Thursday, April 21, 2011

Season Finale: Parenthood-"Hard Times Come Again No More"

Sarah and Gilliam prepare to see her play performed on "Parenthood"
Credit: NBC
My review of the season finale of Parenthood is after the jump.

I've been doing a lot of thinking since watching the episode. I really want to like it because it did so many things very well, but it also had way too much going on and a few pointless subplots. This show had so much going for it but I just didn't like some aspects of the finale. There was way too much going on in the episode. It seemed like they were trying to wrap some things up just in case they didn't get a third season. (*) There were scenes that I really did love, like the opening. I would have loved the episode to be a bottle episode set in the hospital, as the tension rises as the family waits to see if Amber survives, but it wasn't. What we got was an episode where some aspects worked very well, and some were just stupid.

(*) Which at this point, is almost a certainty. After getting the highest demo rating since September, Parenthood will be back next year.

Boy did Adam have a lot to do in this episode. When he wasn't dealing with Max losing his retainer or getting fired from work, he was dealing with the aftermath of his daughter having sex for the first time. The Max stuff in the episode was particularly strong. This season, these plotlines really resonated with me, and this was no exception. The opening scene with Max melting down in the hospital was particularly strong, and the scene between Adam and Max afterword was very strong as well. Even thought the rest of the plotline with the retainer wasn't particularly interesting, the finding of it made the final scene of the episode better then it otherwise would have been. It was one of those lines that fits into the scene perfectly, yet has nothing do do with the scene at hand. It strangely worked.

Adam got canned, which is something that the show has been leading up to ever since Gordon decided to sell the company. Since Corey took over the company, Adam has never really been happy there. And with the scenes at work in the previous episode I knew that something big would happen in the finale with this, and Adam leaving the company was at the top of my list of guesses. In hindsight it really did seem inevitable. He wasn't happy at the job, so now he can move on to something else. We'll get an unemployed arc at the beginning of next season, and they're going to tie that arc in with the cliffhanger from this episode, Kristina's pregnant! This was something that was completely ruined for me by the promo for the finale, but it still made for an interesting cliffhanger.

The show is still dealing with Haddie having sex, Adam is still trying to get his head around it. But I get a sense of moving on from it while getting a sense that her parents are still having trouble. This is a weird feeling, yet one that I'm content with because the moments in the episode were so good. Adam telling Alex to "use a condom" was great. But probably the best moment that was a part of this plotline was Adam finding the pregnancy test and freaking out. That was just some great acting by Peter Krause.

I wish the episode was centered more on Amber, because she had the strongest material in the episode. Yes, it basically required Mae Whitman to cry a lot but she's a good enough actress that she pulled it all off very well. I felt like this plotline wasn't focused on enough. There's a goldmine of material here and I think that the show only gave us one or two ounces of this mine. Although the one or two ounces that the show gave us were great, especially Zeke's speech about dreams. That scene in the junkyard was one of the best parts of the episode, and possibly one of the best scenes of the series so far. The scene between Sarah and Amber was great as well, mostly because of the superb acting from Lauren Graham (**) and Mae Whitman. But like I said, there was very little from her character. This could have been a great focus point for the episode, but they didn't go that way.

(**) After this episode, can Lauren Graham have her Emmy yet? She was giving a VERY good performance in the episode, especially in that opening scene. Her performance in that scene moved me to tears.

Sarah's play was finally performed in this episode, and the payoff was great. The sequence where the family attended the play was very well done and it involved some great acting from Lauren Graham. Seeing her stand onstage at the end of the act was absolutely brilliant and I could see Sarah's excitement on her face. They really brought out the hammer with the ties between her play and her family but I strangely didn't mind it. I also was able to overlook the fact that Zeke was playing the lead for some reason. I really did enjoy the plotline.

I don't know what to think about the Crosby plotline. On one hand, the conclusion seemed very forced, like they had to put some sort of resolution, no matter how ridiculous. I've been saying for a few weeks that they would put Crosby and Jasmine back together, and that's what they seemingly took steps towards in this episode. Jasmine has seen the house and they're talking, I guess that's more realistic then them getting completely back together but it still doesn't click with me. I guess I'm going to have to see how this plays in the third season because this arc isn't quite clicking yet.

Julia has been given the short stick a lot this season, but this week it was much more apparent then usual. The storyline with the pregnant woman was stupid and unnecessary. There really was no reason for this plotline to exist. They could have just had the scene with Julia wanting to adopt without those sequences or with some other plotline involving Sydney. They didn't need to have most of this plotline and it showed.

I really didn't hate parts of the episode, in fact I really enjoyed most of it. From the opening, to the scene in the junkyard, to the last six minutes of the episode, it mostly worked. There were parts that didn't (*cough* Julia *cough*) but there was enough that I was able to find the silver lining for the episode.

So that's the season. It was far from perfect, in fact it peaked four episodes before the end of the season, but it was still a very strong season of a good show. I can't wait for this show to be back next season and to continue watching it with you guys.

What did everyone else think?

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