Thursday, September 26, 2013

REVIEW: 'Parenthood' Puts Many Things in Motion in 'It Has To Be Now' but Continues to Balance Them All with Ease

NBC's Parenthood - Episode 5.01 It Has To Be Now

Jasmine and Crosby's unnamed newborn causes quite a stir in their house and serves as a Braverman family magnet; Adam and Kristina try to reset their lives until she quickly decides to take on another kind of fight; Joel and Julia face personal and professional challenges; Hank moves back to town; and Amber welcomes her Ryan back home.

Parenthood is coming off its strongest season yet. Monica Potter's breast cancer arc was the perfect awards winning-bait - that unfortunately wasn't nominated - and Amber and Ryan's love broke our hearts every week.

Like most Parenthood premieres, this episode was setting up some of the major stories of the season but with such ease that this show in its fifth season has expertly mastered. So, Crosby and Jasmine's baby is born; Kristina decides to run for Mayor; Sarah is now a building super; Joel has signed a big construction job with Sonya Walger; and Amber and Ryan are officially engaged now. So, a lot of introductory stuff happens but none of them ring untrue to the characters or seem overwhelming to the hour or to the audience.

Of course, this isn't the best time for Kristina to be running for a political office. But if her cancer arc taught her anything, it was to seize the day. She is fine and healthy but sees just how easily this disease can knock her back down again. She doesn't know if it could all happen again so she feels the need to do something that she has always wanted to do. Bob Little returns asking her to be the same woman she was in season three. She is not that same woman though. She is stronger and more confident now. That all leads to her big decision to run for Mayor. It's a big gamble that Adam isn't totally on board with yet. I'm just hoping it's not just a retread of Max's campaign for school president where one speech won him the election.

The chief focus of family gathering in the premiere is the birth of Crosby and Jasmine's baby. And she has quite the pair of lungs on her. She is breaking the new parents down and the two are bickering more than ever. Jasmine is the sole character I think the show really hasn't nailed yet. Her caving in on the last name simply being Braverman was a sweet moment but was a mere confirmation of this show's pro-Braverman stance on most things and arguments. Between the two, Crosby's lack of connection to his new daughter is the most interesting thing. It's better than their fight over the name, her lack of excitement over welcoming the whole Braverman clan to their home and his need to get 8 hours of sleep every night. Crosby has never done this before. He got Jabbar as a toddler. He doesn't know what being around a newborn means. So right now, he really hates her because she's ruining his system. But that also rings true to the actual experience of having a newborn.

Ray Romano was also amazing on the show last season but he was so fundamentally rooted in Sarah's story arc for the season. So, it initially makes me very happy that his return in the premiere was only in scenes with Max and Adam. And Sarah has moved on from him and has some newfound independence as well. She has moved out of her parent's guest house and is now living in an apartment and serving as the building's superintendent. But apparently, Josh Stamberg is her only tenant. I like Stamberg but my initial reaction to this story is that he is just another new love interest for her. She is now an empty nester and her constant reaching out to both Amber and Drew is simply more interesting.

Julia is trying to reenter the workforce after taking some time off but she is dealing with the consequences of her actions from last season. She made a crucial error in a big case which lead to her quitting. It's great that the show isn't glossing over that and making her try to overcome it. But no good can come from Sonya Walger hanging out with Joel a lot. So Julia better be on her toes in the weeks to come.

So now, you're reaching the end of the premiere and you realize that the show hasn't made you tear up yet. And then, Amber goes to welcome Ryan home. That almost wordless sequence is well executed emotional manipulation. Mae Whitman sells the happiness and excitement of seeing Ryan again so well and then he gets down on one knee and she - and the audience - are completely ecstatic.

Some more thoughts:
  • Parenthood now has the full support of its network. NBC renewed the series for only its second season comprised of 22 episodes and has moved it to one of its most high-profile time slots. NBC hasn't plugged in a show at 10PM that lasted since ER left. Parenthood has a great and compatible lead-in with The Michael J. Fox Show. But it also will have stiff competition when it airs opposite Scandal
  • Zeek: "Heading on down to Funky Town." Yeah, Adam was definitely in the mood a lot tonight.
  • Crosby while looking at his newborn: "She's so white!"
  • Julia: "We'll be like the Rockefellers." Unfortunate foreshadowing I fear.
  • I love that the show is keeping around Rose Abdoo as Kristina's cancer-stricken friend, Gwen. I love the dynamic she adds to Kristina's story. But the odds of her serving this season are slim to none, right?
  • So, who had Aida in their office pool for what Crosby and Jasmine would name their newborn?
  • Drew initially looked weird with long hair.
  • Joel's construction job is two years of work. I have this sinking feeling that this story won't last for two full seasons.
  • Jabbar is a part of the Crosby-Jasmine family unit and I want to see how he is handling the new addition to the family. That is basically glossed over her and I hope it isn't in the future.