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'Parenthood' series finale recap: 'May God Bless and Keep You Always'

Emotions run high as the family celebrates Sarah’s wedding—and as we say a final farewell to the Braverman family.

Posted on

Ben Cohen/NBC

Parenthood

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
03/02/10
performer:
Lauren Graham, Craig T. Nelson
broadcaster:
NBC
genre:
Drama

Let’s start things out with a group hug, Team Braverman, shall we? But really, now that we’re all covered in sopping heaps of tissues and our eyes are swollen shut after a series finale that made us feel ALL THE FEELINGS, I think it’s imperative. (Let me know if it becomes annoying when I’m still holding onto you in about two weeks, m’kay?)

Before I begin celebrating the moments that made this final episode of Parenthood so memorable, I’d like to applaud the writers for accomplishing exactly what everyone involved with this show hoped they’d achieve. Reducing us to weeping, worthless wrecks who will have to take a sick day on Friday? No (although it should totally be excused), to giving this show—this family—the ending it deserved. Because although we may be crying tears of sadness that the show is over, I, for one, am also overcome with gratitude that we were given the chance to witness the continued lives of the family we’ve felt a part of for six years, and more importantly, that we got to see they were okay. (Because I’ll be honest, for a heart-stopping moment there toward the end, I wasn’t so sure that’s the direction it was going.) My tears of sadness were mixed with a healthy amount of tears of happiness and gratitude as we said our final goodbye, and for that I’m grateful.

I thought about ranking the biggest tearjerker moments from the episode, but seeing as how I started crying at about minute 8 and was ugly crying long before minute 44 (when it turned even uglier), the entire episode was off the charts. So instead, let’s take a look at the poignant way each story line wrapped up. Feel free to grab your box of Kleenex. I’ll wait.

Joel and Julias big surprise

After getting a call for an emergency meeting with Victor’s social worker, Joel and Julia are understandably worried that Victor’s birth mother might want to reopen the adoption. But the issue isn’t about Victor; it’s about his birth mother. Seems she’s just had a baby girl (not with Victor’s birth father) and wants to give Joel and Julia the first option to adopt her. Before I can even start to shout “THIS IS A TERRIBLE TIME TO ADOPT A BABY,” both Joel and Julia say it for me. They agree that they need to take time to work on them before bringing more disruption to their lives—and the lives of the kids. Yeah, I didn’t believe them, either.

In a sweet moment at Sarah’s wedding, Joel tells Julia that he’s been up all night thinking, and realized, “She’s Victor’s sister. She’s already ours.” Is it a mistake to bring a baby into a rocky marriage, and one that still needs a lot of work to fix? Of course. Do I think they made the right decision? Absolutely. Sure, it’s the finale, and I want everyone and everything to end with a “happily ever after” regardless of if it makes sense, but it’s more than that. Even after all they’ve been through, and even after I was ready to show Joel the door (repeatedly) last season, I believe in Joel and Julia, and I believe that everything they’ve been through has led them to a place of strength. Now, let’s just keep our fingers crossed that Sydney doesn’t combust when she realizes she’s no longer the little darling of the Graham household.

Hank makes the rounds

A couple of episodes ago I designated Hank as the episode MVP, and I’m doing it again. If you’d have told me at the onset of season 6 that the person who’d make me cry the most at the end would be Hank (relatively speaking, of course), I’d have thrown my tissue box at you and called you a liar in my best Valerie voice. But it’s true.

Despite it being “basically symbolic,” Hank stops by to ask for Zeek’s blessing for his marriage to Sarah. Zeek initially pulls his famous cocky attitude and gives him a hard time (“What would you like to say, Hank Rizzoli?”) but when Hank tells him about his Asperger’s—which Zeek didn’t know about but admits it “explains a few things”—Zeek lets him know that if Sarah’s okay with it, then he is, too. Opening up to Hank, and explaining not only what Sarah means to him but all that she is as a person, Zeek gives him his blessing, telling him, “Take care of my litt … my daughter,” before his voice breaks with emotion. “It’s gonna be my honor to do that,” Hank responds. “I’m never gonna stop loving her.” Wait, save the Kleenex because you’re going to need them again immediately.

