Thursday, January 29, 2015

REVIEW: 'Parenthood' - The Bravermans Attend a Wedding & Play Some Baseball in 'May God Bless and Keep You Always'

NBC's Parenthood - Episode 6.13 "May God Bless and Keep You Always"

In the excitement of her big day, Sarah surrounds herself with the original Braverman clan. Hank approaches Zeek for his blessing and asks Drew for a special favor. Amber adjusts to life as a new mom. Julia and Joel get a phone call that forces a life-changing decision. Max gets his first job. Crosby and Adam reach an understanding about the Luncheonette. Kristina presents Adam with a new plan for the future of Chambers Academy.

Endings are tough - especially ones that feature every character getting a happy ending. Parenthood prides itself on showing the realities of life. There are ups and there are downs. One day you're at a wedding and the next you're dealing with the loss of the family patriarch. Everything about this series finale is bittersweet and it works so amazingly well because of how detailed the human qualities are within every single person in the Braverman family. They're just like any other family. They fight. They laugh. They celebrate. They deal with tragedy. That's what life is all about - dealing with all those moments and truly finding the things that make you the happiest person. The emotion of this finale is real. We have spent over 100 episodes getting to know the Bravenmans. We know who these people are and why small things are huge victories for them. They have evolved so much over the past six seasons. But we could always count on them being a family and being there for each other no matter what. It's that kind of earnest quality that will be missed most of all.

The plot in "May God Bless and Keep You Always" is largely centered around Sarah and Hank's wedding which they are doing quickly so that Zeek can walk his self-proclaimed "favorite" child down the aisle. This singular event brought out all the emotions the family has deplored over the years. Everyone got the dance fever yet again. Drew gave a simple but emotional toast to his mom and Hank that showed just how far he has come from the shy kid in the pilot. Zeek and Camille ask Amber and baby Zeek to come live with them and be a part of their third act. Big decisions are made. Crosby and Amber decide to partner up to break the Luncheonette back. Julia and Joel decide to adopt Victor's new half-sister.

This finale is packed with so much emotion that it is easy to get swept up into it all. But Parenthood has earned these moments. Zeek and Camille standing aside as the entire family gathers for one big picture looking at what all their family has become was brilliant. Zeek has come to terms with the short time he has left and he's proud of what all he has accomplished as represented through his family. Before the wedding, he loves that Hank asked for his blessing. It made him feel important for one of the last big events in his life. And yet, Zeek is also introspective as well - asking Sarah if he's been a good father. When the man who's always had the right advice and helped raise four children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild asks that, you know that the end is near. But he has always been a great parent. He was there for his children no matter what.

Zeek's death is a very sad moment. And yet, it's the one thing that the whole season has been building towards. The family has come to accept it and know that he wants them to play a game of baseball over his ashes. That closing montage is brutal because it offers finite endings for all of these characters. We get glimpses of all of their futures. Their lives aren't ending just because the show is. They will still have their ups and downs. We just won't be seeing them any more. So it's fantastic to know what's in the cards for everyone.

Yes, it's a pitch perfect happy ending for everyone. But that's the kind of ending I wanted and expected from Parenthood. These people don't deserve uncertainty. They deserve lives that will keep on evolving even after Zeek is gone. So, Adam becomes headmaster at Chamber's Academy and Kristina takes a position at a non-profit. Max wonderfully celebrates graduating which is a big moment for the son who Adam and Kristina always wonder if he'll have a "normal" life. Seeing him as excited as he is about getting that diploma was wonderful. And then, Crosby and Amber seem to be making it work at the Luncheonette, with Aida sporting a wild head of hair and Jasmine pregnant again. Julia and Joel adopt Victor's half-sister and have another child of their own - officially mimicking the original Braverman siblings. And lastly, Amber is married and has a daughter with Friday Night Light's Scott Porter. That was a fun cameo but it was also nice to see Ryan return looking like he has his life together and is a part of baby Zeek's life.

Big emotions have always been Parenthood's signature. It did big stories - Kristina's battle with cancer, Zeek's declining health and Julia & Joel's separation. But it also brought beauty to the small moments. Nothing did that better than Max's constant living through life with Asperger's. He is allowed several big victories in the finale. Ruby's friend sees him as mysterious and cute instead of weird. He gets that diploma. It's all amazing. More importantly are the little moments between the characters. Max's brief interactions with both of his sisters. Victor and Nora on the dance floor. This cast had true intimacy. They often felt like a real family and that made so many of these emotions land well. Not everything worked over the course of the six seasons. And yet, the Bravermans have always been memorable and aspirational. This ending is bittersweet but I'm glad we got to spend so much time with this family. They will be missed a ton!

Some more thoughts:
  • "May God Bless and Keep You Always" was written by Jason Katims and directed by Lawrence Trilling.
  • Wasn't it a bit too convenient that Adam was able to take over Kristina's job because she got a new job offer? I didn't even really care because I know that he will be a better headmaster than she ever was. She's great at the big picture stuff and making sure that Max is in some of the pictures at the wedding too. But head of a school? Not at all.
  • Should we read anything into Natalie not being with Drew in the flash-forward? Their relationship was big in Season 5 and just this quiet, stable thing in the final one.
  • It was brutal how Camille found Zeek after he passed but at least she got to travel to the french cafe that he wanted to take her to for their anniversary.
  • Zeek's smile can do many wonderful things. But his realization as to why Sarah wanted to get married so quickly was genuinely heartfelt.
  • Setting the final montage to "Forever Young" was the only musical choice the show could have made. It was as beautiful as it was poignant and emotional. 
  • That's officially it for Parenthood. What did everyone think of the finale? And of the final season as a whole? I'm going to miss this show so much!