I am a Johnny-Come-Lately when it comes to NBC's Parenthood. I began watching the show this summer when the first 3 seasons were added to Amazon's live streaming. Since then, I've seen the entire series, connected with the characters and grown with their stories. I was not prepared for the episode that aired this past Tuesday - and in that lays part of the genius of this show.
"Small Victories" is an hour tribute to what it means to be a parent. How do you make the tough choices and do the best thing for your family. Captured in numerous forms, characters and relationships, this episode featured a series of tough situations and questions of how to move forward.
The main focus of this episode was two teenage characters facing an unintended pregnancy. The minimalism of the performances and lack of dialogue captured the inexplicable emotions that come along with that situation. Shock, realization, disbelief, fear, loneliness...
And then the questions...
What do we do? Who can we talk to? Is it going to be ok? Are you ok?
The two young actors in the roles of Amy and Drew pulled viewers into their struggle. The looks that they gave each other as well as those that captured them staring off into the unknown seemed filled with tremendous emotion.
"We're a team. We're in this together. It's your decision. I want to go with you. I need some space"
Amy in particular (played by Skyler Day) was wonderful. She exhibited what few politicians and pundits seem to understand - this decision, whether or not to become a parent, is one of the most difficult decisions a young woman faces. At that moment, Amy stopped being a child. She faced this decision as an adult. It seemed that the whole episode was a choice that she was living through and making over and over again.
One of the most poignant moments was when Drew and Amy were sitting in the car outside Amy's home. Drew asked if Amy was going to tell her parents about the pregnancy. Amy looked off into the distance and said "I don't know. They see me in a certain way..." This decision was an adult decision, made by a young adult.
We ask our young people to take responsibility for their actions. Amy did. We tell them that they need to grow up and take care of things. Amy did that. She looked what she could offer this child, and ultimately made the decision not to start a family.
Thankfully, she had someplace to go. Amy and Drew went to Planned Parenthood. The short scene of the nurse talking about options (yes - options. The Planned Parenthood nurse offered to refer them someplace for prenatal care, and discussed resources that were available for teen moms. She also mentioned adoption) was friendly, but not over-bearing. It felt sterile... like it was a non-emotional room encompassing nothing but emotions.
"Well, I guess there's only one option.
There's not only one option - I want to support you.
I need help coming up with the money"
When Drew finally is able to find someone to talk to about this situation, he turns to his sister Amber, who says all the right things: "Don't worry about the money. I'll take care of it. How are you? How's Amy?"
And then Drew's emotions fall from him: She's shut down, It's my fault, I feel stupid, I don't want to give it up, trying to respect her decision...
After it's over, and the choices have been made, it feels like the team, the partnership, is ending. Are we still in this together? I need some space. As Amy prepares to get out of the car she brushes away a tear, looks a Drew and asks "Do I look normal?" Drew looks at her with kind eyes and a slight smile. "You look really beautiful."
This was an episode that highlighted parents and the tough situations that they face. Other story lines included a recently adopted boy who is pushing back on his adoptive parents, Julia and Joel, specifically by reminding Julia that "you're not my real mom."
Christina and Adam try to have "the talk" with Max, their teenage son with Asperger's. This is sex-ed that pulls no punches. At one point, Christina says to Max, "You smell great." And Max replies "That's 'cuz I washed my armpits, my balls, and my butt because Dad told me to." It was an episode filled with sex-ed tie-ins.
I will be thinking about this episode for awhile. It brought me into the world of teen pregnancy in a new way. The silences forced me to imagine what was going on in Amy and Drew's heads. I will think of Amy's face, starring off into her unknown future, thinking that she is so alone. I will think of that face and hear Drew's words to her: "You look really beautiful."