'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.
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 Julia’s 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
Crosby holds onto his dream
Although still hesitant about signing the papers that will officially end his and Adam’s business partnership, Crosby gives in. Amber is as upset as he is and begs him to keep The Luncheonette open, but Crosby grimly tells her it’s over. Lamenting the ending of his dream to Zeek, he has a lightbulb moment when Zeek wonders why he’s not just going to run it by himself. “THAT’S WHAT I’VE BEEN TELLING HIM TO DO!” I could hear all of you screaming (along with me).
Getting the boost of confidence from Zeek (who tells his youngest how much he believes in him—pass those tissues, please and thanks) and Jasmine, Crosby decides to keep The Luncheonette going on his own. He’ll be the “new Adam” (heaven help us), and Amber will be the “new Crosby” (that I can see). Adam is supportive, and wishes he’d have thought of it. Huh. And we thought he was the brains of the family.
Adam finds a new dream
Adam gets a job with Mountain Spring water, but it’s obviously not what he wants to do. The fact that he says, “Meh, it’s a job,” more than a few times in this episode makes that pretty clear. What he’s good at, and what obviously gives him great joy, is working with the kids at Chambers Academy, where he can wear onion goggles and do his awkward dance moves to make the kids laugh. Hey, at least someone appreciates them.
Kristina knows this (because Kristina knows everything) and offers Adam her job. Wait. What? It’s true. Apparently, she’s been courted by a non-profit to help them set up schools like Chambers, and she’s been reluctant to accept the offer because she didn’t have a replacement that she felt comfortable leaving in charge of Chambers. Until onion goggles.
Adam is hesitant. I mean, there’s no way he can make the kind of money being headmaster as he can with the boring old water bottle job. But Kristina assures him that they’ll make it work (because Kristina knows everything). He agrees to think about it, and I agree to look up “qualifications for headmaster” on Google.
Listen, I’m happy they’re happy, but this story line has bugged me from the beginning of the season, and it continues to do so to the very end. It just doesn’t make sense. I know, there’s a lot of things that we have to kind of suspend belief with here, especially at the end, but I just can’t wrap my brain around the success of this school, no matter how much I want it for them. (By the way, no tissues were needed during this story line.)
Max will be okay. Thank God.
Max gets a job photographing Sarah and Hank’s wedding, which he’s good at, so we know he will be marketable in the future, despite his Asperger’s. Max also gets a girl at Sarah and Hank’s wedding (in the form of a cute friend of Ruby’s who asks Max to dance), so we know he will be able to have relationships in the future, despite his Asperger’s.
Okay, I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but I think that’s what those two things were thrown in there to tell us. Also, Max dancing with the curly haired brunette at the wedding seemed fortuitous, didn’t it? I mean, if Hank found success and love while living with his Asperger’s, Max will be able to as well. Think what you will about Max, it made me tear up.
Daddy’s little girl
Before her wedding, Sarah pays Zeek a visit. “Have I ever told you you’re my favorite?” Zeek asks her, and the tears immediately begin to flow. Mine, not hers. For my reaction to this scene, and the ones that are to follow, you should know something. As someone who grew up without a father around, Zeek Braverman has been my dream dad for the past six years. I’m not kidding. As much as I love Sarah, Adam, Julia, and Crosby, I’ve always been kind of jealous of them. And so when Zeek asked Sarah if he’d been a good father, I lost it. (You did, too, even if you had a great father, didn’t you?) Sarah’s response, “The very best,” is exactly what I wanted to say (and may or may not have said right along with her). Because even though we’ve only gotten to see him as a father for six years, he has been the very best. Kind, loving, supportive, funny, grumpy, and without a doubt, someone those kids have known they could count on. Anyone would be lucky to have a father like Zeek.
NEXT: Here comes the bride, and a final goodbye
Here comes the bride
Like almost all the big moments we’ve seen on Parenthood, Sarah and Hank’s wedding is simply set to music. For the family pictures (courtesy of Max), it’s “You and Me,” by Sarah Watkins. For Sarah and Zeek’s walk down the aisle (which depleted my tissue box by half), Ingrid Michaelson’s “Always You” is played. Both songs perfectly provide the framework to the joyous and bittersweet event. Joyous, for obvious reasons, and bittersweet because everyone knows that these are some of their last moments with Zeek.
Haddie and Amber (only because I can’t end without mentioning them)
Haddie returns for the wedding with little fanfare. In fact, she immediately brushes Kristina off when she tries to hug her and kiss her cheek. How dare her mother greet her with a hug after a few months? Later she tells Max he’s been a great brother. I don’t buy it. It’s forced. No tissues needed.
Zeek and Millie ask Amber to move in with them, and she agrees. That’s pretty much it. Oh, and Amber seems to have lost the entirety of her baby weight in one week. That was cause for a tissue, by the way.
And now it’s time to say goodbye. I’ll admit, the ending—at least the almost ending—blindsided me. I foolishly believed that we weren’t going to have to experience Zeek’s death, especially with only a few minutes to go in the episode. I mean, that would be too cruel, right? But I think the beauty in Zeek’s death (yes, I did say “beauty”) was that while we certainly had to experience it, we didn’t have to experience the grief. Having Millie quietly discover Zeek there in his chair—and her restrained, understated reaction (perfectly understated, by the way)—gave his death dignity, which is exactly what he wanted. Not having to witness the kids’ anguished reactions was a relief, wasn’t it? (My own anguished reaction was enough to have to deal with, thankyouverymuch.)
Cutting immediately to the celebration of his life on the baseball field (which is just what Zeek said he wanted way back in episode 2, remember?) and seeing the entire family laughing, having fun, and just continuing to be Team Braverman, even without their leader, made it somehow okay. It didn’t make it easier, but it made it more tolerable.
My favorite part of the finale, and the part I’ve watched multiple times already, was the flash-forward sequence (thank you, writers). From what I could see through my tear-filled eyes, everyone moves on—standing upright, courageously, and with strength (to quote the lyrics to the opening). Through an acoustic rendition of “Forever Young,” we see Millie fulfilling Zeek’s dream of visiting the Inn in France; Crosby and a pregnant Jasmine hard at work at The Luncheonette; Joel and Julia celebrating Christmas with their four children; Sarah and Hank hosting a dinner for their kids, which include Ruby, Drew, and Amber, her husband and new baby, which is not little Zeek (yes, there was a ring on Amber’s finger, and yes, that was Friday Night Lights’ Jason Street (Scott Porter), in Jason Katims’ final—and fabulous—FNL/Parenthood crossover moment); a healthy-looking Ryan bringing 3-year-old Zeek into the house from his weekend with Daddy and being warmly greeted by Amber and her new husband; and Max graduating from Chambers Academy, being handed his diploma by headmaster Braverman (Adam, not Kristina) as the family applauds.
May God bless and keep you always—we’ve heard that line over 100 times as we’ve watched the opening to Parenthood, but never has it had as much meaning as it had as we watched them all walk away, arm in arm, across the baseball field. The Bravermans left their mark on us in a way not many families do—especially on TV—and for that we’ll be forever grateful, even through our tearful goodbye. #TeamBravermanForever