After six seasons, Parenthood walked off the field with its head held high, its finale a joyous celebration of the series’ core principles. Much of the final season has felt like a series of foregone conclusions, character beats and plot points easily foreseeable by fans who know the Bravermans well enough to have a strong sense of how they’ll react to their current struggles. That doesn’t mean the journey hasn’t been a satisfying one, however. When Joel and Julia get news of Victor’s sister, everyone watching knows they’ll adopt her, because they’re Joel and Julia and this is Parenthood. Yet their conversation on the dance floor is no less sweet and stirring for this fact. The series has always been one about the messiness, challenges, and rewards that come with family. By the finale, everyone watching is just as much a part of the Braverman clan as the characters themselves, aware of the show’s foibles and maybe a little tired of hearing the same stories repeated at every family function, but holding it in a special place in their heart nonetheless.
Centering the finale on a wedding, rather than the birth of Amber’s son or Zeek’s death, allows the series to take a victory lap, which is how much of the finale feels. Everyone’s together, everyone looks great (despite Sarah’s hideous wedding dress. I’d normally leave this to the professionals, but gloves, Sarah? Gloves? Even Amal couldn’t pull off gloves.), and everyone’s happy. Emotions are high and it’s the perfect time to reflect on a life lived. There are any number of lovely moments in the lead up to and wake of Sarah and Hank’s wedding, but one in particular stands out: Hank talking with Zeek and requesting his blessing in marrying Sarah. Though perhaps not the most memorable of its kind (that honor still goes to Danny and SpyDaddy’s hilarious conversation in the Alias pilot), this scene is beautiful and nails what so many other Father’s Blessing scenes get wrong. There’s no implicit antagonism between Hank and Zeek, Hank does not feel pressured to go to Sarah’s father, and it’s something neither Sarah nor Zeek would have expected. Hank doesn’t do it for them, or for tradition. He does it for himself.
Hank is frequently closed off and rarely interacts with Bravermans who aren’t Sarah or Max, so while he was profoundly affected by Zeek’s health scare earlier in the season, this scene highlights for the first time in the series just how much Hank respects and admires Zeek and the kind of home he and Camille built for their family. Hank isn’t asking Zeek to give him his daughter, he isn’t asking for permission. He wants Zeek’s honest opinion- can he do this? Is he welcome in the family, despite his differences, or does Zeek think Sarah would be better off without him? With both Max and Hank, Parenthood has been incredibly consistent—they don’t like eye contact and make it as little as possible. So when Hank looks Zeek directly in the eyes as he’s speaking, listening to everything Zeek has to say, it’s clear just how much this moment means to him, how important Zeek’s blessing and words of advice are and how much he wants Zeek to understand this. It’s a powerful exchange made all the more meaningful by the seasons of character work the show has put into Hank and a fantastic beat to include in the finale.
While most of the episode focuses on moments of triumph, personal and professional, the season would not have felt complete had Jason Katims and company glossed over Zeek’s death. Rather than the extreme and powerful emotions the series is very capable of capturing, we’re treated to a quiet and respectful goodbye, followed not by a funeral, but a celebration—presumably taking place quite a bit later—and one more game of Braverman baseball. Ending with a family dinner would have felt wrong without Zeek and the energy of the game, interspersed with glimpses of everyone’s lives a few years down the road (Camille’s trip to France is a major hankie moment, and Amber marries QB1? Nice!), allows this series ultimately about the unbreakable connection of family to finish on a note of exhilaration and joy, rather than loss. Sure, it’s a bit convenient that everyone winds up completely content at roughly the same time, but this is Parenthood and after seasons of health scares and divorce drama, it’s not asking too much to hope all the Bravermans make it through. Rather than end the series with a period, the closing montage gives viewers an ellipsis, emphasizing that for these characters, life goes on, regardless of whether the camera follows them home. It’s a poignant and warm way to end the series, and one that makes saying goodbye to Parenthood a little easier.
- Hank out-Joeled Joel? Well done, sir!
- Sure, Max dances with a girl. But my eyes were immediately drawn to the corner of the frame and Amber and Drew’s mad dancing skills. Also, may the Braverman men never stop dancing, and Hank never stop trying to escape them.
- In Bravermanland, the secret to happiness is apparently babies. Seriously, everyone has babies in the flashforwards. We get it, they’re cute, but at a certain point, the Earth will reach a critical mass of Bravermans and they’ll have to fight it out in Thunderdome to see who can stay. My money’s on Sydney.
- The writers have done a great job building up Adam’s connection to the students and teaching and it’s great to see Crosby realize that the Luncheonette is just another job for Adam, not his passion.
- Speaking of Adam, that was a deliberate The Graduate reference at the reception, right? I guess because despite being very happy in that moment, he still hasn’t found his calling? It’s a nice shot, but a bit distracting, given how rare such clear cinematic references are on the show (or else I’ve just missed them all).
- In a nice touch, Drew’s speech, while heartfelt, isn’t particularly memorable or well-crafted. He’s not an English major, after all. Drew’s initial Best Man scene with Hank is fantastic, though, and where the character truly shines.
- Max’s excitement at being hired to be the photographer at Sarah and Hank’s wedding is great, but even more fun is the brief back and forth about whether he’ll get a lump sum or credit towards his (presumed) college fund.
- There are too many beautiful little moments in this episode to list them all. Please sound off in the comments with your favorites!