Review: ‘Parenthood’ – ‘Election Day’

A review of tonight’s “Parenthood” coming up just as soon as I ride a horse to work…

Exhale, everybody. It’s going to be okay. The election results are in, and Kristina Braverman is not going to be the mayor of Berkeley.

“Election Day” started offering reassuring signs well before Kristina took the stage to explain that she had conceded to Bob Little. Kristina’s chemo buddy Gwen shows up and tells her, “Honey, you’ve already won!,” which, along with a few other similar conversations, lays the groundwork for the show to treat her narrow defeat as a moral victory. It’s a feel-good ending – we even find out that Kristina was somehow able from her civilian position to help the debate woman’s daughter get into a better school – without having to wildly pivot “Parenthood” into being a series about the frenzied mayor of a mid-sized city who has an extra-colorful extended family. This story arc was a wild miscalculation, but at least it’s over, and in a way that won’t permanently alter/scar the series.

Still, the more interesting stuff was, as usual, happening elsewhere. The Ryan explosion many of us have been dreading for a while finally happens, as he beats up Ashes of Rome’s drummer for the sin of being friendly to Amber. It’s an incredible low for Amber after the earlier high of her singing a strong backing vocal for one of the band’s songs, and she unsurprisingly turns to Zeek – who has a pre-existing relationship with Ryan, as well as a lot of prior experience at comforting his tearful granddaughter – for comfort rather than Sarah. There are a few potentially big plot implications here, including whether Amber breaks off the engagement or sticks with her angry, damaged fiance, and whether this impacts Crosby and Adam’s relationship with the band, this fledgling label, etc.

The most violent action in the Julia/Joel corner of the episode is Victor slamming a car door, but it’s incredibly ugly in its own way. Like the better “Parenthood” stories, it’s emotionally and morally complicated. Yes, Julia is being a hypocrite for demanding of Joel the time and attention he didn’t expect from her when the professional roles were reversed, but their family also wasn’t in constant crisis the way it’s been pretty much since Victor arrived, and it’s also not unreasonable to expect a call back, a text ,or some sort of acknowledgment of her existence after leaving so many messages. The Bravermans are, by nature, a very needy, demanding group of people, but this is also an extreme situation, and one that neither of them made better with their actions.

On the slightly lighter side of things, we got the first encounter between Max and Hank’s daughter Ruby (which has, as the headline suggests, lodged a certain horrible theme song into my head, and I apologize to all of you for sharing the earworm). It’s interesting to see how Hank has essentially turned into Max’s father figure while Adam has been busy supporting Kristina’s campaign and Oliver Rome’s neuroses, and while he and Max are on a similar emotional wavelength, he struggles dealing with his own daughter. In only a few quick scenes, the subplot nicely dealt with hank’s relationships with Max, Ruby and Sarah, and I remain glad that Ray Romano is still hanging around – and for more than just a potential Hank/Sarah reconciliation.

Crosby not being registered to vote was borderline sitcom-y – that subplot even features Ethel Beavers from “Parks and Rec,” for crying out loud – but it was brief, and the episode needed a bit of humor interspersed with the bad things happening to Amber, Julia and Joel, and the bittersweet thing happening for Kristina.

While I don’t need Kristina’s campaign to become an Armin Tamzarian thing (or Landry murder thing) that everyone agrees to never discuss again, I’m glad that the show finally hit the eject button on the story, and am hopeful that whatever direction we head into with the next batch of episodes feels truer to the characters and the world and tone of the show.

What did everybody else think?