Season finale review: ‘Parenthood’ – ‘Because You’re My Sister’

A review of the “Parenthood” season finale coming up just as soon as I compare you to Pinky Tuscadero…

It’s funny: because of Jason Katims, there’s so much that “Parenthood” has in common with “Friday Night Lights,” up to and including the need to make several season finales function as a series-ender, just in case, and yet where the “Friday Night Lights” finales all would have been perfect farewells for the show, none of the “Parenthood” finales have been among the best of their respective seasons. And that includes “Because You’re My Sister,” an uneven end to what’s been, as Adam puts it to Kristina, “quite a year” for this show.

Maybe it’s that the “Parenthood” cast is just so damn big(*), resulting in a lot of the storylines feeling rushed as we headed into the home stretch. Maybe it’s that the family provides the unifying theme of the series, but isn’t quite as powerful a focus as Coach’s football teams. But whatever the reason, “Parenthood” finales inevitably feel like they’re trying to do too much, too quickly, often sacrificing much of what we learned over the course of that season in order to give each Braverman a happy ending (or, in a few cases, a definitive one).

(*) And, as I said last week, I really think the size of the cast – and the ever-increasing expense of said cast – is the only thing preventing “Parenthood” from being a lock for renewal. NBC’s executives like it, critics love it, the ratings have been solid, etc. It’s just a question of cost. And given that Katims was able to find a way to do the DirecTV seasons of “FNL” for a slightly cheaper budget, I suspect he’ll find a way to keep “Parenthood” around.  

So Victor had to make an incredibly rapid transition from bat-throwing malcontent to dutiful, well-mannered son, and Sydney’s own understandable objections to this whole situation had to be forgotten almost as quickly. So the Crosby/Jasmine/Renee tension had to be dissipated by the sudden news of Jasmine’s pregnancy (which the writers at least foreshadowed back in the Christmas episode), and Drew and Amy’s relationship had to end quickly and painlessly with the realization that they’ll be attending college on opposite sides of the country. (Never mind that most of the episode takes place months before they’d be physically separated.)

I appreciated that Sarah was at least denied a Happily Ever After – even if she was made into a victim of horrible timing – but as discussed, the show has long since extinguished any interest I’ve had in her love life.  It’s telling that the only scene of that story in the finale I responded to emotionally was Hank giving Sarah the camera for Max (“You look down to look out”), and that made me wish that Ray Romano and Max Burkholder had had more scenes together throughout the year.

The two stories that worked the best were the ones that were consistently the strongest over the season: Adam and Kristina, and Amber and Ryan.

On the former, the show set off most of its emotional fireworks back in the Christmas episode, but I liked the idea of even the happy ending being one where Kristina couldn’t entirely enjoy (because so many of her cancer friends are still ailing) or let her guard down for (because the damn thing could return at any time). And I was glad that they limited the full Monica Potter bald cap to only a single scene, where the alien look of it worked with the PET scanner.

And though Amber wavered from the strong, understandable stance she took with Ryan a few episodes ago, it’s easier to understand where she’s coming from after he’s started to get his act together on his own. And come on: Mae Whitman is the best. Her reaction to Ryan’s declaration of love(**) – that mix of joy at hearing the words and embarrassment that she can’t reciprocate under the circumstances – was beautiful, and the kind of messy emotional moment the show does so well when it’s not in a hurry to put a bow on things.

(**) One thing I did appreciate about the Sarah subplot was how Mark’s declaration was played exactly the same way. Like daughter, like mother.

But we got bows galore in “Because You’re My Sister,” including the entire family loudly welcoming Victor in the judge’s chambers, and then a montage (reminiscent of the one in the “FNL” series finale) showing what everybody’s up to over the next few months, providing oodles of closure just in case the show doesn’t come back.

And I want it to return, not necessarily because there are more stories that need to be told about the Bravermans, but because just once, I’d like a “Parenthood” season to go out on a  note as high as the previous hours were able to hit.

Some other thoughts:

* One thing I think we needed in the Crosby/Jasmine story was some kind of acknowledgment – probably through another Crosby/Adam discussion – that Crosby was in the right in this argument, but that sometimes being part of a family means swallowing your pride and apologizing for something that’s not your fault.

* Is this the first we’ve learned that Drew’s full first name is Andrew?

* The closing montage song was Eddie Vedder’s “You’re True.”

* Call it, friendos: were Krause and Potter in Hawaii for the final scene, or was it a mix of green screen, body doubles and a small second-unit shoot of that beach?

What did everybody else think? Would you be satisfied if this is our last glimpse ever of Clan Braverman?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at