braverman dance party

8 Things I Loved About The Parenthood Series Finale

I keep having the same thought over and over again when I start to contemplate last night’s Parenthood series finale. I think of the entire cast coming together to film that last scene on the baseball field and I wonder how many times someone looked around and thought, for a fleeting moment “Wait, where’s Craig [T. Nelson]?” And then I start crying, because isn’t that exactly how it is? The first Christmas morning or Passover seder or family reunion after someone has died, when everyone is together and it is just so obvious that someone is missing. 

These actors didn’t just play a family on TV, they became one in real life. And what was so special about being a fan was that we all felt like we were a part of it, too. #TeamBraverman. 

I wasn’t sure how they could possibly say goodbye in a way that would feel fulfilling, but they did (I’m not that surprised, Jason Katims’ brilliance knows no bounds). Here are 8 things I loved in the Parenthood series finale. 

8. Jason Street easter egg. 

It is the themes of family that have kept people coming back to Parenthood for six seasons. Over the course of that run, Jason Katims often borrowed actors from his previous show, Friday Night Lights (and if you haven’t watched FNL yet, run don’t walk. You are so lucky to have it to fill the void). Some had bigger arcs (Minka Kelly, Michael B. Jordan, Jurnee Smollett, Matt Lauria), others just made a quick appearance (Angela Rawna, Derek Phillips), but it was always clear that to work for Jason Katims meant to be a part of his family. As a Friday Night Lights fan, watching Parenthood felt like a private get-together. Each time a different familiar face popped up, all the warm feelings associated with FNL came flooding back and made Parenthood feel even cozier. 

The flash forward was a beautiful way to to tell us the rest of the Braverman stories (more on this in a bit), and to surprise us with Jason Street was a final reminder of the journey we’ve all been on and the connection we feel to these people and by extension, all the Katims’ characters we love. (I love that Scott Porter actually got up from the table and walked to the door so there is no ambiguity about whether it was actually Jason Street). 

7. The dancing.

Ain’t no dance party like a Braverman dance party. Having Sarah’s wedding in the final episode was the perfect opportunity to get the gang dancing and there’s nothing better than watching these Bravermans dance. We even got this exchange: 

Crosby: You coolin’ down after that show you just put on on the dance floor?

Adam: The fever’s gotta put himself on ice

Crosby: You got about 104….brain damage. 

6. Drew’s speech.

As Parenthood has evolved, Drew has quietly become my favorite character. Miles Heizer’s portrayal is subtle and nuanced and sometimes unbearably awkward, but his performances always convey real honesty. Hank asking Drew to be his best man was sweet; two naturally uncomfortable men finding a connection in their shared love of Sarah. And then Drew got up and gave a heartfelt toast in which he acknowledged how much his mother has sacrificed for her children’s happiness and how happy they are to finally see her finding some of her own. Lauren Graham’s perfectly glistening eyes were an added bonus. 

5. Max’s photography.

Max has grown a lot since we first met him, when he was just a boy with some challenging behaviors that his parents didn’t understand. Finding photography and realizing that it is something that he both loves and is good at was a major turning point for him. On top of that, finding Hank who believes in his talent and has helped him to nourish it has been invaluable. The culimnation of all of this growth was Hank entrusting Max with the photography duties at his wedding. It was an incredible leap of faith and one that Max has certainly earned. It’s amazing to see how far he has come (though I think the girl was too much; it’s okay to leave us believing that these characters still have some struggles in their lives). 

4. The flash forward. 

Parenthood is nothing if not a bit corny. Things always work out for the Bravermans. The seasons tend to wrap up in nice shiny bows, but, that’s part of why we love it. We root hard for these people and in the end, we just want to know that they’re going to be okay. And isn’t that what Zeek wanted too? The flash forward sequence gave us just that reassurance. If you were afraid that there would be no more Braverman babies, you can relax. There are many, many more babies to come. And Zeek Braverman, you can rest peacefully, your family is absolutely thriving. 

3. The redemption of Joel. 

One of my biggest points of contention with Parenthood over the last two years was the transformation of Joel Graham. Joel was the greatest character on the show. A devoted husband, an amazing father, an all-around rockstar brother-and-son-in-law and man is he nice to look at. When things started getting complicated in his marriage, Joel did a complete 180. He became mostly irrational and made some very strange un-Joel-like choices. When Julia put the divorce papers on the table, we finally started to see the old Joel reemerging. And then last night, as Joel and Julia danced and discussed the possibility of adopting Victor’s biological sister, Joel said this:

Joel: I was up all night, all I kept thinking was she’s Victor’s sister, she’s already ours. 

And just like that, Joel is back. 

2. Zeek dying. 

When the show cut to commerical at 10:49 last night and Zeek was still alive I started to wonder if it was actually possible that he wasn’t going to die. A small part of me was relieved by that thought, but the bigger part of me was terrified that they were really going to cop out like that. We’ve seen this family weather so many storms, it seemed poetically necessary to have them weather this one. But, still, I sat on my couch wondering how they could possibly have him die and appropriately grieve him in less than ten minutes. But they did it and it was spectacular and I am so so glad they decided to go there. 

1. The baseball field.

Some things are so obvious that it’s hard to believe they can be so beautiful, and yet that’s exactly why they are. Of course Zeek’s ashes were sprinkled on a baseball field. That is precisely what he would have wanted, and anyone who knew him at all would know that. Apart from his family, baseball was the love of Zeek’s life. It was the legacy he left behind for his children and grandchildren (and the kids who live at his old house now). It was the medium through which he bonded with the people he loved. There was no other place to honor Zeek than on a baseball field and the pure simplicity was stunning.