As Parenthood fans may know, trouble has been brewing for Amber (Mae Whitman) and her fiance Ryan (Matt Lauria) for the past few episodes. First, Amber's mother Sarah (Lauren Graham) threatened to ruin everything by questioning their union. Next, Ryan got jealous watching Amber reap success with the all-male band recording at the Luncheonette. Then, he bought her a big neon sign that says "RYAN'S WOMAN, BACK THE HELL UP," also known as the engagement ring he absolutely cannot afford. The previews tell us that this all culminates in Ryan getting into some sort of brawl that makes Amber cry, and while this is supposed to be a devastating outcome, I can't help but feel like saying "I told you so."
You see, there was a time in which I shipped Amber and Ryan. Our dear Amber had been through so many bad relationship situations — what with Bob Little and Hattie's old boyfriend. The best men in her life are her uncles; her father is a constant disappointment. She deserves a good relationship with someone who really, truly loves her — she's too good to suffer these romantic injustices.
And for a moment, it seemed that Ryan was the solution. He came along and practically worshiped the ground she walked on. He fell for her almost immediately and we all thought that finally, someone was here to appreciate Amber for all that she is. That's when Zeek came in, forbidding her to date the Afghanistan war vet and revealing Ryan's PTSD. And because Amber has such a big heart, she stayed with Ryan until she started to see the ways in which his issues make him resemble her father.
First, he got aggressive with a friend on a spontaneous road trip and Amber shook it off. Then, Amber got him a job working with her uncle Joel and Ryan broke a window, quit, and then showed up at her door drunk and angry at her for trying to change him. Seeing the glaring issues in staying with Ryan, Amber broke up with him, only to get back together with him in the Season 4 finale.
Now, if Season 4 had been Parenthood's last (as the show's writers thought it might be), it's understandable that the series would put Amber back together with someone who loves her. She's fiercely independent, she's working her way into the music industry, and she's got an incredible sense of self; the missing piece is finding someone who loves her unconditionally and teaches her that not all men are like her father. If Parenthood ended last year, we could pretend not to have reservations about Ryan in order to believe in a happy ending for our Bravermans. But now that we have extended visitation, it's time for the truth.
Amber and Ryan are terrible together and they have always been terrible together. It's hard for Amber and her fans to accept this because the idea of someone loving as hard as Ryan does is intoxicating. But Sarah was right; Ryan is just like Amber's father. Ryan may not be callous or flighty, but he's got a similar level of emotional immaturity and instability.
He needs Amber to steady him, but when she makes use of the independent spirit he fell in love with, he tightens his grip. I've worried about the possibility of this ruining their romance from the first moment we saw Ryan's other side at that crappy motel, and as such I've cringed at every blissful moment between the two. Every kiss feels like the prelude to destruction.
And this may be harsh, but it's something I mean whole-heartedly: I hope that when we see next week's episode, Amber will finally see that she deserves better. It's not that Ryan is a terrible person — he's inherently good, which is why this is so hard. It's that he's a good person who needs to consume the person he loves in order to remain standing, and while there are characters out there who'd be up to that task, Amber is not one of them. If she was going to really be the perfect person for Ryan, she'd have to change her whole being, and if we're being completely honest with ourselves, that's the last thing anyone wants for her.