Thursday, October 2, 2014

REVIEW: 'Parenthood' - Zeek Has a Decision to Make & Some News From Amber May Be Able to Help Him in 'Happy Birthday, Zeek'

NBC's Parenthood - Episode 6.02 "Happy Birthday, Zeek"

Kristina struggles to accommodate the individual needs of her students. Adam gets roped into the chaos when the school's lunch vendor quits on the spot. Zeek faces a tough decision about his health. Amidst strong opinions from the other siblings, Crosby supports his dad. Joel and Julia meet with Sydney's teacher when girl drama erupts at school. Sarah wrestles with her ambivalence about Amber's big news.

For the second week in a row, Parenthood is celebrating Zeek's birthday. This week he is thrown a party that the whole family (minus Drew for some reason) attends. And yet, everything is centered around his decision not to undergo open-heart surgery to fix his problems. It seems like such an easy decision to make. He had this event in Las Vegas and his doctor is pleading with him that surgery is now an option they must take seriously. However, the show does such a strong job of showing things from Zeek's point-of-view. Yes, he's a stubborn man but there's so much more than just that that is fueling his decision. He loves his life exactly how it is. Everything is going well. Surgery presents a real risk to that. He doesn't want a diminished quality of life. He wants to live and enjoy things the way he has been enjoying them for his entire life. If that means a shorter life in the long run, he has made his peace with that. He'll be happy if his family spreads his ashes on a baseball field and play a game over them.

But it also strongly makes sense that the news that Amber is pregnant is ultimately what gets him to change his mind. He is going to be a great-grandfather. That is remarkable. That moment of realization with Amber was one of the episode's best moments and it was so simple. They are embracing and enjoying this moment of happiness. And frankly, Zeek wants more moments like this. He wants to be around to see his great-grandchild come into and live in this world too. He is not done being the patriarch of this family. It's a realization he comes to on his own. His four children are all pushing him to do the surgery. Sarah's largely busy with Amber. Crosby comes to his father's way of thinking. But Adam and Julia are adamant that he needs to do the surgery. And yet, it's a decision that Zeek needs to make on his own - and not by being pushed into it. Everyone has a personal stake in this but it's his life first and foremost.

Zeek's issues bring the family together but they are also dealing with their own stuff. Kristina is struggling with her school - especially when it comes to individualized lunches which doesn't seem like something any sane person would promise. Sarah is unsure of how to react to the news that her daughter is pregnant. Julia and Joel learn that Sydney is bullying another girl at school. A lot is happening this season. But a lot of it is working - which is a tad surprising. There really isn't a bad story here. Yes, Kristina's school is a little weird and Adam making lunches seems like an even more chaotic addition to his schedule. But the two of them love to tackle a challenge. And it's nice seeing Sarah point out all the good things about raising a child. She rightfully has concerns because she's been through this. But right now, she needs to be the supportive parent who nudges Amber into the right direction from time to time. And Sydney's problems are in direct correlation to Julia and Joel's separation. And it's a much better story arc than the angsty emotional stuff that was driving their separation last season. Yes, she throws a temper tantrum and storms off but it's Julia and Joel who have to pick up the pieces. But they are completely in the dark over what to do next. And that's good because it forces both of them to be honest with each other - and not confrontational. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Happy Birthday, Zeek" was written by Sarah Watson and directed by Lawrence Trilling.
  • Are Adam and Kristina starting to worry about finances again? That came out of nowhere largely because the show has never showed much interest in that despite all the stuff that they can afford.
  • Sarah coming in to Zeek's birthday party excited about all the stuff she bought at the party store was hilariously awkward.
  • For everyone confused by how Amber and Ryan had sex in last season's finale, Hank and Sarah are just as confused as you are.
  • Crosby blames Julia for Sydney not knowing who Janis Joplin is.
  • Nora has lines now! She said "No!" when Adam put some eggs in front of her.
  • Culinary arts.