Parenthood – Season II Finale
Written by Duana
Thank you all so, so much for your impassioned emails of the last couple of weeks. I’ve really loved them.
I’ve been procrastinating writing this article. I know enough about myself by now to know that when I do that, it means that I’m worried about the project I’m working on. Worried that I won’t be able to encapsulate what I need to say.
So let me do some talking up front to mitigate any omissions I might make later. This episode made me cry but it wasn’t fully balanced. It let me spend time with my beloved characters, but I wasn’t sure I recognized the types of choices some of them made. I loved Zeke Braverman more than I have in the entire run of the show.
It’s dark, and the phone rings at Sarah’s . She’s asleep, on what looks like the couch. Somehow I thought she had a bed, but maybe she’s waiting up for Amber. She answers – and her face as she listens changes.
Then we’re in the hospital waiting room as strains of a song that can only be described as “Adele-like” start to play. Stricken Zeke sits beside catatonic Drew and tense Camille before we pan up to Sarah, tearful and biting her nails. Julia and Joel and Sydney arrive, hugging Sarah tightly. She manages to impart “Thank you for coming” with her face – but when Adam tears around the corner, family in tow, she loses it on his shoulder. I imagine this must be one of those scenes that was enhanced because they love each other – and Lauren Graham has never held back on the ugly cry. It’s very powerful and, to be truthful, this is when I started crying the first time I watched it.
Drew leaves a message for Seth, and shrugs at Sarah. Haddie and Alex appear with juices and coffee – and Alex tells Sarah he knows it’s hard right now, but that Amber is strong. Sarah appears truly comforted and Julia stares – though she doesn’t articulate it, I can tell she’s thinking “where were those guys when I was sixteen?” What she does say, to a gaping Kristina, is “Damn, he’s good in a crisis.” Kristina agrees, and then, as they watch Haddie arrange herself on Alex’ shoulder, Julia further comments that Haddie looks ‘different. Grown up.’ Some shows, when they do this thing where you can tell that someone has had sex, make me crazy. Some I remember really liking. (Party of Five and Julia Salinger come to mind). Your thoughts?
And a brief song for Erika Christiansen. I didn’t love her story this week but she brings a realness to her performance that makes it like life. Like she’s someone you know.
But brief moments of small beauty are interrupted by the big ones of more clunky execution, as Jasmine comes in. Crosby’s ears prick up like a puppy as she hugs everyone in the room except him. Like he isn’t hurting because his niece is injured? She’s just childish.
About now Max goes on a rant. He was promised pancakes and he wants to go get them and why can’t he and he doesn’t care about Amber right now and he and Adam start screaming at each other and Zeke gets involved and Kristina drags him out. Maybe the key is to not promise things?
And then, a doctor arrives, says Amber was “very lucky”. Of course she was, she’s a regular on a network TV show. She’s injured in her spleen and has a cracked rib and wrist, but is basically fine. Sarah and Drew go in to see Amber, who’s sedated, and it’s that thing where once you know it’s going to be all right it’s actually worse, and you sob. And I sobbed.
Hospital. Morning. Amber comes out of it and she’s freaking out about her eye, and I thought for a minute that her eye was more injured than we knew, but not so.
Waiting room, and everyone’s still here. Wouldn’t they go home once they knew she was fine? Kristina informs Haddie that she has made her an appointment at the Gynecologist, and Kristina does that Mom thing where she continues lecturing even after Haddie has said yes six times. It’s the little things, on this show.
Crosby gazes at Jasmine, who presently thinks maybe she should go get that son of theirs. She hugs everyone else, and again snubs Crosby, because she is mentally in grade five. He runs after her, and despite her being awful, tells her he bought her a house. If I recapped this argument you would all think it was Groundhog Day so suffice it so say it doesn’t go well and nothing new is said, until Crosby says they’re using her ‘marriage counseling’ drawing as a blueprint. Jasmine is made of stone. She leaves.
Adam and Max. Pancakes and lots of whipped cream. Adam is trying his best to teach Max about empathy, and wants him to apologize to Sarah though Max avers he didn’t do anything wrong, and justifies it because “His dad kept making him wait”. Max Burkholder the actor does an incredible job generally but Max did, in fact, come off bratty and selfish here, as opposed to just not understanding.
Now the Julia Plotline. Please assume a fair amount of eyerolling.
Julia is on the phone in the hospital when a woman comes by – no purse, no coat – screaming in going-into-labour pain. She grabs Julia’s arm and then recognizes her, she was Sydney’s teacher last year. It’s Grace Wu. She screams the usual “get-this-baby-out-of-me” tropes, rages at the nurse, and begs begs Julia to stay with her. Julia’s all “Um, I’ll get you checked in, anyway”. OK, fine.
