Life is really nothing more than a series of moments strung together in a random order. When you’re in the midst of those moments, they just feel like your life; it’s only at the very end, when you look back, that you can see your legacy. The beauty of Jason Katims shows like Parenthood and Friday Night Lights—and specifically their finales—is that they understand this delicate balance between life and legacy, and manage to honor the legacy while still celebrating the individual life moments that come in between. Season six of Parenthood had its bumpy moments, but it sticks the landing—then jumps up and down and stomps on it a few times just to make sure. It’s a beautiful thing.
The final season of Parenthood has featured moments for the whole family, but it’s really been Zeek’s story all along. As the traditional “head” of the family, Zeek is the show’s window into telling a complete story of a life; going back to reminisce on the beginning, revel in the middle, and then mourn the end. As soon as Zeek’s heart started failing, the story was kicked into motion, and because this is a television family, Zeek got to live out the remainder of his life acutely aware that the end was coming, and make the appropriate preparations. To the show’s credit, it spaced out these moments quite well throughout the season, slipping in references to places he wanted to take Camille, giving Camille and Zeek a chance to properly say goodbye to the house they raised their family in, giving Zeek a great-grandchild who carries his name, allowing him to encourage his younger son to take a professional risk, and letting him walk his eldest daughter down the aisle. These are just moments in Zeek’s life, but when he takes them in full, they are his family, and his family is his ultimate legacy.
That’s really the theme of this finale, and this series—that life is just a bunch of stuff, held together by the family you share it with. The Bravermans can be an off-putting bunch—too talky, too nosy, too insular, too everything—but Parenthood views this excess as something to celebrate rather than something to shun, and that celebration trickles down to the audience. My family is certainly nothing like the Bravermans (and I’ve never personally met a family that was) but Parenthood makes them feel relatable by finding the universal that lives within the specific. It’s difficult to relate to a family that can pull off an incredible wedding in a spectacular venue with only a few weeks’ notice, yet when you watch the Bravermans at that wedding, you forget the impossibility and just care about the people. The Bravermans have spent six seasons in various states of happiness, sadness, and strife; Sarah’s wedding is like a release, where everyone is happy and on the same page at the same time. The Bravermans are specific; the magic of family, cake, dancing, and booze is universal. The photo montage before the wedding is pure fan service, but earned fan service, and its obviousness is part of its charm: The writers know we want happy, touching moments in this finale, and they are more than happy to deliver.
Before Sarah’s wedding can happen, however, there is a bit of housekeeping to get to. The writers did a good job of cleaning up most of the loose ends in the prior two episodes, but there are still a few matters left to settle, the biggest of those the fate of Adam, Crosby, Amber, and the Luncheonette. This isn’t the best-developed story, coming on late and dealt with mostly in the margins, but it has nice reverberations throughout this episode. I’m mostly very glad Crosby finally realized—through the very good advice from Zeek—that he has the skills to run the Luncheonette himself, and he doesn’t need Adam to make it work. This is obviously where the story was headed all along, but to see Crosby finally believe in himself and then have his entire family back him up is the perfect full circle moment for the character, from the screw-up he was introduced as in season one. This story also opens the door for Adam to get his own passion, which finds as the Headmaster of Chambers Academy. (This—facilitated by Kristina’s secret job offer from a magic nonprofit—is the one insane dropped-from-the-sky thing in this otherwise gorgeous episode.) At least the show gave one episode of Adam working with the kids to sort of make this track. The housekeeping takes on a different meaning for Joel and Julia, who are surprised when they learn Victor’s biological mother had another baby, a daughter, and wants to know if they will adopt. Their decision to adopt her is a small runner throughout the episode, but good to establish just how solid Joel and Julia have become again.
But housekeeping was secondary in this hour that was focused on moments. Zeek and Camille offering Amber a place to stay so she can escape that horrible apartment (you know I cheered). Sarah telling Zeek he’d been the best father ever. Haddie telling Max she appreciated who he was as a person. Hank telling Zeek just how much he loves Sarah and Zeek asking Hank to take care of her when he’s gone. Hank admitting to Drew he doesn’t have any friends. All of these things were just tiny moments in a series full of tiny moments that added up to something great, the show’s own legacy.
Which is why when Zeek died at the end of the episode, quietly at home, the show gave the moment the stark sadness it needed before quickly moving on and fulfilling the circle of life by going out with a montage that showed a bit of where the characters would end up. It’s a montage of happy moments, which are surely just a bit of the full story. Parenthood wasn’t always happy, it wasn’t always perfect, it was sometimes infuriating, sometimes uplifting, and sometimes heartbreaking, but looking back on the series, its legacy will be its strengths far more than its weaknesses. There’s a quick scene in this finale, while the whole Braverman family is taking pictures before Sarah’s wedding, when Zeek and Camille get a lovely moment together where they survey everything they created, their own personal legacy borne out of their love. It’s a tiny but series-defining thing, as they embrace each other and Zeek says “Boy we did good, didn’t we Camille?” and she responds “We sure did.”
You sure did.
- Braverman Of The Series: Amber. Because Amber!
- Drew’s best man speech was the perfect combination of awkward and touching. It felt very Drew, in the best way.
- “Max gets a girl, sort of” was kind of unnecessary but cute.
- Natalie lives!
- What was your favorite future moment? Mine was obviously Jason Street and Luke Cafferty shaking hands while Amber basks in the glow of her glorious conquest of the Dillon Panthers football team.
- Who else was so distracted by the Future Puppy that they had to rewind to confirm that Joel and Julia had four kids in the future?
- Favorite moment of the series: Go! (Mine is Amber and Ryan in the ocean, because I am a sap.)