Jordin Althaus/NBC
September 26, 2013 at 12:00 PM EDT


TV Show
Current Status
In Season
run date
Lauren Graham, Craig T. Nelson

I have a confession to make: In the span of two months this summer, I binge-watched all of Parenthood, overheated my laptop, used up a grand total of 3.25 tissue boxes to soak up my tears, and fell in love with this show. Yes, there were bumps along the way — looking at you, Sarah Braverman — but I went into this season premiere expecting only charm coupled with the most emotional gut punches from the Braverman clan.

And this episode delivered the classic Parenthood I’ve come to love.

“It Has to Be Now” was an hour of the Bravermans taking chances with a renewed sense of “carpe diem,” as Kristina calls it, but as usual, realizing their flaws in the process.

Kristina, now cancer-free, is enjoying time with Adam, telling him cheesy-but-sweet phrases like “Life is a gift” as they dance together at a bar. But just as the two agree to seize each day, Bob Little pays them a visit and gives Kristina the opportunity of her dreams: to run his mayoral campaign. Adam retreats into his protective nature, warning Kristina how Bob, sleazeball extraordinaire, spent last season lying to her — but all that said, it’s clear Kristina wants to finally take a chance. And her thoughts of taking the job are encouraged by Gwen. “If this is something you want to do, you do it,” she tells Kristina. “This is not the dress rehearsal.” The music swells, and I grab my first tissue. (Sorry, readers, I’m a crier. Perfect choice in shows, don’t you think?)

But given options A and B, Kristina ends up choosing C: running for mayor herself. It seems crazy, but Monica Potter brings enough determination into Kristina’s expression as she tells Adam that I was just about ready to go vote for her myself. Because of that, and the fact that her opponent is Bob Little, of course.

Adam is understandably shocked, but this isn’t the only task he tried to help with in the episode. Max starts visiting Hank — whose move to Minnesota didn’t turn out so well — and gives the most matter-of-fact excuse ever: “You’re in my radius.” Only Hank would respond to that with acceptance. But when Max tells Adam, Adam pays Hank a visit himself to protect Sarah and make sure Hank’s not there to win her back. Adam’s never been a laissez-faire kind of guy, and even though his heart’s in the right place, his actions tonight with both Kristina and Hank only convince others to do the opposite of what he asks.

But enough about Adam. Tonight’s episode also heavily featured Julia, as she felt more and more insecure about her status as the stay-at-home mom. Julia’s always been proud, thanks to her success as a lawyer. When her interviewer tells her, “You’re like a legend around here,” you can almost see her puff up in pride. Still, all that self-confidence she’s had is rapidly deflating — she can’t land a job and on top of that, Joel’s new boss is a charming architect played by Sonya Walger. (Time for another confession: As a huge Lostie, I clapped at her appearance — Penny! Constant Penny! — and even though I know she’s supposed to get in the middle of the Grahams’ marriage, Walger’s presence had me smiling instead of worrying. Oops.)

The one lackluster plot, to me, centered on Crosby and Jasmine, whose baby arrives three weeks early. (“She’s so white,” Crosby quips, even in the middle of the intense delivery.) Though the baby’s arrival should be a cause for celebration, the couple is in no mood to host the Bravermans and end up in the Braverman Passive Aggressive Land yet again. We’ve seen them do this before — Jasmine fumes quietly at Crosby, Crosby whines to Adam — and even Crosby’s “I don’t feel a thing” speech feels like the same plot Julia went through last season with Victor. It may be realistic (What young couple hasn’t been exhausted from a new baby? Other than the Kardashians, I imagine. I mean Wests. West-Kardashian? Trussell-Braverman? What were we talking about?), but a repeat of what their characters have often done in past seasons just seems tedious. Anyway, welcome to the Bravermans, baby Aida!

Given all the time spent on the other Bravermans, Sarah and Amber had little to do, and we barely saw Zeek and Camille. Sarah deals with a tenant, tries reconnecting with Drew, who’s been away at college, and learns to use emojis. But Amber, in a few short scenes, won the biggest moment of the night. When Ryan finally returned Stateside (I grabbed another fistful of tissues here), he proposes marriage to a shell-shocked Amber. Between her “yes” and the double “yes” from yesterday’s Modern Family, I… well, let’s just say I’ve become a puddle of tears. Tears of joy.

This was classic Parenthood, pulling off tense lows in the couples’ arguments and hitting emotional highs at the same time. Great all-around start to the season, setting up plenty of arcs, including Kristina’s campaign, baby Aida and Amber’s marriage. Carpe diem, indeed.

Of course, it wasn’t all tears. Here are some highlights:

+ Max and Hank are always enjoyable to watch. “People bore me,” Max says. “Yeah, I get that,” Hank replies, cementing their status as the most unexpected kindred spirits.

+ “I didn’t even finish What to Expect When You’re Expecting!” complains Crosby when Jasmine begins having contractions. It’s okay, Crosby, there’s a film.

+ During the first scene with Julia and Joel, Victor and Sydney pick up sticks and have an innocent swordfight. Aww.

+ “You’re a photographer and a super? That’s awesome. I think my mom has those pajamas.” Voila: A lesson in how to compliment and insult someone at the same time, courtesy of Drunk Girl. Poor Sarah.

PopWatchers, what’d you make of the premiere? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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