Thursday, January 8, 2015

REVIEW: 'Parenthood' - The Bravermans Descend Upon the Hospital After Zeek's Health Takes a Turn in 'How Did We Get Here?'

NBC's Parenthood - Episode 6.10 "How Did We Get Here?"

Zeek is rushed to the hospital and the entire family hurries to his side. As Adam and Crosby nervously await news of Zeek's health, a serious emergency at the Luncheonette pulls them away. At the hospital, Joel sticks by Julia, offering unwavering support and further blurring the lines of their relationship.

"How Did We Get Here?" is the 100th episode of Parenthood - an impressive feat for any show but especially for a show that is as perennially on-the-bubble as Parenthood was. Setting the action for this milestone episode at a hospital as Zeek and the family deal with his latest medical emergency isn't quite demonstrative of the series as a whole. However, at its heart, Parenthood is about the bonds of the Braverman clan as they handle all the struggles life throws at them as a family. Life is a roller coaster ride and across six seasons Parenthood has wonderfully showcased all the ups and downs this journey can take. Zeek's declining health is a critical turning point for the family. Them rallying together to be each other's support system is the defining trait of Parenthood which actually does make this a quite successful episode - both in the arc of the season and the series as a whole.

And this season has spent a considerable amount of time and focus on Zeek's health issues. This is the third episode set in a hospital for either the majority of the running time or at least a portion of it. It's a well the show can only go to so often. It still works for me even though I'm a bit more aware of how emotionally manipulative it can be. Death has been lingering over this season. Zeek is the most obvious person marked for death because of all the stuff going on with his heart. Parenthood could still pull a last second switch but I'm not as focused on that possibility as I was earlier in the season. Perhaps it's because I just enjoyed the simplicity of the setup here. The family descends upon the hospital to hear the news about Zeek. There are moments of tears but there are also moments of laughter and awkwardness. It's that kind of blend of heartfelt realism that has made the show so successful for six seasons.

It's also in moments of life and death like this that make all the other pieces of the show fall into place a bit easier. Julia really doesn't know what her night of sexual adventures with Joel means for the future of their relationship. And yet, her father being in the hospital again is enough for her to acknowledge Joel as her husband again. It's a simple and brief moment but highly effective. Meanwhile, Hank treats this unfortunate circumstance as a way to position himself as the man who will be there for Sarah whenever her family has hardships. His obsession with Joel was awkward and his proposal to Sarah outside was more so. And yet, it's also the perfect time for him to realize what he truly wants out of life and from this relationship.

And Hank did come through for Drew whose story here surprisingly hit me really hard. It all started with the car that Zeek got for him last season refusing to start during the exact moment he needed to be there for his grandfather the most. That was devastating as well as his concerns about the last time they saw each other and how upset Zeek was with him. Hank said all the right things to Drew and it almost made the time spent on developing him as a parent worth it just for that one moment.

Even though the family was all at the hospital (minus the younger kids, of course), life was still going on around them. This unfortunate day also happened to land on Amber's baby shower celebration. More concerning though was the break in at the Luncheonette that left the business in a near desolate state. The financial struggles of Adam and Crosby's business has been an iffy story all season long. The show has never really shown a large light on the finances of the family. And yet, it suddenly became important just because someone thought it would be a good idea for the final episodes. I was always expecting some miracle to present itself in the end to solve all of the Luncheonette's problems. The robbery could be framed as the straw that broke the camel's back. Adam and Crosby could surprisingly cash out with the insurance money and pay off all their debts. That is a miracle in disguise. But it comes at the cost of having to say that their business has failed and it's over now. How each man deals with that decision is incredibly profound. But now, they have different ideas for where to go next. That will likely be the source of tension for the final three episodes. I'm not entirely sure I like that but I at least understand both Adam and Crosby's desires and motivations.

But the hour did end on an uplifting note as all the moms came together to present their gifts of wisdom to Amber. Right now, they are surrounded by uncertainty but they need to remember there is also a celebration of life about to occur. Each of the moms are unique in their own way and each provide valuable insight to Amber as she's about to start this portion of her life. It's a great scene and one that only gets stronger in the context of being in a hospital. Plus, it's so great for a group of woman to come together in order to be supportive of each other - especially in a time like this.

Some more thoughts:
  • "How Did We Get Here?" was written by Jason Katims and directed by Michael Weaver.
  • The montage that opened the episode was so brutal. Everyone in the family was getting that phone call and rushing to put everything together. It was a minute into the 100th episode before Parenthood made you cry.
  • Joel gave us an explanation as to where Sydney and Victor were. But what about the rest of the kids? Jasmine's mother easily could be looking after Jabbar and Aida. But who was dealing with Max and Nora? And what about Haddie? Does she even know her grandfather is this sick?
  • I'm always amused when some character remembers that Zeek's mother is still alive. In this case, it was Crosby.
  • Zeek upon first waking up: "This wasn't a banner day, was it?"
  • Camille on parenthood and life: "Cherish every minute of it."