Review: ‘Parenthood’ – ‘All That’s Left Is the Hugging’

A review of last night’s “Parenthood” coming up just as soon as I offer to trade my vote for a new playground slide…

“All That’s Left Is the Hugging,” our last new “Parenthood” of 2013, spent a lot of time functioning as an epilogue to the single silliest story this show has ever done. As much as I’ve grown to love Monica Potter here, I do not believe for a second that Kristina would have been a great mayor of Berkeley (nor that Bob Little is destined to bring the city to ruin), and so I could have done without all the talk of how angry she should be, how unfair the results are, etc. It was an arc that never sold me (and, based on the comments each week, most of you) on this being a good idea for Kristina to do, and that undermines pretty much any attempt to wring emotion out of her failure. On the other hand, I now kind of want Kristina to run for another public office, just so the inevitable cameraphone video of her and Adam egging Bob Little’s billboard will see the light of day.

With the Julia/Joel ongoing marital destruction, the problem isn’t so much that I don’t believe these specific events would happen, but that they’re making me strongly dislike one of the show’s four main characters in the process. I completely buy, for instance, that Julia would be so self-involved and clueless as to go over to Ed’s house to throw him various mixed messages and find out if she wrecked his marriage, just as I believe Ed would kiss her under the circumstances. But the last few episodes have gone from Julia and Joel being about equally guilty in their schism to Joel committing a few misdemeanors while Julia attempts to get charged with every felony in the book. And it’s a tricky thing in a fundamentally warm show like this that believes in happy endings as often as possible to put someone like Julia in such a dark place. Unlike the mayoral campaign, the arc doesn’t feel weirdly shoe-horned into a show where it doesn’t belong, and I remain willing to see where they go with it, but I fear the damage is going to be irreparable.

And “Parenthood” doesn’t always go for the happy ending, as we see with the conclusion of Amber and Ryan’s engagement, which was the strongest part of the episode, even as it arguably went to the Mae Whitman cry-face one time too many. I would not have thought such a thing was possible, but then we got Whitman’s anger face in an earlier scene, which was fantastic in its own right, then she cried as only she can when Ryan announced his plan to re-enlist, and then cried even more when she went to Sarah’s. Now, I’d much rather have Sarah playing mother to Amber than having her inevitable sex with Carl the neighbor – when even Sarah herself is aware that all the show does is let her get into bad relationships, it is long past time to do something else with that character – but at a certain point it feels like overkill. If LeBron throws down a tomahawk dunk on ever possession, it starts to lessen the thrill of watching it, you know?

What did everybody else think? Are you excited by the return of Amy to set up a potential love triangle, or are you surprised the show wants us to be this invested in Drew’s love life? Are you disappointed that Crosby didn’t have much to do, or do you accept that as the cost of no Jasmine? And do you figure Hank walks in on Sarah kissing Carl in the very first January episode, or will the show make us wait a little longer for that one?