Thursday, November 7, 2013

REVIEW: 'Parenthood' Has a Ton Happening in 'Speaking of Baggage' but I'm Not Quite Sure What the Meaning Is

NBC's Parenthood - Episode 5.07 Speaking of Baggage

Kristina shares an inspiration story with Amber about her relationship with Adam; Drew has fallen hard for Natalie; Julia is getting Ed's undivided attention as Joel is busy on the job; Zeek bachelors it up when he is left home alone; and Max finds some pictures from Hank's past with Sarah.

The biggest question I found myself asking in "Speaking of Baggage" was what does Parenthood actually want these stories to mean to its characters. The Kristina battles cancer arc was the strongest story the show has ever produced because of the simple emotional depth that resulted from it and how it resonated through a deep bench of the cast. Kristina running for Mayor simply doesn't have the weight of that story. Even though that plot is largely sidelined in "Speaking of Baggage," I still wasn't completely sold on the other plots happening.

Similar to that, I loved Amber and Ryan's love story during the fourth season because it asked us whether or not this was a good relationship for Amber. Ryan had some clear and big problems. And the toxicity of those issues caused them to love each other but also be afraid of committing to one another because they might hurt each other. Now, the show has blatantly said, you don't have to worry about the Ryan-Amber relationship anymore. They are a stable and happy couple that wants to get married. That does limit the emotional drive of that storyline. It still remains one of my favorite on the show though. Simply because when Amber cries, I cry and when she smiles, I smile. But I'm unsure of how we are suppose to feel during the scenes with Kristina's story and Amber reacting to the ring. They made me think that maybe Amber is having second thoughts about this quick marriage. But I don't think that could be it since that would be in direct opposition to her mindset from earlier in the season.

And Sarah also is moved into a different story now that her issues with Amber and her marriage have largely been resolved. That led her back into Hank's orbit after Max found a picture of her in Hank's cabinet. I enjoyed this story a lot when Sarah was talking about how Hank needed to be the adult in that friendship and know what's okay to say to Max and what's not okay to say. And yes, I do know it's still early in that mentorship and Hank still doesn't know everything about how Max operates. However, the plot then took a weird turn into being all about Max and Hank firing him as his helper. That was odd especially since it left Max out of it almost completely.

I've also been more forgiving of the Julia storyline because I could understand why she could feel like opening up to Ed emotionally. I still hate the way the show clumsily introduced the plot but I'm a tad more forgiving of it now. Joel is still very much a presence to Julia - especially for some sexy times in the office - but he also doesn't have the time to be there with his wife as she's dealing with these inner feelings.

So basically, I'm just confused by what Parenthood's ambitions are for these stories. They are definitely shooting for something big and meaningful. I just can't see where they are trying to go with them and that makes me less enthused about seeing them slowly get their way to the end goal.

The one exception being Drew's flirtations and hook ups with Natalie. That plot is very simple and grounded and realistic. It's not shooting for the moon and missing. It's low stakes drama that is pleasant to watch. I was worried for a bit that the show would go down the road of hooking the two up only to have her forget about it the next morning because she was drunk. That did not happen and I'm glad about that. She just wants to have fun. That's what I want to have with this story too. And it delivered that in this hour.

Some more thoughts:
  • Do I believe that when the Braverman siblings gather to talk about Camille's trip that three would immediately see things through Zeek's perspective? Not really. But I'm so happy that Julia got to stick out for their mother and have the last line about that.
  • I love that Adam and Crosby refer to Natalie as the Joni Mitchell girl.
  • Hey, the show remembered that Amber works at the Luncheonette. And they did so by centering an entire plot around it. Like most else, I don't know what the show wants to do with Ashes of Rome.
  • It's a tad creepy how many times Ed leaves Julia's messages.
  • Still no word from or about Haddie in college though.