Adam at work. He’s furious with Cory for firing the Head of the Design Team and supplanting him with his friend “Spider”. All you need to know here is that Cory does not consider having two kids to be a reason not to fire someone, and that Adam goes off on a full Adam-Braverman style dick rant. “It feels like all I do is set stuff up so that you can knock it down. I’m old, you’re new, everything I do sucks”.
Grace Wu is screaming in a TV way about how much she hates her husband. It’s not true and, of course, it’s not funny. Julia is all “Why am I still here?” That is answered when we find out that Grace has not had an epidural. Julia is going to stay with her. She looks at Julia with affection “And I thought you were such a bitch!” Julia, rejoinder “I thought you were a bitch.” Why can’t we please see that part of Julia? The part where she’s a bit of a bitch and hard-edged? I would like that . Grace Wu TV’s that she neeeeds druuuuuugs.
Sarah brings Amber, who’s tired and sore, some tea and tries to talk about how serious the accident situation was. Gary, who I’m pretty sure we’ll never see again, is getting a DUI. Sarah tries to get into the whole “What were you thinking?”, Amber says she thinks she’s been “attacked enough”, Drew comes to the door and in a super-rare occurrence raises his voice, pissed off that Amber doesn’t see what she put them through.
Kristina tells Adam, who brushes his teeth in his uptight way (still fully dressed, so maybe he’s one of those people who does it after each meal?) that she’s getting Max a new retainer. Max lost the old one, and though they looked, they couldn’t find it. Adam treats her like a child and condescends that those things are expensive. She knows, because she’s not a complete idiot, and he says he’ll look and will find it because retainers are expensive, which she also knows because she’s not an idiot. Then, she puts her head further into the Lion’s mouth by saying Haddie is now on the pill, and Adam says, and I quote, “You need to tell her that he still needs to wear a condom”.
Julia and Joel have a lovely tea party with Sydney. It’s one of the scenes that does seem improvised in a really sweet way, except that Joel has a top hat that fits him. Julia lies, as Sydney goes to get something, that she’s happy she doesn’t have to go through labour as Grace Wu did, that they have an amazing life, and that she’s happy with just the three of them.
Theater. Six actors on the stage with Dreyfuss reading stage directions . They clearly had fun casting the actors playing the ‘stage’ Bravermans, because they all look like caricatures of the actors playing the – you get the idea, right? Of note: Zeke plays himself. Sarah gets all overinvolved in exactly the way the Adam character is playing Adam too overly judgy. When she does it more than once, The Adam actor, appropriately dickishly, says “The play’s not good enough for me to care this much”. Zeke tries to calm Sarah. She keeps thinking of how she could have lost Amber, and she’s terrified that Amber hasn’t learned anything from the accident at all.
Joel at Crosby’s house. He’s waiting for Jasmine, who hasn’t come. So he goes to her house. And tells her he’s sorry for everything, and that he’s not going to pursue her anymore.
The next scene is one that I don’t think was necessary, and was pretty painful to watch, and while I arguably get that the point is to make you uncomfortable, I believe WE GET IT. In short, Adam interrupts Max reading (puts his book in the wrong place) so they can talk about where he might have lost his retainer. Adam is furious because Max says they can pay for the expensive retainer by “going to the ATM”, Adam freaks, and then asks if Adam is mad at him ‘because he has Asperger’s’. Please. Please. Adam has a tender moment with Max, but enough already.
Zeke and Amber. This scene is well set up and lovely – but the director just couldn’t resist the amusing shot of Giant (according to IMDB, 6’3.5”) Craig T. Nelson walking with wee (5’1”) Mae Whitman. They’re in a junkyard, and Zeek walks Amber over to the car she got wrecked in. He makes her take a look. Then tells her the only thing that got him through Vietnam was dreaming of coming home to have a family and grandchildren. That he dreamt her and Haddie and Drew (and eventually the others). He knows she’s not feeling good about herself but quote, “Boo Frickin Hoo. Suck it up, girl. You’re a Braverman. You’ve got my blood in your veins.” It would have been more effective without the next, more predictable “I will kick your ass to the Golden Gate Bridge if you do this again” but it’s had its effect, and Amber is sobbing. Hard. I don’t actually think he was harsh enough on her to warrant this, but I bet it’s been coming. Scene ends perfectly, as Zeke mutters “Buy you a burger”.
Adam’s work. Brace yourselves. Cory walks into Adam’s office, where he apologizes for losing it on Cory and agrees that Cory has every right to run his company the way he wants. Cory accurately points out that Adam is not happy, and that he’s judging Cory rather than joining him. And then he fires him. Here we go.
Theatre. Sarah’s playreading debut. The family all flow in, of course. Julia looks fantastic. Amber apologizes to Drew and wants him to be her friend again because she doesn’t like anyone else. Drew has such hero worship of her that it doesn’t take much.
