'Parenthood' season finale review: The saga of the Bravermans, all tied up?

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Image Credit: Justin Lubin/NBC

Parenthood has been so good this season, I hope you’ll forgive me if I express some disappointment with its season — and what sometimes looked like its series — finale. For a show that at its best likes to keep things unkempt and frowsy, this hour was a mite too neatly tied up with a pretty bow.

To be sure, this hour also contained many great pleasures. 

Foremost among these pleasures had to be Kristina in her pink wig, going a little Gwen Stefani circa 2000 on us and inspiring the Adam Wide-Eyed Look, which is the Parenthood-approved signal that Adam is officially turned-on. This fashion move also occasioned a double-barreled Crosby joke in which he accused his brother of enjoying an “afternoon delight with Strawberry Shortcake.”

Granted, Crosby was feeling pretty dang good, having finally passed his mother-in-law off on his brother-in-law. This was one of the first indications that this finale hour, written with authority by Parenthood guru Jason Katims, was going to resolve numerous plot-lines with something close to finality. Amber and Ryan got back together, and since he got his job back at Joel’s work site, he’s practically family. Drew got into Berkeley; Amy got into Tufts — so much for that terminated-pregnancy awkwardness.

As for the season’s most important theme, the cancer subplot seemed to have only two ways to fall: survival or death. But because this series knows things are not so easily resolved, the “You’re cancer-free” news from the doctor was tempered by his adding, “We don’t use the word ‘cured’ for five years.” This struck me as highly satisfactory as drama, and allowed for the happy final scene that Kristina and Adam had earned.

Sarah, continuing with the bad luck/bad choices that define her character, seemed to be making the right move in deciding to commit to making it “work” with Hank, but found the romantic rug pulled out from under her when recurring-guest-star Ray Romano’s Hank told her he was moving to Minnesota. Now, Sarah having informed Mark of her decision, and since she damn sure isn’t going to leave the warmth of California for chilly Minnesota, she’s back to lonely singleton status, and Jason Ritter is free to move on to his new NBC pilot… created by Jason Katims.

I would also add that Romano/Hank had the single best scene of the night: His final one, bringing a lovely old camera as a gift for Sarah to give to Max, the Braverman with whom he most identified. Hank was a terrific character, and Romano played the hell out of every single scene, so matter how brief, he got.

I’ve left Victor’s adoption ceremony for last. This was where my misgivings were felt most strongly. All of a sudden, Victor comprehends what a legally binding adoption means, and he never even asks if he’ll be able to see his blood relatives or old friends again? Sydney suddenly has a change of heart toward him? Everybody in the extended Braverman family shows up in the judge’s chambers for a big whoop-dee-do? How nice.

But then I began to look at it all this way: If I was looking for a sign that Parenthood is reasonably confident that it’s being renewed for another season, it was to be found in the very Victor-centric nature of the episode. I mean, we stick with the Bravermans for four seasons, and the show goes out on an episode built around the adoption of a new and (sorry, kid) mostly unlikable character in whom we have barely been invited to invest? I think not. I’m told NBC is still high on this series…

There are many more aspects of Parenthood to be explored in another season. Sometimes I’m not sure I can go through having Sarah meet yet another doomed-to-disappoint guy, but I can probably live with that, I’m sure.

Ultimately what makes Parenthood worth fussing over and picking at and whining about and taking apart and exulting in is its often uncanny knack for capturing the ways in which no family situation is ever a pure triumph, a total botch, or an easily-arrived-at decision. By granting the Bravermans their often loopy eccentricities while managing to make them as all-American as the Waltons, Parenthood earns its continued place in our hearts, and on NBC’s schedule.

Very curious to hear what you thought about the finale.

Twitter: @kentucker

For More: Parenthood creator says show’s in a strong place

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