Wow – this has been an outstanding first half of the season for Parenthood, and this week’s Christmas episode certainly lived up to my high expectations. It was a heavy one, and not just when it came to the cancer storyline – Amber’s storyline with Ryan came to a rather heartbreaking climax as well. (I don’t know if Matt Lauria is going to be back in the next half of the season – I certainly hope so.)
This was a major episode for Kristina and Adam, since we saw Kristina at her sickest so far. A lung infection sent her to the hospital on Christmas Eve, where she went into septic shock. It was all very serious and very, very sad. I doubt there was a dry eye in any house when Adam watched the goodbye video Kristina had made for their children. Her words to Nora were especially difficult.
One particularly nice moment was Adam’s conversation with Zeek. We haven’t seen a lot of Zeek and Camille this year, but they’ve been in the background supporting. I loved seeing how Zeek reacted, wanting to help, and knowing to back off when Adam snapped at him.
Watching Crosby step in to take care of Max and Nora while Adam was at the hospital provided a nice dose of humor, since it was a terrifying glimpse into Adam’s hectic life for Crosby. I’m glad that this season has helped show how much Crosby has matured. He is no longer the screw up – he’s a guy who loves his family, and will step up to the plate when his brother needs help. He’s someone that Adam can rely on. I liked how this organically brought up a conversation between him and Jasmine about having another baby – they’d been taking care of Nora, and a family member being ill reminds everyone of how short life can be. It was a very sweet, warm moment when Crosby told Jasmine that he also wants a baby “like, really bad”.
The only thing that bothered me about this storyline was Haddie’s absence. She was gone for most of the episode, stranded in some airport. As my pal Melanie pointed out last week, there’s no way Haddie would still be in the dark about how sick her mother is. Not when the whole family knows. That was never addressed, and I was hoping maybe something would be said in this episode to tie up that loose end. I also just wanted to see more of Haddie, so that disappointed me.
The other really gut-wrenching story was Amber’s. This storyline has moved fast and slow – she fell in love with Ryan so quickly, and was very soon in over her head. This was sort of her first real, adult relationship and she was trying so hard to be supportive while knowing, deep down, that this guy has some problems that are way beyond what she can fathom. That was fast. But it was also slow, in how the show gradually built that up. She saw him take some pills, knew he wasn’t sleeping. He lost his temper with his friends at the funeral. But then she found out that he stormed off Joel’s job site and hadn’t told her. She asked him to apologize and lent him her car – the mature thing, I think – but he completely let her down.
I liked how, for intense fans of the show like me, everything about that awful screaming match made perfect sense. So many factors contributed to it, from Amber’s issues with her father to the car accident she was in a couple seasons ago, thanks to a driver under the influence. Those things made what Ryan did so much more hurtful. I also liked how her emotions were built up from worry to panic to anger. Nothing is worse than being so, so worried about someone’s safety, only to find out that they were just being an asshole. She was terribly worried about Ryan and what had happened to him, and the truth that he’d bailed on the apology, got drunk and drove her car was just too much. The fact that she loves him so much, it made it unbearable. So she screamed and escalated the situation. It’s not something to be proud of, but it’s a learning experience and one I bet a lot of people can relate to. It was an awful situation, but a damn good scene on television.
Amber has matured a lot since her own car accident, and she’s a woman who is largely formed by the issues she had growing up. She doesn’t want to be dragged down by someone else, like her mother was. She knows better than to drink and drive now. She knew she couldn’t help Ryan, and that the best thing was for them to take some time apart. I think Amber made the most adult decision she could, but it will be interesting to see how Ryan reacts to it. The guy has a lot of troubles.
The storyline with Victor not believing in Santa Claus was sweet, and I think that moment with Santa at the hospital was a nice little homage to classic Christmas films. There wasn’t much to the story, but with so much else going on we needed a sweet, simple storyline.
Finally, a few words on Sarah and Hank. Poor Sarah – in a mall on Christmas Eve and dressed as an elf? Yikes. To cut to the chase, Sarah and Hank got drunk and slept together. She had to leave soon after because she got a call about Kristina being in the hospital, but I liked how things progressed with them. Hank messed up and told her that it could be a one time thing, but then he course-corrected and told her the truth. He also brought her a thoughtful gift and was very respectful of what she and her family were going through. I like Hank. My only concern here was that we didn’t barely saw Drew. We don’t know how he feels about the breakup, having to move again, having to see his mother’s ex at school. Drew has the right to a lot of emotions here, and even more if Sarah starts dating Hank right away. This episode was too busy to fit that in, I think, but we’re going to need a good conversation between Sarah and her son in the new year.
Again, I can’t stress enough how much I have loved the show this season. What did you guys think of this episode?
Ed. Note: I meant to mention the insane amount of Christmas decorations at every Braverman household, included Amber’s apartment. While ridiculous, I feel like if any family would go that overboard it’s the Bravermans. So I kind of loved it. It made me want to go to a craft store, or move to California.