For a while now this show has been great because of the actors. The stories have been good at times, but the characters carry the show. This week’s episode provided great stories that were actually about parenting, something the show has shied away from at times. Up until now, it had become a drama that happens to be about a family as opposed to one with parenthood-driven plots.
Max gets a storyline this time instead of being used as a secondary character/plot device. He’s been into photography all season, and now he gets to be on the yearbook staff. It’s great to see the show’s evolution when writing for Max’s Aspergers. He has grown up a bit and is placed into “normal” situations more and more. The ecstasy he’s feeling about being accepted doesn’t last forever as he draws a lot of criticism for taking photos of people when they least want to be photographed. The school kicks him off of the yearbook staff for his insensitivity, but he just doesn’t understand. Kristina, who’s been wrapped up in a semi-lackluster plot to become mayor, steps away from that to be a parent again. For five seasons now she’s won every battle she’s been in. Every. Single. One. However, this one falls the other way. Despite her best efforts, Max is still off of the yearbook staff. It was bitter to watch a mother learn about all of the problems her son had been having when she was battling cancer and how uninvolved she had been. There’s a moment of clarity that she realizes she wasn’t able to choose to not be included then, but now it is her decision to not be that involved. In the end she and Max decide there is no winning this fight and band together to be mad together.
Sarah and Amber’s fighting in previous weeks about Amber’s upcoming marriage to Ryan gets put on the backburner this week and allows Sarah and Ryan to share some time together. This episode allows him to own up to mistakes he has made in the past, including hurting Amber in their initial dating phase, but admits he’s matured rapidly because of the Army. While Sarah wasn’t being a parent to one of her own children, seeing her interact with a future son-in-law was a powerful moment. I expected to see more of this plot, but it was nice to see a subtle shift away to offer other characters more screen time. I hope the show continues to navigate what it is like to be a parent to your child’s significant other.
Meanwhile, Crosby and Adam deal with a rambunctious band yet again and we see them starting to actually run their record label instead of it just being an interesting setting. This was the only throw-away of the week for me, but that’s okay because it gave way for my favorite plot. My favorite storyline of the week surprisingly goes to Julia’s interactions with her parents. She sees her son actually enjoy being a Braverman for once as he continues to help Zeek work on the old car, which was a nice addition to his plot that has been shaky from the beginning. What I was most interested in was how well she relates to her parents. This is a close family, and the show tries to portray them as all loving characters. But like in reality, one child is usually the one to take the reins on “being parents” to their own parents eventually. Julia has always fit the bill, but now that Camila and Zeek might sell the house, she gets to really take on that role. In addition to these heartwarming scenes, she also has to deal with Joel and troubles at home. Again, I’ve always felt Julia was most out of place on the show, but now they seem to be working her and her family in better than ever. It’s something that I can’t wait to see more of.