Parenthood Review: Growing Up, Moving On

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"Family Portrait" tossed us into the melee of the Braverman world five months after we last saw them. A lot happened while we weren't looking and, as so often is the case, we were treated to both heartwarming and heartbreaking stories in the fourth season premiere.

While I was certainly happy to see Sarah and Mark continued their engagement, foreboding was at every turn as Mark wanted so desperately to be included in the family portrait. Something about the urgency of his need to be included made me wonder what had happened during the five months we missed that made him feel such separation from Sarah.

Let's face it, it would have only taken him a short stroll over to the main house to confirm everything he was told about previous portraits - that fiances were not included. The real issue had to be a much deeper sense of detachment from Sarah and the entire Braverman clan. 

Parenthood Season 4 Premiere Pic

Ray Romano has come so far from Everybody Loves Raymond. His work in Men of a Certain Age was outstanding and he didn't disappoint in his first appearance on Parenthood. As Hank Rizzoli, the cranky photographer, he added yet another dimension to the troubles between Sarah and Mark. Sarah doesn't know it yet, of course, but for a type like Hank to crack as easily as he did when faced with her colorful personality, topped off by his numerous comments about Mark and his age, their future was almost written in stone. Hank's going to go for it.

Elsewhere Joel and Julia's adoption went through and we met Victor, a young boy of questionable origin. We didn't receive much information about his background, but it was immediately obvious that Julia was out of her comfort zone. Not only was he being allowed to watch television and eat in front of it when Sydney was forbidden, he was watching what a appeared to be a live execution.

I don't care how comfortable you want someone to be in your home, kids need boundaries and that's one I was shocked to see crossed. Yes, I realize it was probably only a movie, but when Sydney wandered through the living room, how was she to know the difference?

Apparently Joel had been letting Julia set the rules to that point, because he finally had a chat with her after a lizard fiasco between Victor and Max. The way he phrases things can melt a girl's heart. He essentially told Julia that at some point she had to stop treating Victor like a guest and start treating him like family. That when she said this Parenthood quote and this broke my heart: 

Julia: Joel. I feel like I'm waiting to fall in love with our son. | permalink

If only that were the only heartbreaking story of the evening. As much as I've had my ups and downs with Haddie over the years, I really felt for her as she prepared to go off to college. Max was acting up at the thought of the change in ways we haven't seen in a very long time, but she held it together, telling him how much she would miss him and what she loved about him. There were family meals and parties and celebrations of Haddie and her life as she moved on to her next big adventure.

At the heart of it was a silent sadness that nobody wanted to admit. Haddie was moving very far away, and the change would be enormous for such a close family. If you didn't at least tear up as Haddie broke free of the line in the airport to run back to Adam and Kristina then I think you were guilty of multi-tasking.

There were a few lighter stories, thank goodness, to this weighty episode, but even they had a tone of sadness. I know if I don't touch upon every arc in this season opener review there will be hell to pay, so keep reading!

As Jasmine and Crosby struggled with what to teach Jabar about God, we learned that Camille spent some time in the 60s in a commune and she and Zeek studied Buddhism for a while. Why should I be surprised at that? Their back stories are always so picturesque. What they didn't do was provide Crosby with even a sliver of help in determining how to influence Jabar's spirituality.

While most parents would just do for their children what had been done for them, I like the idea of them taking time to decide what is best for their son, even if it might mean exploring avenues that make them a bit uncomfortable along the way.

Zeek, who had learned to be Zen back in the day, was now teaching Drew how to bulk up for Amy who spent the summer away. Like his mother's relationship, early indications seemed to spell doom for their romance upon her return from camp. It's so difficult to watch young love and remember how awkward it was to be so unsure of your actions and unable to read the signs. Oh, who am I kidding? Many moons later and that awkward inability to understand the twists and turns of the heart is what makes watching them so compelling.

Finally, rounding out the Holt family love life was Amber, hooking up with a musician who was recording at the Luncheonette. I am so glad she's working there. It makes more sense than any of their other employee choices. Keeping it in the family and keeping themselves out of trouble.

Unfortunately, it gave Amber a chance to get into some. The guy she slept with, seemingly sweet and fun, had a long term girlfriend. I loved that Amber took Adam to task for kicking the band out of the studio on her behalf. She's grown so much and knew the responsibility for what happened was on her shoulders. 

I wouldn't have expected less, but we had an absolutely wonderful return to the schedule from Parenthood. I can't wait to hear what you all thought of the episode, and what you think will be coming up in this sadly shortened fourth season. Let's keep those ratings up!

Family Portrait Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.4 / 5.0 (75 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Parenthood Season 4 Episode 1 Quotes

We think it's just better if you let us handle the big questions with Jabar.


And now, take your shirt off!