Next stop on Hank’s marriage-request agenda? UC Berkeley, where Hank asks Drew to be his best man. “I don’t got a ton of friends. Any friends,” Hank tells him (but he’s working on that). Drew accepts and they awkwardly hug it out. Why the tears, you ask? Because Drew hasn’t had a father figure around in a long time (if ever), and over the past few episodes it’s clear that he’ll now have a truly decent one in Hank. So yeah, I cried. And yeah, Hank has emerged as one of my favorite (honorary) Bravermans. Go figure.

NEXT: Everyone’s employed, and Zeek reveals his favorite

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Article

How 'Parenthood' thrived, despite a spoiler-addicted society

Posted on

Justin Lubin/NBC

Parenthood

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
03/02/10
performer:
Lauren Graham, Craig T. Nelson
broadcaster:
NBC
genre:
Drama

In the age of live-tweeting, the most talked-about shows on television tend to be those that give viewers (and Twitter users) plenty of big, bold moments that inspire strong, immediate reactions. Which, in turn, means that the most talked-about shows inevitably end up being labeled TV’s most successful shows. Think about it: There’s Game of Thrones, with its Red Wedding, Purple Wedding, and continuous stream of unexpected deaths. We have Shonda Rhimes, who’s arguably the queen of the WTF moment with ScandalGrey’s Anatomy, and How to Get Away With Murder. And then there’s the ever-more-popular True Detective format, which is built entirely around solving a mystery—preferably one with a surprising result. Essentially, TV’s best dramas must, on some level, be edge-of-your-seat thrillers.

That is, unless they’ve got the Bravermans.

Heading into Parenthood‘s sixth and final season, series creator Jason Katims didn’t hide that the show would deal with losing a loved one. This was never a secret. And by the end of the season’s first episode, beloved patriarch Zeek Braverman had been rushed to the hospital with heart issues. Cut to the second episode, when Zeek’s son Adam asks what he’s supposed to do if his father dies. Zeek’s reply: “If I die, you just take my ashes, you scatter them at center field at Marine Park, and you play a game of baseball over me.”

At that moment, Parenthood‘s last scene was basically spelled out for fans—yet many still speculated that, at the last moment, Crosby’s motorcycle accident would result in internal bleeding, and he’d be the one to die. Why? Because we’ve been programmed to expect twists, to never believe what seems obvious. But that train of thought never applied to Parenthood. The “what” was never what made Parenthood powerful. On this show, it was the “who,” the “how,” and the “why.” 

Unlike most dramas on television, Parenthood focused on normal, day-to-day life. The circumstances were the opposite of extreme—there weren’t affairs with Presidents or kidnappings or mass murders. Parenthood followed the Bravermans as they dealt with bullying, first love, infidelity, money issues, sibling rivalries, and other issues that likely affected the majority of its viewers. In its most dramatic moments, the worst the Bravermans had to face were car crashes, heart attacks, cancer, PTSD, and Asperger’s Syndrome. It was a very human show, a very relatable show—and a rarity. Which raises a question: When did real life become too boring for television?

Obviously, extreme circumstances make for good, juicy TV. Scandal‘s “bitch baby” speech never would’ve happened without a foundation of murder, prostitution, and blackmail. But as great as that speech was, Zeek telling Amber that she can’t mess up his dream is just as powerful—and all it took to get to his speech was a teenager making a poor choice and getting into a car accident.

And in Parenthood‘s final hour, which aired Thursday night, the show ended on the exact note fans expected: Zeek’s ashes being spread on a baseball field, followed by the family playing a game. Once again, the show proved that it didn’t need “spoiler alert”-worthy moments to create scenes worthy of conversation. It’s a testament to both the show’s writers and its actors that they could turn any mundane activity into must-watch television.

So yes, the ending of Parenthood was utterly predictable. But that didn’t affect its impact. This show thrived most between plot points—in the glances shared by these incredibly complex characters, in their everyday tasks, in the moments when life slows down. It was about the connection viewers felt to this family. We all wanted to be a Braverman—not because the family’s life seemed overly exciting, but because they nothing but try to be the very best they could be, always supporting one another along the way.

That connection fans felt to these characters—and not the action of the show—is why Parenthood became known as the drama that made you cry each week, whether you were weeping at something as big as a death or something as small as a Braverman dance party. At the end of the day, the action—the doing—didn’t matter, so long as the Bravermans were the ones doing it.

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