It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for your weekly cry.
The NBC family drama Parenthood airs its fourth season finale tonight, capping off a stellar, underrated season of heart-tugging storylines and reliably emotional hours of television. The series, created by brilliant Friday Night Lights captain Jason Katims, follows the sprawling Braverman clan as they bicker, tease, hug, make up, and weather the monumental emotional stakes that accompany the minute trials and tribulations of every day life.
This past season deftly balanced Kleenex-required major arcs—the indefatigable Kristina (Monica Potter) battles cancer, Amber (Mae Whitman) dates a troubled young vet, Julia (Erika Christensen) can’t connect with her adopted son—with a real-world sense of humor and constant emotional honesty. The show’s fate is still up in the air, with no decision made yet on whether there will be a Season 5. But in honor of tonight’s finale, we invite you to properly hydrate and spend the next few minutes reliving some of the best moments from the past season of Parenthood in the only truly appropriate way: by crying with the Bravermans.
Kristina Tells the Family
This entire post could be filled with scenes of Kristina and her family reacting to and dealing with her cancer diagnosis. The storyline has yielded enough tear-jerking moments to send a person to therapy, but none are as wrenching as the scene in which Kristina tells the entire Braverman family that she’s sick. Brilliantly, the dialogue stops after Kristina says, “There’s something I have to tell you,” with the rest of the scene set to music and the family’s reaction pantomimed, creating a television moment that is almost operatically gutting.
Adam Watches Kristina’s Video
It’s Christmas Eve and Kristina has an alarming health scare, with doctors saying she may not make it through the night. She tells her husband Adam (Peter Krause) that if she doesn’t make it through the ordeal that he should show their three kids a video she made for them on her computer. With Kristina on the brink of death in the hospital, Adam decides to watch the video himself. As he sees what Kristina intends to be her last words to her children, tears stream down his face—and ours.
Camille Gives Kristina the Chemo Shirt
Yet another touching moment from Kristina’s cancer storyline. It’s the morning of her first chemo, and her mother-in-law, Camille (Bonnie Bedelia), comes over to watch her kids while she’s at the hospital. Camille also blindsides Kristina with a gift—a shirt that her own friend wore to chemo appointments while she underwent treatment—and a heartfelt speech about how she’s always considered Kristina to be one of her own daughters. Good enough for a tear or… 200. (Plus, that tradition of passing the sweater from one chemo survivor to new patients is a real, truly beautiful thing, and the actual shirt is the one used in the scene.)
Max’s Student Council President Speech
Max (Max Burkholder) has Asperger’s syndrome, which makes social interaction understandably hard for him. Still, when his school takes away his beloved vending machine, he decides to run for Student Council president so he can get the machine back, despite the obvious hurdles his condition would provide. His family is petrified that he will embarrass himself while giving his speech in front of his entire school, but instead, his explanation about what Asperger’s is and why that makes it so hard for him to relate to his classmates is so inspiring that the audience gives him a standing ovation. The scene has the tiniest whiff after-school special schmaltz, but is so rewarding that we just don’t care.
Adam and Haddie’s Father-Daughter Talk
Away at college and reeling from the news that her mom has cancer, Haddie (Sarah Ramos) is fed up with her parents telling her everything’s fine and to concentrate on school. She calls her dad to get the real story. “Can you treat me like an adult?” she demands, and Adam does, telling her the harsh truth as he—previously steely-eyed in the face of his family’s crisis—cracks as struggles to fight back tears.
Julia Doesn’t Love Her Son
Despite her every effort to make her newly adopted son Victor (Xolo Mariduena) feel comfortable in her house, Julia can’t get him to connect with her. Frustrated, she admits to her husband Joel that she’s “waiting to fall in love with our son.” It’s a shockingly candid confession, and positively heartbreaking.
Haddie Leaves for College
Haddie says goodbye to her parents at the airport and she leaves for college. Can’t type, can’t see—my eyes are obstructed by tears.
Amber and Ryan Break Up
The just-as-affecting B-storyline in the season’s brilliant Christmas episode—the one with Kristina’s health crisis—finds Amber realizing that she needs to break up with Afghanistan vet boyfriend Ryan (Matt Lauria) because he has too many demons to face. Though she loves him, she’s seen her own mother throw her life away trying to rehab the guys she’s dating, and she can’t follow the same path. It’s a heartbreakingly mature decision, and delivered beautifully by TV’s most skilled sobber, Mae Whitman.
Drew Breaks Down
Sarah (Lauren Graham) knows something is bothering her son—and she’s right. Though Drew (Miles Heizer) only admits to Sarah to being stressed about his senior year, he actually is traumatized from finding out his girlfriend, Amy (Skyler Day), is pregnant and taking her to get an abortion. So when he finally shows up at his mother’s door and collapses into her arms in tears, our hearts collapsed as well.
Kristina and Max Dance
Earlier in the episode, Kristina confesses to Adam that she’s afraid that, because of her illness, this may be her last chance to her son go a school dance, though he has absolutely no desire to go and his Asperger’s will likely prevent him from successfully dancing with a girl. He finally agrees to go, gets dressed in his new shirt, and asks his mother to teach him how to dance, giving her a moment of connection with her son that she thought she would never be able to have. Adam tearfully watching is the misty-eyed cherry on this satisfyingly tear-jerking sundae.