Parenthood Review: "Keep on Rowing" (Episode 4.12)

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<i>Parenthood</i> Review: "Keep on Rowing" (Episode 4.12)

While nearly every other show is still in the midst of winter hibernation, NBC decided to resume Parenthood on New Year’s Day and make it the first new scripted content of 2013. The family drama didn’t disappoint and was the perfect opener to the new year.

“Keep on Rowing” begins with the Braverman women dancing at a club, and all seems well. It’s nice to see Kristina let loose until her first clump of hair falls out as a result of chemotherapy. In the blink of an eye, everything changes and harsh reality seeps in. If you didn’t tear up as Kristina shaves her head before the opening credits, then you’re not human.

Of course Kristina’s cancer fight has been justifiably carrying the load the majority of the season, but this episode not only continues her poignant journey, but also introduces three other well-structured stories for the rest of the siblings. It should be noted that series star Dax Shepard did a great job of weaving all of the aspects of the Bravermans’ lives together.

Shepard’s Crosby learns that his mother-in-law needs $5,000 to get out of a hole after losing her job before the holidays and while reluctant, Adam teaches him the value of giving much-needed gifts to family members. Dax has grown expotentially since the first episodes where he was running around sleeping with tutors and day-drinking. His maturation is still unfolding, but with every little step the character blossoms. That’s not to say he still doesn’t make mistakes, as evident in not only this season, but this episode as well. He blows up when he realizes the mother-in-law needs to move in for a month or two, but eventually it all works out, of course.

Julia and Joel also go through a tough time as Victor wants to show his first ‘A’ test score to his birth mom. They have to explain that he can’t see her ever, and he starts to get upset. It boils over when his new sister Sidney antagonizes him by saying his birth mother doesn’t love him because she won’t visit him and he throws his baseball bat through their glass patio door. It’s an intense scene that leads to a complex conversation about adopted children fitting in with a family. The story continues to transform a subplot I initially disliked into a great aspect of the show.

Sarah’s relationship may just be a detour in her life with Mark, but Ray Romano’s guest appearance remains a bright spot in this season. The welcome addition usually brings out a much-needed relief from the rest of the episode. It’s adorable seeing Sarah and Hank try to be a cutesy couple and see it backfire, and it really helps with the pacing of the storytelling.

While Kristina felt that shaving her head would be transforming and uplifting, she realizes that the rest of society will take some time to adjust to a beautiful bald woman. Her son seems to love it, referring to her as “Bane from the Batman movie.” Too bad this gem of a line was only referred to and not actually seen on screen. This is one of the times when having all four siblings get equal time on screen really helps out. Kristina’s story has been emotionally draining, and while this episode was uplifting, the Kristina arc benefitted from not having to carry an entire episode again. It gave the actors a break from acting such a hard plot and us a break from crying every minute of the hour.

With only three episodes left in this season (but hopefully not the series), this was a poignant way to welcome us back into the Braverman households. Everyone is moving in positive directions, and even the viewership has been steadily climbing. The teaser for next week’s episode boasts that Parenthood is at the best it’s ever been, and for once NBC is right. This show is on a giant upswing and deserves to stick around.