Kristina Braverman is back. While technically she never went anywhere, she's seemed different throughout Season 5 than in the past and with Thursday's episode "Limbo," Parenthood has finally reconciled the two different Kristinas they've created. It sounds strange, but the fourth season's breast cancer storyline really changed Kristina, and though in a realistic way, there were certain, essential parts of her personality missing and thanks to a fight with Sarah, they've finally returned.
Throughout the series, Kristina has been a tough, caring, headstrong wife and mother. Like any actual person would, sometimes she butted heads with one of the many members of the enormous Braverman family. In Season 1, Kristina and Sarah argued when Amber slept with Haddie's very recent ex-boyfriend; in Season 2 she argued with Haddie and Camille when Haddie moved in with her grandparents to protest her parents not letting her date Alex (though who wouldn't do that and more to date Michael B. Jordan?) and in Season 3, she and Sarah had issues surrounding Amber's romantic life again, when Amber almost slept with her boss, Bob Little, until Kristina stopped her.
As you would find in any argument, each person had their side and sometimes you agreed with Kristina's view, sometimes you didn't. It was just one of the many realistic elements of Parenthood that helped you to identify with and care about the characters so deeply. Then, in Season 4, Kristina was diagnosed with breast cancer.
As would be expected from the tight-knit Braverman clan, the family rallied around Kristina, Adam and their kids in their time of need. Kristina then spent the rest of the season battling cancer, elevating the series as a whole as it was handled realistically and Monica Potter continuously delivered an incredible performance.
At the end of the season, Kristina was declared cancer-free, and so far she has spent Season 5 celebrating her life and figuring out what exactly she wants to do with it—of course that involves helping others. It makes perfect sense. Kristina almost lost her life and the experience caused her to reevaluate things and gave her the courage to pursue things she might not have before, like running for mayor of Berkeley and starting a new school for kids with special needs.
The only problem was, she lost a bit of that strong will when it comes to her family. It's almost as if the other Bravermans were afraid to upset her, knowing what she'd just been through. Again it's logical, but takes away from the character we love, even when she frustrates us or puts us between two Bravermans.
Finally, this week let that side of Kristina back out. Rather than let her be the angel-who-can-do-no-wrong, Parenthood finally let Kristina be pissed at someone in the family, instead of a broader antagonist like Bob Little or the Berkeley school system. It was a simple conflict. Max wanted to use Hank's printer to work on yearbook photos and Sarah said he couldn't because she had an important project she was working on. He wouldn't take no for an answer, so she brought him home and a few days later, insulted Adam and Kristina's parenting by implying they don't tell Max "no" enough.
Of course to ease fans back into this type of conflict, Kristina was pretty much right in her view this time. As the parents of a child with Asperger Syndrome, Adam and Kristina have done their research and know how best to parent Max, and Sarah didn't handle the situation in a way we've seen Max positively respond to. It also helped Kristina's case when the fight's climax coincided with Sarah's own kids being pretty clearly stoned at a big family dinner.
By the end of "Limbo," Adam and Kristina had made up with Sarah and all was well in the Braverman world. But the conflict was an important turning point for the season. Just because Kristina survived cancer doesn't mean she needs to be treated differently by the family. If she's changed at all, she's even stronger and tougher than ever before, and can certainly withstand a basic family argument.
So welcome back, complete Kristina. We can't wait to see who you're up against next.
Images: NBC, sinfultragedy/Tumblr