Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Small Victories

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 13 – “Small Victories” [Original air date: Jan. 8, 2013]

Last week NBC announced the show Parenthood had been picked up for a fifth season. This time around the Braverman’s get a full 22-episodes; unlike the 15-episode season viewers had to deal with during season four. Our favorite family drama is coming back; now there is a reason to celebrate.

Season four of Parenthood has been dominated by Kristina’s cancer storyline, and rightfully so; when cancer strikes it effects everyone the cancer patient interacts with, and just like the decision to have a child makes all future decisions somehow related to that child, cancer does the same thing, but cancer is never a decision, but rather an unwanted and unwelcomed visitor. Regardless, it was nice to pause and take a break from the cancer storyline and have an episode focused on some of the other Braverman’s. This episode had overarching themes of dealing with others’ decisions and working through major life changes.

The Braverman writers are pretty brave, willing to tackle large and often heated topics such as puberty, teenage pregnancy, job search, and child behavioral problems. Max is hitting puberty, which can be a scary and confusing time period. Words and phrases like menstruating, ejaculation, public hair, and wet dreams, which could cause some to get awkward and embarrassed, are used as if it is no big deal (Well, is it a big deal?). There is definitely a time and place to talk about this stuff, but it is healthy for parents and children to be able to discuss these topics openly. Not looking to preach, but from personal experience I would say it is better to be educated than to be naïve, especially when it comes to your body and sexual related changes and issues you may face. Max’s refusal to shower more than twice a week causes Adam to have the “the talk” with him. Adam attempts to start a conversation about emotional versus sexual feelings. Max’s response: “Dad, I’m not ready to talk about this yet.” Not the typical answer one would expect from a kid, but then again it could be argued Max is not your “typical” kid. Getting max to shower was considered a “small victory” according to Kristina, and Max’s post-shower scene in slow motion to the song “Feeling Good” was just the right amount of comic relief needed to get viewers to laugh out loud.

Amy tells Drew she’s pregnant. Amy wants an abortion: “If I have this baby my life is over.” Drew wants to talk about other options: “There are plenty of people that would be willing to help us. I love you and that’s all that matters.” This seems to be the teenage pregnancy dilemma: keep it or abort it, and if we keep do we put it up for adoption? How realistic is it for a teenager to have a baby in today’s world and still live a “normal” life? Not really realistic at all – you can no longer live your life the way you were or the way you want to, as your life must not revolve around the life of your child. This debate reminds me of an actual debate that took place at Fordham University two years ago: “Pro Life versus Pro Lives,” regarding not saying “no” to life, but saying “yes” to the lives already in existence. It’s almost odd that Drew is against the abortion, as stereotypically it is often the girl in the relationship who wants to discuss other options. This makes me feel that Drew is more into Amy than Amy is into Drew. “I’m going to support you no matter what. I don’t want you to think I’m not here for you if you decide to keep it,” Drew tells Amy. It’s a little strange how conversations between Drew and Amy seem to only take place in Drew’s car, and there is usually much more awkward silence than there is talking. But perhaps this is realistic, as many high school hookups and sexual relations tend to take place in vehicles outside the house where the parents are usually to be found.

It was nice to see Drew’s storyline take center stage in this episode. Drew finally showed some character development, going from being somewhat of an emotionless cardboard box to showing he is a real person with thoughts and feelings. Yet, he is still a teenage boy and he embodies all the awkwardness and disinterest most teenage boys embody. I found it odd that Drew went to Amber for advice, money, and comfort since I have not gotten the close sibling vibe from Drew and Amber; the two do not usually interact much. Maybe this situation will bring about more sibling love down the road. Talking to a sibling about these kinds of situations can be less intimidating that talking to a parent. Is there a correct or easy way for teenagers to talk to their parents about being pregnant? “You may not believe it, but no matter what happens it’s all going to be fine,” Sarah tells Drew. Though Sarah was referring to Drew supposedly stressing over college applications, her words can really be applied to just about any life situation.

Mark expresses his concern for Drew and Amy on separate occasions, completely unaware of the pregnancy. Mark even visits Sarah at Hank’s photography shop. If Mark and Sarah were really over I would think the writers of Parenthood would have written Mark’s character out of the show the way they did with Ryan (Spoiler Alert: there is talk of Friday Night Lights’ actor Matt Lauria coming back to Parenthood during season five. Perhaps Amber and Ryan can rekindle their love affair). The fact that Mark’s character is still around makes me think there may still be more to come for the love triangle between Sarah, Mark, and Hank. Hank did say a line in this episode about how he still feels threatened by Mark, and Mark and Sarah discuss “fake excuses” for seeing each other. Mark to Sarah: “I feel like I gave up too easily; I should have fought for you.”

Crosby and Jasmine were kind enough to open their home to Jasmine’s mom Renee, but from a third-party point of view I do not know how to feel towards Renee. She’s living in someone else’s house because she lost her job. She landed a job, but turned it down because it was not exactly what she was looking for. Am I supposed to feel bad for her, or am I supposed to side with her? Is Renee being too picky given her situation, or is she justified to act the way she is acting? She tried playing the guilty card towards Crosby which did not settle well with me, but from experience I know job searching is never easy and it is important to be happy and comfortable with your career decisions. The Renee situation leaves me with more questions than answers.

Victor is the epitome of a behavior problem. He is rude, physically violent, unappreciative, disrespectful, and out of line regarding how he acts, what he expects, and the language he uses. I understand he did not have the easiest childhood prior to Joel and Julia deciding to adopt him, but somewhere he has to see that he is loved, wanted, and very fortunate to have what he now has. Victor seems to just be looking for attention with his “hunger-strike,” and his 911 call reporting child abuse was out of line. For some reason which is unclear, Victor is a rebel child, a bit of a wild child as some may call it, and a royal troublemaker. I believe he understands right from wrong, but that he has inner feelings he does not know how to express. Does he need therapy, counseling, or medication? It is unclear what will fix his behavior, but it is clear he most likely needs help. Though her and Joel are doing everything right – they are trying, which is all we can ask of them – it has gotten to the point where Julia admits to the social worker she is thinking of not going through with the adoption. Is Julia just giving up, or is the Victor situation really just a lost cause?

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