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'Parenthood' season 5 finale: Love abounds in a bittersweet farewell

Mae Whitman plays Amber Holt on NBC's 'Parenthood.'
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

'Parenthood' Season 5 Finale Air Date April 17, 2014

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Parenthood” aired the emotionally intense season five finale on April 17 on NBC. Several key characters find love amidst a bittersweet farewell. At this point, a "Parenthood" season six renewal hangs in the balance. Therefore, it's impossible to tell if the stories told in this incredible episode will close the Braverman book for good. Hopefully not. Warning: Spoilers from the season finale ahead. Read at your own risk.

Diehard “Parenthood” fans are convinced there is not a better family drama on television and they are right. Is there any other show on television that brings tears in nearly every episode? Viewers relate to the Bravermans because they represent Any Family U.S.A. Many families have shared similar happy and sad moments, victories and sorrows. In a single word “Parenthood” is “real.”

The season five finale finds Drew (Miles Heizer) and Natalie (Lyndon Smith) happy but parting for the summer, and Amber (Mae Whitman) and Ryan (Matt Lauria) reconnect (with passion) but are ripped apart by Ryan’s grim post-discharge future. Plus, suddenly his mother appears and it’s clear she doesn’t like Amber at all and her attitude makes us cringe.

Several endearing moments fill the emotional hour. Here’s a look at some of the special highlights.

Victor’s essay – It’s impossible not to tear up as Victor pays a loving tribute to Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) and their time together restoring the Pontiac by reading his winning essay to his class in front of his family. Just the fact that Victor actually won the essay contest after all of his academic struggles is tear-inducing itself. But, watching Zeek’s face is priceless. Grandchildren are miracles and their love transcends most proud grandparents’ wildest expectations.

Best mover reward – Speaking of the Pontiac, how touching is it when Zeek shocks Drew by giving him the keys to that car? This kind of grandparent/grandchild gift is immeasurable. What an unforgettable moment for the series and these two characters. We’ve seen Miles Heizer grow up on the show and Drew has become such a sweet, respectable young man. The car will help bridge the distance between Drew and Natalie, who go their separate ways for summer break; which leads to the next point.

Drew and Natalie – Drew has endured a lot in his push/pull relationship with Natalie. Amy will always hold a special place in his heart (and ours) as his first true love. But, college is often where we make lifelong friends and some of the most memorable romantic relationships. Shame on Natalie for holding Drew at bay for so long and then sleeping with Berto! Thank God she finally realizes everything she’s losing by playing games with their relationship and Drew’s heart. When she finally says I love you, he freezes. Haven’t many of us been there?

Haddie’s return – Speaking of pivotal college relationships-- Sarah Ramos returns in the season finale with her “awesome best friend” Lauren. Only, Lauren is much more than a best friend, the two girls are dating. True-to-form, Monica Potter and Peter Krause really shine as Christina and Adam absorb the news that their daughter is gay. They are loving and supportive in the Christina-and-Adam way we’ve come to know and love. They are kind, good and genuinely compassionate people at the core and their honest and easy relationship with each other and their children is inspiring on several levels.

Amber and Ryan – Mae Whitman is a superb young actress. She paints such a strong inner light for Amber, who has triumphed over so many challenges. She’s the perfect big sister and would make an even better friend. Amber wears her heart on her sleeve when it comes to love and the sequence with Ryan is so beautifully drawn. We can’t stand Ryan’s mother but love Amber and Ryan’s reunion – ill-fated as it may be. Their mutual love is obvious. It’s really sad to see them torn apart again by circumstance and it will be awful if she’s pregnant!

Sarah and Hank – First off, Hank is so sweet to Amber at the hospital and it’s wonderful to see them bond. Plus, we were already a little choked up during Sarah’s conversation about Hank to Adam, who says he’d like to hope if she gives Hank a chance, Max will have a chance at love one day. After much deliberation and raw honesty about her hesitations regarding his Asperger challenges, Sarah finally plants a kiss on Hank. Yay! Ray Romano has been simply brilliant portraying this previously undiagnosed Asperger adult. We hope these two really make it.

Julia and Joel – Their split continues to be heartbreaking and anyone who’s been divorced with kids knows just how traumatic it can be for children. Sydney cries and begs her daddy to stay after the essay. It seems like Joel’s having a change of heart. And, they finally hold hands around Sydney as she sleeps. Does this mean there’s a glimmer of hope for their reunion?

Farewell to a Braverman era – It’s surreal the Braverman family home has been packed up and sold. No more backyard parties under the string lights. No more bonfires and times in Zeek’s barn. What are we going to do? Sniff, sniff. The parting Braverman gathering is emotionally intense as we reflect on how far this family has come and how deeply these characters are rooted in our hearts. To date, TVLine lists the chance of a "Parenthood" renewal as "a safe bet." This simply can’t be the end! If we must say goodbye, give us one last season six gift.