PARENTHOOD: Season 4 — The Road So Far
I binged the quasi-entirety of Parenthood in less than two weeks. My relationship with this show is… special.
It’s a phenomenon that I have observed: the closer together I watch episodes of a TV show, the harder it is for me to be objective about said show. I wonder why that is: do I personally feel closer to the characters, thus rendering them semi-human? It’s an interesting experience, and one I won’t elaborate on further.
What I am here to discuss is the course of Parenthood’s fourth season so far. Spoiler alert: I have been very moved by most of the first six episodes, while some aspects of them have left me a little dead inside.
Let’s start with the “sexiest” (his words, not mine) Braverman couple, Crosby and Jasmine.
Things have been pretty quiet on this family’s front. There’s one thing that stands out for this season, though. I was wondering when the issue of racism was going to be brought up on the show; it was basically inevitable, with at least one family being racially diverse. Parenthood had been, up to this year, more or less silent on the subject. However, in episode four, “The Talk”, Jabbar overhears a word he doesn’t understand, and questions Crosby about it.
Jabbar: “What’s a n***a?”
This understandably baffles Crosby, as the reveal of the meaning of “the N-word” will most probably be the moment that obliterates Jabbar’s innocence. Crosby enlists Jasmine’s help, and she beautifully handles the situation, with a thought provoking speech about black history and current issues.
What an eloquent way to broach such an important subject. The truth is, there are inequalities in this world, and Jabbar needs to be made aware of them. He also needs to understand that nothing is his fault, and Jasmine covers all these bases.
What broke me was the realization made by Crosby that Jasmine’s life hasn’t always been sunshine and roses (after all, she is black and a woman). I truly believe that Crosby is “colorblind”; he treats everyone equally. However, he didn’t stop to think that just because he does, it doesn’t mean that everybody else does. The moment when he’s sitting down looking at Jabbar sleeping is a very poignant one, made even more special by Jasmine opening up.
Overall, I think the issue was wonderfully handled, and I’m looking forward to a more socially conscious Crosby.
Honesty time, #2: I have irrational compassion and empathy for Julia Braverman. Why? She reminds me of me. She’s an overachiever with a thoughtful partner who bottles things up until they get blown out of proportion. That scene in “Remember Me, I’m the One Who Loves You”, when she breaks down in the hospital room following Zoe’s apparent paradigm shift? Breaks my heart.
Consequently, I was really excited to watch this family go through its own set of challenges as they adopt Victor, a foster child coming from a rough background. So far so good…
I loved that this family was atypical. Joel, the stay-at-home dad, and Julia, the power attorney. I feel that with this new turn of events, it is somehow implied that the above lifestyle is not recommended. Look what it does to a poor mother! She can’t handle two children with a stressful job!
So on the one side, there’s that. But on the other … Julia has never been passionate about her job. Back in season 1, when Haddie visits her at the office in the episode “What’s Goin’ On Down There?”, she seems bothered by the fact that she’s not contributing to the world, that her job helps rich companies get richer. She later expresses that concern to Joel, so this tells me it shook her to the core. Also, with the Zoe business last season, it was made apparent that her job took a definite back seat to her baby envy. So maybe this is the right choice for Julia.
However, she is a driven woman who is not comfortable being a stay at home mom: she told Adam as much in the hospital, and she worked out a spreadsheet for hospital visits. Consequently, I hope that she does get a job that motivates and challenges her in a way that her lawyer gig couldn’t.
Sarah Braverman, sometimes I want to give you a stern talking to. Then I remember that that never works.
Universe, can’t this woman be friends with a man? Can’t she entertain a purely platonic relationship with a male figure? Can’t we, the faithful watchers, be privy to a beautiful friendship unfolding between a curmudgeon old man and a bubbling, creative woman?
I guess the relationship between Mark and Sarah was getting a little stale. I can understand that it needed a little pep in its step (and to be fair, they’re still together, but I gather it’s only a matter of time). But Ray Romano? Really? They are clearly going the way of: look, he’s a much better man for you, he’s closer to your age AND he gets along with Drew!
And, oh, Drew. Must you always get the short end of the stick? Sarah had clearly given no thought at all about your feelings when she decided to move you into Mark’s house. You have been dumped, moved, third-wheeled and forgotten out of existence. I apologize on behalf of your cruel family. At least you still have Amber, right? Well, I guess you don’t, because mother and daughter clearly share a bond that you do not.
Speaking of Amber, I’m really enjoying her storyline this year. I love seeing her relationships with her elders change as their view of her as an adult broadens. Also, she clearly deserves an amazing relationship with Army vet Ryan. It was truly heart-warming to watch her come to terms with the fact that he didn’t want to sleep over, only to realize later that he wanted to “take things slow” while being super romantic about it and bringing her flowers.
Things have been pretty quiet with these two as well. The whole driving fiasco did not feel compelling to me at all, though I was glad to see Camille standing up for Zeek in front of their kids. What was more interesting to me was Zeek’s work at the Veteran center. I loved to see another side of him, something other than the patriarch of the Braverman clan. His relationship with Ryan is very interesting, and I’m looking forward to it getting more complex now that Amber and Ryan are dating.
OK. Let’s all pause a moment and shed tears at the heartbreaking scene that was what I will refer to as “the Diner revelation”. WAAAH.
What I love about this show is that it’s very real. I think this is helped in part by the ad-libbing but it is perpetuated by the subject matters and the character’s reactions to them, such as Kristina’s cancer diagnosis. Adam has remained the “fix-it” man that he usually is, and Kristina still puts everybody’s needs before hers.
This leads her to lie to Haddie about the seriousness of the cancer (that it will need chemotherapy), in order to send her daughter back to college and a “normal” life.
I understand this decision, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Haddie has proven herself to be an indispensable part of the family unit. Someone will need to care for Nora, and take care of Max’s many needs; both things she is incredibly adept at doing. Adam is working a full time job, and Kristina will be out of commission. Putting myself into Haddie’s shoes, I would want to be with my family. She will obviously learn the truth sooner rather than later, and it will lead to disastrous consequences.
In other news, Max is now class president! I think people naturally gravitate to Max, and this was another example of that. His honesty and steadfastness make him one of my favourite characters. The meaningful moments between himself and family members are that much more significant when we remember the road he had to travel to get to this point. The actor portraying him, Max Burkholder, needs some kind of recognition for his work; it is beautiful and inspiring.
Last words on Adam’s family: if Kristina dies, I’m going to kick a tree.
I have one more thought about the show in general: is it an American thing to be completely against both parents working? Does it have something to do with childcare providers (daycares) or something? That is one thing that throws me off about this show. When both Julia and Joel worked, or Adam and Kristina, it was played out as an unfortunate situation that should be avoided at all costs. I take some offence to that; both my parents have worked all my life and my brother and I are well-adjusted adults that maintain a wonderful relationship with our parents. Maybe that’s a Canadian, working class thing? Please, enlighten me!
I think that pretty much sums up my thoughts about Parenthood’s fourth season so far! I’m looking forward to more drama, but not too much, and most of all, an order for more episodes or a renewal for season 5. Get on it, NBC!
Gabby is a human woman working on her Masters degree in Social Work in Ottawa, Canada. Her studies come secondary to the amount of time she spends watching TV and tweeting about it (@GloryisBen). She is also a contributor for Fantastic Fangirls, where she geeks out about comics and pop culture through a female perspective with a plethora of talented writers. You can find her on tumblr.
Photo Credit: NBC.