This week, on Parenthood: Max disparages basketball, Sarah gets an interview, and Amber says goodbye
Parenthood shifts its focus back to the season-long (thus far) saga of Amber and Ryan this week, as Matt Lauria gets an emotional sendoff. In this potentially-final episode for Ryan (though he could just as easily return later in the show’s run), writer Julia Brownell wisely picks up the under-developed thread of Ryan and Zeek’s bond, giving viewers a clearer peek inside the character’s head than he would allow were he sharing all of his scenes with Amber. Tying her in with Zeek as well is just as important- most of Amber’s scenes this season have been with Ryan, Sarah, or the gang at the Luncheonette. It’s nice to be reminded that she has other relationships in her life informing her romantic decisions. Amber’s goodbye to Ryan is moving and heartfelt and, one imagines, very familiar to those with loved ones serving in the military. The scene treats both characters respectfully and while viewers may sympathize more fully with one person or the other, it’s great to see a balanced approach to the breakup of such a likeable couple.
Partly because of how effective the Amber scenes are, it’s a bit odd for Sarah to be so completely disconnected from what her daughter is going through. A new viewer could easily miss their relationship entirely. That being said, it’s nice to see Sarah dealing with professional concerns rather than her usual relationship/love triangle storylines. Of course the episode winds up bringing this element into her big break, but given how clearly the season has worked to isolate Hank from Sarah and instead pair him with Max, their new partnership raises fewer red flags than perhaps it should. As for Max, his falling out with Micah is handled well. Parenthood has managed to keep Max surprisingly socially successful over the past couple of seasons, from his work on the Yearbook to his School Presidency, and it feels realistic for that to shift as Max ages and his peer group becomes more self-conscious and likely to lash out at him for being different. It’ll be interesting to see what comes next for him, though his increased prominence this week and last does serve as a reminder that we’ve seen very little of the Braverman children recently (Max, Jabbar, Victor, Sydney, and Nora), and Haddie’s barely been mentioned all season. It’s not necessarily a problem, but it is a bit surprising, given the various storylines.
For example, with so much tension between Julia and Joel, why have we seen so little of Sydney and Victor? They must have noticed this- are they upset and if so, how is that affecting their parents? Joel gets a bit more screen time this week, as we finally see more of his work situation. His scene with Peet is long overdue; if we’d seen a moment like this earlier in the season, his stress and inability to support Julia emotionally would have felt far more organic and Julia’s interruption of his meeting with Peet would have held much greater significance. It also would’ve shut down any speculation of dueling extramarital flirtation storylines. Given the casting of Sonya Walger as Peet, canny viewers will have been waiting for her to pop back up, theoretically right as Joel’s marriage is at its most strained. It’s great to see that the writers are going a different direction with this pairing. Parenthood doesn’t feel like a show that will pull the trigger on a Braverman divorce, but we’ll have to wait to see whether Joel and Julia’s relationship keeps fracturing. Given the tenor of their scenes this week, things should come to a head soon.
The final storyline this week is the return of Oliver and Ashes of Rome’s album. The scenes with Oliver and Crosby, Jasmine, and Jabbar serve as comedic counterparts to the more fraught relationship drama, and as such they are incredibly successful. It’s great to spend some time with a second highly-functioning marriage (Crosby and Jasmine, along with the ever-reliable Adam and Kristina), helping to balance the Julia/Joel and Amber/Ryan turmoil, and it’s also nice to be reminded of just how great Jasmine is, and how well-suited she and Crosby are. Drawing on Jasmine’s background as a dancer to help explain her understanding of, patience with, and connection to Crosby (and other artistic types) works well, and Oliver’s song for her at the end is great. Ashes of Rome has been a somewhat hit and miss storyline this season, but here, Oliver feels like a person, rather than the caricature he’s frequently been, and it’s a nice change.
Overall, this is another satisfying, entertaining episode of Parenthood, which continues to have a consistently strong, if not outstanding, season.
What did you think of this episode? Are you with Hank on Sarah’s winning of the job? What do you want to see happen with Julia and Joel? Think Ashes of Rome’s album will actually be any good? Post your thoughts below!