Welcome back to our Parenthood TV Club. Every week, Allison Benedikt IMs with a different fan/regular watcher of the show. Today, Seth Stevenson joins Allison for the season finale.
Allison Benedikt: Hello Seth! Season 4 of Parenthood is now behind us, and it ended with an entire episode of people knocking on one another's front doors (or classroom doors) to talk about their relationships. Did you notice that?
Seth Stevenson: A lot of resolving, huh? I guess that makes sense for a season finale. So: It's Hank! Or at least it's not Mark. For now. Are you happy?
Benedikt: No. I am annoyed. I like Hank, I do. And he certainly hit my emotional sweet spot by deciding to go to Montana or Minneapolis or Milwaukee to be with his angsty daughter. But I also love Mark, who is an Adam in waiting. (My husband told me not to ever say that in public, but oh well.) HOWEVER, Parenthood ruined Sarah this season, so I cannot be happy about any of this love triangle because she is horrible. The only upside is that it appears she is now alone and unemployed.
Stevenson: It was hard for me to see why anyone would fight over her.
Benedikt: What the hell do you think she meant when she told Mark: "I'll never be able to explain to you how much I love you. I'm going to try to make it work with Hank." ??????????????????
Stevenson: No clue. Like Mark, I'm presuming. I really could have used a clearer rundown on her decision-making process. But I do think Hank was the better match for her. He provided the weary, cynical ballast to counterweight Sarah’s peppy optimism. Mark is way too earnest and puppyish. Are you saying you think Adam was like that, prekids?
Benedikt: I'm saying that I think Mark will turn out to be the kind of husband and father that Adam is. A rock.
Stevenson: Yeah, I see that. Sarah needs a rock for sure. And Mark would do anything to make her happy. But I feel like she'd take advantage of his devotion. It would encourage her to indulge her worst, flightiest, most self-absorbed tendencies. I bow to no one in my love for Lauren Graham, but I wish she'd just disappear to Minnesota with Ray Romano. Her character is in irritating shambles. I love how close and supportive Drew and Amber are with each other, and I think it's because they turn sibling-ward in the absence of a reliable mom.
Benedikt: That's a very sweet observation. I love their relationship, too. Let's go through some of the other relationships we got to see in some state of resolution this episode. Crosby and Jasmine. Fill in the blank: It is ________ that Crosby apologized to his mother-in-law.
Stevenson: Crosby always does the right thing, once he's exhausted the alternatives. Your turn.
Benedikt: CRAZYWRONGSETSABADPRECENDENTUGH. Why should he have apologized? He was right. She was wrong.
Stevenson: Maybe there is no wrong or right when it comes to in-laws. There is only peace and roilment.
Benedikt: So true.
Stevenson: Where did all the money come from this episode? Fancy dinners, hotel suites, Hawaii trips ... I thought the music studio was still a fledgling operation?
Benedikt: Have you been watching this show since the beginning, Seth? They always have money. Often inexplicably. Even when Adam was going through that crunch last season, they still found a way to send Hattie to Cornell. (Thank God, good riddance.)
Stevenson: Oh, Hattie. I miss her awful curly bangs so bad.
Benedikt: You know who's never gonna have any money? Ryan and Amber.
Stevenson: Amber was a little too weepy for me this week. And I like Amber—she's pretty three-dimensional, for a teen character on a network show. But she's going to make some Sarah-esque life mistakes, I can tell.
Benedikt: Yeah, that scene at Ryan's front door was too much, too intense. Love isn't supposed to be so hard, young people!
Stevenson: Drew's ex-girlfriend wrap-up was remarkably mature and reserved, by comparison. Drew's rocketing up my chart of favorite Parenthood characters. I found myself cheering for him a little when he got into Berkeley. It's possible I imagine I was a similarly shy, nice, somewhat wussy-ish teen. Emo is the word the kids use now, I think.
Benedikt: I'm thrilled Drew’s going to Berkeley 'cause then he and his adorably stilted emotions get to stick around next season. If there is a next season. Do we know?
Stevenson: I don't know! If there is, I hope they ship Sarah off to the unreachable alternate dimension where Hattie lives. I hope Drew and Zeke talk about girls a lot. And I hope the soundtrack is nothing but Eddie Vedder singing over a ukulele. Did you enjoy that closing montage? I was glad they restrained themselves from ending with the adoption ceremony morphing into a Motown dance sequence, with Skittles raining down over all the happy Bravermans. Oh, I also hope Sydney gets beat up once or twice by some girls in her class.
Benedikt: I’d love to see Syd get smacked around, but let’s not look forward to a possible Very Special Bullying Episode until we address this season’s big issue, now presumably resolved: cancer. Had Kristina gotten really bad news, I probably would have rolled my eyes at a cancer cliffhanger. But the great news that she's cancer-free also felt like a cliché season ender. I guess writers of television dramas can't win with cancer storylines. Overall, did you think the show handled her battle with breast cancer well?
Stevenson: I was impressed by the artsy PET-scan scene where they played dubstep music while Kristina rolled into a giant machine. But as a whole, the cancer storyline felt way too easy in both setup and payoff. The best-dramatized moments, I thought, were when they showed the toll it was taking on the family through Adam's frayed nerves. The episode where Adam was constantly crazed and on the verge of losing it was when it felt most real to me. Maybe I’m in denial and think I’ll live forever and just wouldn’t let myself relate to Kristina’s plight. Or maybe the conehead threw me off.
Benedikt: I'm with you. The Big Moments didn't work, but the small ones, particularly as Adam tried to be the good husband but kept sort of stepping in it, did. That's the show to me these days. The less eventful episodes are well-written, the small interactions are meaningful. But whenever they try to do something Big, it fails. The exception being the courthouse adoption scene, which was so corny but still left me sobbing. I too promise to be there for you, Victor! I will be your modeling agent!
Stevenson: I will wear that tie, Victor. No matter what else is going on in your life, however hard it gets, you can count on me to wear that tie.