Tuesday, January 15, 2013

'Parenthood' Review - 4.14 One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

        On the newest episode of NBC's Parenthood, Julia and Joel contemplate the long term effects of finalizing Victor's adoption; Renee oversteps her boundaries and intrudes on Crosby and Jasmine; Ryan seeks to make amends with Joel; Mark and Sarah discuss their relationship, concerning Hank; and Kristina supports Max with a unique campaign.

        After last week's stellar outing, Parenthood returned this week for its penultimate hour of the season. The one through-line felt throughout the whole episode was confrontation. Every story was set up as two characters disagreeing on something - Julia vs. Joel, Crosby vs. Jasmine vs. Renee, Kristina vs. the PTA, Hank vs. Mark. While some stories were able to reach resolution by hour's end, most are going into the final episode as the main plots to be dealt with. The function of this hour was to set everything up for a satisfying conclusion to a fantastic season. While the episode did have some truly remarkable moments, it mostly did its job of being a quiet hour to contrast the vitality of a firework finale.
        Surprisingly, my favorite story of the episode was the stuff happening amongst Julia, Joel and Victor. I was not expecting to love this episodic storytelling of this arc as much as I thought I would. In the beginning, it really did feel as if the show was trying to build to a Julia-Joel split and was using the Victor disagreement to be pinnacle of that plot device. If the story went this way, it would have been a bad reflection of the characteristics of these two people who are only bearable/relevant when they are together. Thankfully, around the halfway point - specifically that scene between Julia and Crosby - it was extremely pleasing to see this "cold feet" stuff from Julia truly is just "cold feet" and won't boil up into everything grander. It was dealt with such grace that I was proud that the writers had a firm grasp of what they wanted to achieve with all that was going on with these characters. Also it was nice to see that Victor hasn't suddenly become a cold, tantum-throwing child like development in previous episodes had indicated.
        Max's fight to get the vending machines back into the school has been building throughout the entire season. And yet, it truly came to its pivotal after weeks without it being mentioned and also with Max being such a non-factor in the overall decision to bring them back. The arguments that Kristina made were very sound and it was wonderful seeing her campaign so hard and passionately. But at the same time, this battle to bring the vending machines back has always been Max's battle and it felt as if Kristina (and perhaps the show's limits of just a 15 episode season) took the easy way out by doing all the hard work for Max without his knowledge of any of it. Again, great story and great episodic plotting but the show perhaps cut a few too many corners to get to the desired outcome.
        After being away for the last handful of episodes, Amber and Ryan once again returned to being front and center in terms of their story. Much like the rest of the stuff that the two have done, the story in this hour was short, sweet and well-done. While yes it did focus on a non-Braverman winning in their side of the argument, it was great to see how the relationships Ryan has between Amber and Zeek have evolved and yet are interesting enough to keep him a vital and sustainable character.
        Sarah has always been quite the indecisive character. The promos for this episode indicated that we may finally get some definite decisions in terms of the Mark-Sarah-Hank love triangle. Alas though, the scene for the promotional efforts was essentially the totality of the feelings and screentime of the characters in this hour. Sarah needs to make a decision and then move on to something else - story wise. Because right now, it feels like the rest of the show is moving forward and not taking the predictable route of storytelling and this story feels very stagnant and hitting the same beats over and over again.
        Similarly, the stuff tonight between Renee and Crosby felt very familiar. It felt like the same kind of story and argument that the two characters had just last week only approached from a different angle. What did bring some freshness to the proceedings, however, was when Crosby brought up the question of when was the last time that Jasmine confronted her mother. It was a very astute declaration and one that I'm hoping will be brought up again. If not, then I'll continue to be content with the story and its main players just not be excited by it.

So what did everyone think of the episode? Zeek and Camille sure have been underutilized since the Christmas episode, haven't they? No Drew sighting this week, thoughts? Share your thoughts in the comments.