Summary: The family helps Hank and Sarah quickly make arrangements for their wedding. Joel and Julia learn that Victor’s birth mother had another baby, and decide to adopt her. After dissolving their partnership, Crosby decides to continue the Luncheonette with Amber, while Adam becomes the new Headmaster at Chamber’s. Zeek and Camille ask Amber to move in with them. Finally, as Camille looks at pictures that Max took at the wedding, Zeek dies in the next room. Per his wishes, the family gathers at the ball field to spread his ashes, and we see what everyone is up to a few years down the road.
Best Scene: In an episode ending montage, the Bravermans honor Zeek with a game of baseball, the scene intercut with moments from the future.
Best Line: “Boy we did good, didn’t we?” “We sure did.” – Zeek and Camille, watching their family gather for a picture.
My Review: O.k., I’ll be honest; it’s going to be very hard for me to be critical of this episode. As regular readers know, Parenthood is one of my all-time favorite shows, so I’m basically mush right now. But Parenthood has always been an unabashedly emotional show, so it does seem fitting to get a little sappy and effusive about its conclusion.
One thing that really impressed me about this episode was that it didn’t feel rushed at all (no small feat when you’re trying to tie up the stories of such a large cast of characters). We found out where nearly all of the characters ended up, and there was still room for some lovely surprises sprinkled throughout the hour (Haddie telling Max how happy she was to be his sister, Hank asking Drew to be his best man, Camille and Zeek asking Amber to move in with them, etc.). Parenthood has always thrived on these small moments that are much more telling of a person’s life than the big ones, and it felt perfect that its series finale included so many of them. And that final montage only continued it; the moments we saw in the future were also a wonderful combination of milestones large and small: trips and graduations, Christmases and family dinners. But more on that later…
Sarah and Hank’s wedding provided a lovely centerpiece for the episode, and there were a lot of things to love about it. Max-the-photographer was perfect, the montage of him taking pictures beautiful (throughout the series, nothing makes me buy these people as a family more than the scenes of them goofing around together), and the faith that Hank showed in him clearly well-placed. The scene where Hank said that he learned a lot from Max too was perfect, as well as the expected way that Max dismissed it. Really, Hank had a lot of great moments in this episode, asking Drew to be his best man (I enjoyed these two beginning to notice their similarities in the past few episodes), and of course that gut punch of a scene with Zeek. I wasn’t expecting Hank to mention his Asperger’s, but it was a lovely moment of openness, especially for a character who, by the very definition of his disease, has struggled to open up in the past. And Zeek’s reaction was great: “Well if she’s o.k. with it, then I am too.” Finally, their exchange of Zeek asking him to take care of his daughter and Hank saying that it would be his honor, was one of my favorite moments of the episode.
And then, of course, we had the wedding itself. Zeek walking Sarah down the aisle was a lovely moment, as was their scene beforehand. As I mentioned last week, I’ve always loved the relationship between these two, especially the way it was shown in this last episode, the teasing, though no doubt honest way that he told her she was his favorite, that ever present twinkle in his eye. His questioning whether or not he had been a good father was also a beautiful moment of vulnerability for him, and I am so, so glad that she was given the chance to reassure him before his passing. There were also some wonderful scenes on the dance floor: Hank’s and Sarah’s equal parts sweet and funny conversation, Christina and Adam’s excitement over Max asking a girl to dance, Joel and Julia making their decision, and Crosby telling Amber about the Luncheonette.
Speaking of, it felt absolutely perfect that Zeek was the one who convinced Crosby that he could run the business on his own, doling out one last piece of advice in that blunt but loving way that his family has always appreciated. He and Camille inviting Amber to live with them was also lovely and unexpected, and provided a nice full-circle moment from the pilot, where Sarah comes back home. And how perfectly in-character that their granddaughter’s happiness meant far more to them than their much anticipated third act.
Though it’s only been hinted at for the last few episodes, I really do like the idea of Adam as the Headmaster of Chamber’s, while Christina works on getting schools like their’s built around the country. If her run for mayor proved anything, it’s that Christina longs to make a difference on the largest stage that she can, and no one can deny how happy Adam has been working with those kids this season. And what a beautiful turn around from the early seasons, where Adam was unfulfilled by his job and Christina longed to help those facing the same challenges that she and her family were facing.
As for Joel and Julia, though the series finale “everybody gets a baby” trope has been used often (and was used even more so in the flash forward at episode’s end), it felt right for their characters. I remember the pre-Victor days well, where they were so desperate for a baby, and though they have never treated Victor like a consolation prize, there was still something really lovely about their dream finally being realized. It was very in-character of them to immediately decide that this wasn’t the right time to adopt, while knowing in their heads that the decision was made as soon as they heard about the baby. And I absolutely loved their reasoning that if she was Victor’s sister, then she was already their’s.
Zeek’s death was as devastating as I expected it to be, regardless of how much it has been foreshadowed this season. As sad as it was to see Camille find him (and that moment where she realized what his silence meant was heartbreaking), it felt right for his character to go out quietly, especially in comparison to the rather dramatic close calls he’s had at the hospital this season. Though Zeek, that stubborn man with a heart of gold, undoubtedly didn’t want to go at all, I can’t help but imagine that there was nowhere else he would have wanted his life to end more than at home with his beloved wife, in his favorite chair.
The Braverman clan gathering to spread his ashes and play a game of baseball (with very few tears and mostly joy, as Zeek would have wanted), provided a lovely point of comparison with the pilot, as they all gathered there to watch Max play. Max is arguably the character that has faced the most hardship and grown the most in the course of the series, so it felt appropriate, that, in that final shot, he was also the one to drag the bat across home plate, his journey finally complete. And as Parenthood’s theme song promises, and the ending montage proved, god has blessed and kept the Bravermans always. We watch Camille visit the restaurant that Zeek wanted to take her to (and I like to imagine that she spends a significant portion of the year living and painting in Europe, coming back often to see her grandchildren and great-grandchildren of course). We see Julia and Joel’s now large family get a puppy on Christmas morning (two boys and two girls, providing a lovely parallel to the original Bravermans). We watch Amber and a pregnant Jasmine and Crosby happily work at the Luncheonette (and for them I like to imagine that Jasmine splits her time between working there and teaching dance). We see Hank and Sarah, the only ones with grandchildren, as almost a new version of Zeek and Camille, sitting at opposite ends of a table occupied by Ruby, Drew, Amber, Amber’s husband and step-daughter, and Zeek, who an obviously involved Ryan stops to drop off. Finally, we watch Max graduate high school, his family looking on proudly (minus Haddie, and I would have loved to see what she was up to too…), rather solemn until he’s handed the diploma, his face finally breaking into a victorious, and undoubtedly earned, grin. We may not know what comes next, but I have a feeling those Bravermans are going to be alright.
Finally, my absolute favorite moment of the episode (though that montage did come close) was at the wedding, as that big, beautiful family assembles for a picture, jostling one another, trying to get arranged so that everyone will be seen. I come from a large family as well, so, like countless moments throughout the series, that scene reminded me of my own family, and in this case, of many Christmases spent squishing together for a family photo. There is perhaps no moment that represents the very nature of family better than that; the messiness, the intimacy, and the love, all things that Parenthood was so very wonderful at expressing.
When Zeek turns to Camille and says “Boy we did good, didn’t we?”, I can say without a doubt that he is right. They did do good. They created a family and a show that I will never forget.
Lastly, thanks to all of you for reading my reviews this season. I also posted a piece yesterday about the effect that Parenthood has had on my life, if you want to check it out. And it’s cheesy, but there’s really no way to end this other than to say that, like the Bravermans, may god bless and keep you always.