This week, on Parenthood: Max has a bad moment, Julia opens up, and Zeek makes a friend
Parenthood is back this week, opting for only a couple weeks off rather than a more standard month-plus hiatus. With Kristina’s mayoral bid over and done with, the Luncheonette label storyline seemingly forgotten, and Amber taking the week off, “Promises” is able to focus on a couple of the under-represented arcs of the season, as well as the continuing saga of Julia and Joel.
With this episode, Julia’s arc for the season is made clearer- turns out her early moments with David Denham’s Ed were there not to tease a love triangle, but to lead to the current strain on Julia and Joel’s marriage. As soon as Ed is drunk at the auction, he loses all audience sympathy. He’s no longer the likable former businessman struggling to adjust, he’s a needy boor who can’t take a hint and won’t respect Julia’s space. Sonya Walger’s role in this domestic drama remains to be seen (while more love quadrangle messiness is far from this viewer’s preference, hopefully the talented Walger was tapped for more than the two or three scenes she had earlier this season), but making this conflict about communication problems between the couple rather than appealing external love interests is a greatly appreciated development. Unsurprisingly, Erika Christensen is fantastic once again this week and Julia’s confession to Adam is a particularly effective scene. The writers still have work to do with Joel, whose hot and cold approach to Julia and their marriage makes his perspective difficult to identify with, and it doesn’t help things that Victor’s school troubles have seemingly vanished, calling into question their earlier emotional significance, but on a whole, this storyline has improved significantly since the start of the season.
The rest of the episode is split between Zeek’s time without Camille, Sarah’s non-date with her tenant, Drew’s not-girlfriends, and Hank’s revelation that he may be on the autism spectrum. Zeek’s arc is predictable, but entertaining and his friendship with his diner mate works well. It’s always seemed a bit odd that Zeek and Camille don’t spend any time with non-Bravermans; it’s about time they gave the character more to do than putter around the house. As for Sarah, her love life once again remains underwhelming, but at least we finally have movement with her Obvious Romantic Interest (the season premiere introduced three- Peet for Joel, Ed for Julia, and Carl for Sarah). It’s sad how quickly she turns around on him after discovering his illustrious resume, but it’s not particularly surprising. Fingers crossed we aren’t being setup for yet another season of Sarah/Boyfriend/Hank love triangle shenanigans. If not, Sarah could do a lot worse than Carl, as has seemed obvious all season, but if so, this will get tiresome quickly.
Love triangles are everywhere this week, with Amy back in town. Just as Ed instantly becomes less appealing this week, Natalie is disappointingly predictable in her reaction to Amy. This fits very nicely with what we’ve seen from her before, though, so while her scenes are far from the most enjoyable to watch, they work well for her character and to place Drew’s feelings for her in context. It’s surprising how immediately likable Amy is this week- her treatment of Drew was horrid and by the end of her run, she was as close as Parenthood comes to a villain (outside of Bob Little, of course). Remorse goes a long way though, and her sincere apology to Drew and his mature handling of the situation say a lot about where both characters are now, as opposed to then.
However the highlight of the episode, without a doubt, is Hank’s reaction to Max and his revelation that he may have Aspergers. Ray Romano is always great on the show, but he particularly shines as Hank struggles with the notion that maybe he is the odd person out in his dysfunctional relationships. While Hank and Sarah are great together, and Romano and Lauren Graham have fantastic chemistry, it’s Hank and Max that are by far the more compelling pair. They’re kindred spirits, a rare duo who understand, respect, and are immediately comfortable with each other, but more than that, their friendship allows for completely frank and emotionally restrained conversations in a way no other on the show can. It’s refreshing and a necessary counteragent to the hyper-emotionalism of the rest of the show, as well as fantastic fodder for the writers and both actors. Hank’s frustration at not understanding how certain relationships in his life have fallen apart is all too recognizable, as is Sarah’s desire, but inability to help. The producers clearly know how good both Romano and Hank are, or they wouldn’t have bent over backward to bring him back after his lovely season four sendoff. Here’s hoping he gets more to do in the second half of the season than he has the first half.
What did you think of this episode? How are you feeling about the various romantic entanglements? What do you think is next for Julia and Joel? Who’s your money on for that chess game, Hank or Max? Post your thoughts below!