I don’t know about you, but Parenthood destroyed me last night in the best way possible. Granted, emotions already run rather high on New Year’s Day (it’s a lethal feelings cocktail of hopefulness, regret, motivation, and lethargy) and calling a Parenthood episode a tearjerker is as much an oxymoron as the very jumpo shrimp you wolfed down on New Year’s Eve, but still, this one was a doozy, even by Parenthood standards.
That’s because Kristina Braverman’s storyline (played with such awe-inspiring poise and skill by the Emmy-worthy Monica Potter) continues to be one of the most inspirational, heartbreaking, but above all, human ones on television. Potter has taken viewers along on Kristina’s journey, never leaving out the ugly bits that come with battling cancer and certainly never making us feel manipulated by the high drama. When Kristina made a farewell video for her children before spending Christmas in the hospital, it wasn’t schmaltzy or tugging at the heartstrings for TV’s sake, rather, Potter has made us come to know and love Kristina so well, viewers knew this is just exactly the type of thing this amazing mother and wife would do.
Even though Kristina has already been through the ringer, cancer continues to be one unfair S.O.B. to this fighter. Before the opening credits even started, Potter gave one of the best performances of 2013. (Yes, I realize we are only two days in, but, believe me, she rightfully earns the praise.) While out for drinks and dancing with the rest of the grown-up gals in the Braverman clan (there is nothing more entertaining than watching the Braverman’s attempts at boogying down) a happy and free Kristina was unfairly hit with a dose of grim reality when a chunk of her hair fell out at the bar. It was an absolutely devastating moment, watching the horror, sadness, and sheer embarrassment that swept across Kristina’s eyes and the reactions of her helpless, heartbroken family members. There was one word for it, really: Oof.
Potter’s abilities to play a range of emotions was even more evident when Kristina took the matter into her own hands, literally, and shaved off her hair. Kristina was both terrified and liberated, anxious and accepting of her new fate as a bald woman. So when her well-meaning husband Adam (the terrific Peter Krause) had an inadvertently scared reaction, it understandably, sent Kristina into an emotional tailspin. Matters didn’t get much better when the still well-meaning Adam bought her a terrible hooker wig when he discovered her looking at them online. While some may have viewed it as an insensitive gift, I chalked it up to the fact that — totally unscientific stereotype alert! — men don’t typically notice things like hair. Adam is simply doing his best in a situation he has no idea how to navigate. And the very same could be said for Kristina. Their fight over the wig was one of the hardest things to watch out of all this, because not since Eric and Tami Taylor on Friday Night Lights, has there been a more realistic, aspirational couple. (Boy, that Jason Katims really knows how to write about marriage, doesn’t he?)
But then, something wonderful happened. Thank goodness. I needed the break. Kristina, in a sexy red wig, showed up at Adam’s job to whisk him away for a romantic overnight getaway. You know, just in case Adam and Kristina didn’t make you swoon enough. At a swanky hotel, Kristina got hit on by Kyle from Party Down (actor Ryan Hansen) and Adam wore a “Merv Griffin” jacket during an ultimately failed seduction. It was all just so damn wonderful and much-needed relief not only for heartsick viewers, but the Braverman couple, who needed a holiday getaway more than anyone else. Of course, this being Parenthood, the waterworks swelled right back on cue when Kristina proudly goes wig-less, holds Adam’s hand, and heads out into a brave new world as her beautiful self, both inside and out.
Yes, I know I omitted the rest of the happenings of those lovable Bravermans, especially considering this was a week Joel and Julia actually had an interesting storyline (hey, in Victor’s defense, who hasn’t wanted to throw something at Sidney?) and they’ve somehow managed to do the impossible by turning Ray Romano into an attractive love interest. But even though it’s a wildly impressive ensemble and the show simply wouldn’t work without all of these families, this season simply belongs to Kristina Braverman and Monica Potter. She’s earned it.
[Photo credit: Danny Feld/NBC]