'Parenthood' "Let's Be Mad Together" React: It's All About Communication

The most obvious thing you can say about Parenthood is that it's about family. Whenever a character does something big, the thought immediately following with the audience is often something along the lines of, "But how will the family react to this?" At its core, though, it's not just about the big biological and/or marriage-connected family that it obviously centers itself around, but about the word in its more abstract term. It's about relationships. Brother-sister, brother-brother, husband-wife, parent-kid, uncle-niece, fiancé-future-mother-in-law, etc. Lots and lots of relationships, and lots and lots of dynamics.

The most important theme within those dynamics that was explored in "Let's Be Mad Together"? Why, it's that big ol' c-word: Communication. That glue that holds relationships together and which can tear it apart if it's not happening enough and/or if one person is habitually talking much more loudly than the other.

So let's explore some of the ways in which the Braverman clan came up against the challenges of communication this week, shall we?

  • Zeek and that car. Camille wants to sell the house and live a fabulous old person life with Zeek, and Zeek refuses to even talk about the possibility. Camille breaks down to Julia about how sometime in their supremely long marriage she lost her voice. This show really does know how to tackle really intimate seemingly small (but really huge) human moments, doesn't it?
  • Julia does some magical transference from her conversation with her mother and makes her mom's comments about losing voice apply to the troubles she's having with her marriage this season. Namely, that she wanted to hold Victor back in school and Joel did not, and now Joel isn't taking Julia's advice about his business. It's interesting to see Julia struggling this way, but it's hard to be mad at Joel for these things considering how often in the past she's been the one to shut him down. But really, Julia losing her voice doesn't seem to be much about Joel at all deep down; that's all based around her being a career woman without a career. Her marriage won't be flying steadily until she figures out how to be OK with where she is in her life or finds a way to change it so she is.
  • Kristina, Max, and Max's school. Max's school hasn't been telling Kristina about their problems with him (in yearbook, in student counsel), and from Kristina's point of view them not telling her prevented her from fixing it, which in turn led to the school losing faith in Max's ability to do the things the other students do. In other words, lack of communication led to a lost battle for a young man with Asperger Syndrome.
  • Sarah, Ryan, and Amber. Amber didn't tell Ryan about the fight she had with her mother last week about Sarah's concerns over the impending marriage; Ryan hadn't told Sarah about how he grew up and what made him run away to join a war in the first place. Everyone was very upset. Then Ryan told Sarah ("not everyone has a family like yours") and talked it out with Amber, and everyone slept a little more soundly that night.

Parenthood doesn't feel like a preachy after-school special most of the time, but it is a family show (whatever that means to you), and one that routinely surprises me with its ability to deal deftly with the issues that can haunt relationships — platonic, familial, or otherwise. The issue of communication in this episode felt both micro and macro — it's about marriage and how to make it through your life tethered to another person even when that person doesn't necessarily agree with you on which path to take, but it's also about the damage that losing your job can do to one very type-A personality woman who doesn't know yet where else to focus all that energy she'd otherwise expend taking down companies. It's about trust, but it's also about the ways in which a messed-up kid who's seen a war and childhood abuse tries to heal himself or let himself be healed by attaching himself to a much more frequently healthy family.

Micro or macro, some people learned their assigned "lessons" this week (take that however you will), and some just started realizing that they had them. In either regard, nothing is solved — this is still the beginning of the season, after all. Life's bound to get more messy.

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Image: NBC