‘Parenthood’ Season 5 Finale Recap: “The Pontiac”

Spill it: how long did it take before you cried during the Parenthood season finale? I have to admit, I started to tear up about three minutes in with the reveal that Victor won his school’s essay contest. And then again when he read said essay. I love Victor! If this show gets a sixth season, I would like a lot more Victor and a lot less Sydney. This was an emotional hour, which is basically the entire point of Parenthood finales, but it was also a surprisingly good hour that didn’t try too hard to force reconciliations and endings and shockers. The Bravermans did some things and it was nice. If this were the last episode Parenthood ever airs, I would be okay with it. Well, mostly.

“The Pontiac” had the long-awaited return of Haddie who had spent the season off in college. She returns home for the summer with a fancy new haircut and a fancy new interest in women — specifically one woman, her “super awesome best friend” Lauren (played by Rookie’s Tavi Gevinson). By far, Haddie had the best storyline of the night which is particularly amazing when you consider that she’s been basically missing-in-action and has barely even been mentioned on the show in any capacity this season. Parenthood plays her hesitant coming out very carefully and wonderfully, not making a huge outspoken deal but also not completely ignoring it. Haddie’s parents are open and very Berkeley but she still worries about the way they’ll take the news.

In a way, this was a very “let’s just throw this shit in there” story, a plot that had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the season. Maybe Katims always wanted Haddie to come out — it’s a little ridiculous that everyone in this Berkeley show is strictly straight, though I’m sure most people were placing bets on Drew coming out before the series ended — and worried that he’d never get the chance to do it next season. It took away time from season-long arcs but who cares! It was great. I love the different ways that the parents find out: Kristina hears the new from Max and has a nice conversation with Haddie about it; Adam slowly realizes the subtext in his separate chats with Haddie and Lauren (oh, that kitchen scene where you can see him silently working this out in his head — “Wait, are they..? Yes? Oh. Okay. Got it.”) and then later, at the end, having a silent and accepting quick conversation with her. I do hate on Kristina and Adam a lot because they are too perfect and annoying and ambitious but they are, sigh, good parents. Now, if the show gets renewed, let’s work on bringing Haddie and Lauren around full-time.

Now it’s time for the rest of the family. The episode is centered on Camille and Zeek packing up and moving out of their house (in a nice touch, the end features the family having their fancy outdoor dinners at Adam’s now). Crosby and Adam help out and I love this pairing because they’re such perfect brothers and hanging out together, particularly in the home where the grew up together, will sometimes result in them reverting back to adolescent antics — teasing, wrestling, setting up a ton of mattresses and sledding down a staircase (they both fared much better than I did when I tried this once, resulting in spending a year with a slight dent in my forehead).

Drew is also back from college but moping around (Drew’s signature move) about his girlfriend Natalie because she a) is spending the summer at home in Portland and b) said “I love you” and he didn’t respond. I liked when Drew and Natalie officially got together last week because it meant the end of that boring will they/won’t they schtick but that doesn’t mean it felt earned. This “I love you” doesn’t feel earned either, not even after Zeek gifts him the car. This also doesn’t feel earned, though I know Zeek and Drew are pretty close from living together but I don’t know, it felt off. But it was very sweet! I would have cried if it were any other character, I bet. If Zeek gave the car to baby Nora? TEARS. But Drew gets the car and drives to Portland to see Natalie and they reunite as if he had just gotten back from a 3-year tour in the war, not a day or two in California. At least Drew’s happy, I suppose.

Speaking of military returns, “The Pontiac” goes in hard with Amber and Ryan. Ryan’s mother shows up, a steel drinker with a steel gaze, and she’s pretty pissed at Amber’s general existence. She didn’t know the two were ever dating, let alone engaged, and the fact that Amber lied about being his wife in order to be allowed into the room angers her even more. Amber learns exactly what happened to Ryan — still drunk after a night of partying, he crashed his car and was discharged from the army — and that he’s moving back home with his mother in Wyoming, despite how much he hates that place. They have a very tearful goodbye, that leads to some hospital sex (very romantic sex in a room with the door open where nurses do checks every 20 or so minutes).

“The Pontiac” also had the very predictable moment where Sarah kisses Hank and the two get together. The show’s been jerking them around all season and it should feel great that there’s finally a conclusion but I remain very indifferent to their entire saga, even though I have grown to really like Hank. The semi-reconciliation that I did really enjoy in “The Pontiac” was Joel and Julia. There wasn’t a huge declaration or the two realizing that the desperately still need each other and a swelling, romantic kiss. It was just Joel gently holding Julia’s hand after they put Sydney to bed, after they told stories of Julia in the delivery room, and after they watched their troubled son win a school contest. It was very organic — much better than Zeek trying to convince Joel to just suck it up and go back to her — and it’s not even clear that the two will get back together. It’s just clear there are still some feelings there.

I liked that the finale was mostly smaller moments, some unconnected to the larger narrative. I’ve come to expect ridiculousness from finales and here I was expecting a death or possible-death-cliffhanger (Zeek, most likely) or a pregnancy (obviously Camille! Kidding, probably Sarah because why not?). Well, one out of two isn’t bad, I suppose. Turns out Amber may have gotten pregnant. I don’t know how to feel about this — I really, really dislike this future storyline but it’s possible Amber planned this whole thing which is an interesting route to take. It seemed somewhat calculated, from the hospital bed to that calm and almost purposeful way she picked up a pregnancy test in the drugstore, like it was her plan to get Ryan to stick around. Who knows! It was the one bit of the finale that didn’t stick with me, but everything else was good enough. It worked as a series finale, though I doubt it needed to. My money says Parenthood will be back next year.