Sarah is nervous and twitchy, and Kristina is waiting for Adam to show up as Haddie is annoyed by Max and I am annoyed by Alex being there, again. I know they love each other. Does that mean he can never go home? Adam shoos everyone in, but Alex keeps him out to tell him he loves Haddie. Adam barks back to wear a condom. Like last week’s mother daughter scene, that would have been a lot more reminiscent of Coach Taylor and Matt Saracen were Adam Braverman not such a douche.
Max sees Sarah, and quite honestly apologizes. I wish we could all be so artless in our apologies instead of trying to figure out how much emotion to put in them or not. He does include “I have Aspergers” in his apology. Sarah is a human being and thus forgives him immediately, and asks him to sit beside her that night. Max gets mad that they tell Sarah to ‘break a leg’.
Dreyfuss smiles as all the actors approach Sarah to apologize profusely for how rehearsal went. Zeke is absolutely ADORABLE in his eagerness for the stage and pride for his daughter. My dad is 5’9 on a good day and speaks with an accent and wears exclusively brown, beige, or mustard silk shirts, but they’re basically the same person, I’ve realized, and that’s why I love Zeke. Sigh. Meanwhile, Sarah wonders what happened to make the actors so nice, and Dreyfuss explains he told them her daughter died. Dreeyyyyyyfuuussss!
There is nothing more annoying for a reader than to have to understand a transcription of a play within a show. So: we see Sarah’s play read. The plot is a girl making out with a mailman while hearing her family in her head. And in the audience, our Bravermans easily recognize themselves and smile. Cool?
But while everyone else enjoys the play, Amber looks upset. (She also looks like her face lacerations makeup is melting). She gets up and heads out the lobby, sobbing. Sarah sees and follows her, and Lauren Graham starts half-crying too, and Amber has now seen that she was wrong and she almost lost it all and Sarah (or Lauren) plays the whole scene on her knees. Then Amber says Sarah doesn’t want her to be like her, but she’s so proud of her.
This theatre is too full. Sorry, but it is. Also the delighted roars of applause as the play finishes. But then Zeke calls for Sarah, all “Author, Author” and it’s adorable. But seriously, there are 400 people here, min. Sarah is proud.
Julia goes to see Grace and her husband at the hospital, and Grace tells the husband that “She did your job”. I wonder if she’s supposed to parallel Julia? Anyway, Julia holds the baby, Christopher, who is adorable. Julia goes into herself for a bit, whispering to the baby how lucky his mommy is. We all know the ending here, but it’s sweet anyway.
Adam’s house. Where has he been? Maybe he was at a celebration with Sarah that we didn’t see. Because he asks what Kristina’s doing ‘up so late’, so assumedly it’s the same night. They have something to tell each other. Adam goes first and admits he got fired. Kristina, to her credit, jumps immediately into “I don’t like him and you don’t like it there, so who cares?” They have savings, they’re going to be fine. She bucks him up a little, and then he mutters into his neck “What did you want to tell me?” She tells him about an orthodontist who will make Max’s retainer for cheaper, and this is where I really lost it. Adam is just a dick. I’m sorry. He is. He barks that he said he would find it and he’s going to, ‘dammit’.
At Crosby’s, he watches a movie on his laptop. Joel enters. Tells Crosby ‘try it again’ – and in walks Jasmine. Crosby’s face lights up and I don’t understand you all who think Shepard isn’t cute. Over music, he shows Jasmine around, and they talk things out.
At the Big house, Zeke redoes some of his best lines (I assume) while Camille and Drew and Sarah and Amber laugh together.
Julia wakes up a sleeping Joel (who obviously falls asleep fast if he could get back from Crosby’s and into bed in the time it took Julia to drive from the hospital) and whispers that she’s not done. She wants another baby. Will he adopt with her? In response, he kisses her – these two seem so good to each other.
Adam sorts through the garbage. Of course. Finds a pregnancy test. Of course. It’s positive – and he looks up at Haddie, in her bedroom, on the phone, who should be told to draw her blinds (I am a hypocrite and I desperately need curtains but I hate everything! ) .
Adam storms in to yell at Kristina some more. This time because “That sonofabitch” promised he would use a condom but now Haddie is pregnant, and screams “why can’t a single thing go right around here” and then, as you all knew, Kristina says “It’s me”, that she’s pregnant. She immediately begins apologizing, and it’s actually really hard for me to watch this. She’s so sorry, he asks “how did that happen”, and I guess this means she forgot to do some method of birth control? I don’t know. He’s all “I just lost my job” like she was supposed to know that? He’s laughing and he hugs her, and I know we’re supposed to be so happy that he’s not mad – she asks, “Are you Mad”? but the very idea that you have to apologize to your partner like this makes me uncomfortable, as if Adam wasn’t part of it.
And then, of course, Max screams that he found his retainer. Adam continues laughing. Kristina confirms again that Adam is not mad, that they are happy that they are having a baby, and I wish they didn’t have to reassure us so much. And the show that makes me recognize myself and my family even though I have no brothers and no children and all kinds of other reasons signs off for another year.