asked if Adam was mad at him for having Asperger’s. It was so heartbreaking because Adam really only acted like any parent would, when any kid would behave that way. But with Max it’s different, and that can’t be easy to remember. It was a really cute moment when Max found the retainer on his own, during a pretty tense moment.
The tense moment? Oh, was it a doozy. First of all, Adam lost his job. I’m actually happy about this, because the whole twenty-something stoner boss thing wasn’t really working as a long term story arc. But this, I think, really works. Adam made an effort to keep his job after Gordon bailed, but he was aged out of the company. He didn’t tell Kristina the news at the play because it wasn’t the right time, so he told her when they got home. Kristina had some news to tell Adam as well, and anyone who saw last week’s sneak peek knew what it was. That didn’t make the scene any less spectacular, though.
Adam went to look through the trash for Max’s retainer and instead found a positive pregnancy test. He immediately assumed it was Haddie’s (and he’d just had a talk with Alex, to boot!) and freaked out. He was furious! I mean, I get it. But it was funny because we all knew the truth. Poor Kristina had to let him know that she’s pregnant in the worst possible way – Adam just lost his job, they have a teenage daughter and a kid with Asperger’s and now a baby on the way? Hello, full plate. Adam and Kristina were both freaked out, but happy as well, and I really liked how the whole scene played out – especially when Max announced that he’d found his retainer.
I do find the hypocrisy of this hilarious. Adam and Kristina have been panicking over their daughter being sexually active, they have taken her to gynecology appointments, put her on the pill, and spoken to her boyfriend about using a condom. And then they themselves have an unplanned pregnancy. What, it’s OK for Haddie to be on the pill but not for you, Kristina? Adam, you can talk to Alex about wearing a rubber but after a few margaritas you forget to do the same? I’m not judging them, though…I’m just kind of mocking them. It’s funny.
Even though Haddie didn’t have a lot to do this episode, I thought the moments she did have were sweet. She didn’t argue with her mom about seeing a gynecologist, and you can’t blame her for not wanting to talk about it as she waits in the hospital to find out if her cousin and friend is going to live. And Alex really showed what strong character he has when he showed up to offer support too. I like that as Adam and Kristina enter this new phase with the new baby, Haddie is proving how much she’s matured since we first met her.
Julia, Joel and Sydney
I know some people find Julia and Joel’s family to be the least compelling of all, but I really have a soft spot for them. I don’t know if it’s because I relate to the characters’ personalities well or what, but I like them. And I liked them this episode. I just felt bad for Julia as she was obviously trying so hard to come to terms with not being able to have another baby. She was trying to prove how happy she is with what she has, but that’s not what it’s all about. Wanting another child doesn’t mean that she isn’t happy enough with Sydney. It’s OK to want another baby.
My favorite part about Julia staying with Sydney’s former teacher as she went into labor was that the two didn’t really like one another that much. Julia can sometimes come across as harsh, but she’s not. She’s really very sweet, and just happens to also be ambitious. When she held the baby in her arms, she realized how much she wanted another and I’m happy that she and Joel are going to adopt.
Crosby, Jasmine and Jabbar
I’m probably the least enthused about this storyline, because I didn’t want a family tragedy to bring Jasmine and Crosby back together again. I don’t think they’re ready to be in a relationship again for a few reasons. I don’t think Jasmine, or anyone for that matter, could forgive Crosby for what he did so quickly. That would take time. I don’t think they’ve acknowledged any of the problems their relationship had prior to the infidelity, and that’s important. And I’m not convinced that they could keep it together a second time. It’s not healthy for Jabbar for them to get back together if it isn’t for good. They need to tread very carefully here.
I would have been really happy if their storyline wrapped up when Crosby told Jasmine that he’d stop pursuing her because he didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable around him. I thought that was a great scene and I think a great arc for next season would have been for Jasmine and Crosby to learn how to be a part of the same family while not being in a romantic relationship. The fact that Jasmine showed up to the hospital after Amber’s accident shows that she’s capable of that, and I think Crosby is too. It’s not that I was actively rooting for them to permanently break up – I just thought a co-parenting storyline could have been really great for a while, at least.
That said, I didn’t hate the moment when Joel brought Jasmine over to the new house. It’s not what I wanted, but I’m fine with it.