Parenthood ends its third season tonight, and it hasn’t been renewed for its fourth just yet. (The odds of renewal are decent, but it’s hardly a done deal.) Should this be the end of the road — and please no, NBC! — we’d miss a lot of things about the earnest ensemble: the humanely drawn teenage characters, the little squabbles that punctuate most family interactions, Dax Shepard’s Crosby giving slacker dudes a good name. But the thing we’d miss most of all would be the weekly weep session. Parenthood rivals Friday Night Lights (also the work of tearjerker-in-chief showrunner Jason Katims) in its ability to choke viewers up, and every week there seems to be an opportunity to just Let It Out thanks to a well-placed explosive monologue or a character on the show contagiously welling up. These are the five most cry-worthy moments of this season, from sniffling to full-on sobs.
Drew breaks down in front of Mr. Cyr.
Have you ever wanted a teenager to open up to you? Well, be careful what you wish for. Mr. Cyr pushes Drew to open up, and then he does — and all his anxiety and hurt comes rushing out. Drew often plays second-fiddle to Amber in the crying department, but his completely understandable mini-breakdown here shows just how connected the siblings are.
“Tales from the Luncheonette”
Sarah talks to Zeke and then to Julia about getting Seth (John Corbett, filthy) into rehab.
“Sarah, he’s playing you,” Zeke growls. And it’s not just from anger or frustration — you can watch his heart break all over as he watches his little girl go through the wringer yet again with her deadbeat ex-husband. A tearful Sarah then goes and asks Julia and Joel for money. “I’m mean, he’s their dad,” she cries to her much wealthier younger sister, and it’s crushing, especially to anyone who’s ever been part of or around addiction and recovery. Sarah’s the brassy, gutsy one in a lot of ways, but Seth’s her kryptonite, and in these two scenes, we get to see what a wedge he and his drug abuse have driven into the Braverman clan.
Haddie flips out on Max after he runs off to a museum by himself.
“Do you get that? Do care? Do you care? ‘Cause you never care!” Adam and Kristina grapple with Max’s Asperger’s, but Haddie often gets the worst of it: She’s old enough and smart enough to understand what her brother and family dealing with, but she’s also young enough and vulnerable enough to still feel slighted by her parents and resentful of her younger brother. “What am I supposed to do? Everything becomes so hard,” she cries, and you know it’s not just her frustrations but her parents’ too.
Amber begs her father to leave Sarah alone.
Must we remind you that Mae Whitman is TV’s best crier? Okay, we will: She is! And her tearful discussion with Seth at the end of this episode is yet another prime example. “Mom’s been so happy,” she chokes. The episode explored a lot of what Seth had missed in his children’s lives, and in this moment we got a glimpse of just how much Amber had internalized her father not just abandoning her but also abandoning her mother.
“Remember Me, I’m the One Who Loves You”
A defeated Amber crawls in bed with her mom.
For a show that has so much constant chatter, this scene between Amber and Sarah is surprisingly silent. Leave it to rain noise and Death Cab for Cutie’s “Transatlanticism” to set the somber tone, but leave it to Whitman and Lauren Graham to really take the weepiness to new heights. Amber’s little shrug is just so, so sad, and neither we nor Sarah need much more of an explanation.