It’s uncommon nowadays for people to collectively engage in primetime television, especially when it comes from one of the larger networks. Watching your favorite show or a live event as it’s happening is almost unheard of thanks to the convenience of DVR or streaming services. Nonetheless in the fall of 2016, NBC premiered their newest family drama that has captured the hearts of America. Every week millions of viewers tune in to watch the latest episode of This Is Us. It’s an emotional rollercoaster in all the right ways! There are twists and turns in a series that you would expect to be fairly straightforward. The characters are flawed on a number of levels but that’s just one of the reasons we are able to connect with them. Plus the cast plays these characters so perfectly. If you’re like millions of others and myself who love to spend an hour each week with the Pearson family, then you cannot wait for the premiere of Season 3 on September 25th. I recently went back and watched Seasons 1 and 2, make sure you have your tissues as we take another look at all the important moments and the family we all fell in love with.
This Is Us tells a story that all of us can relate to, being a part of a family. Just like real life every character comes with his or her own story within the bigger story and every character has an important role to play. These are multidimensional characters that have a sense of a real history. Season 1 began with an introduction to a young married couple, Jack and Rebecca Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore) who are expecting triplets, “The Big 3” as Jack lovingly calls them. Due to complications during childbirth only two of Rebecca’s babies survive and she and Jack are forced to live with the bitterness of an unexpected twist in their lives. After learning about the death of their third baby, Jack learns of a baby who was left at a fire station and then brought into the hospital. Even though it wasn’t the way they had planned, Jack and Rebecca would be taking home three babies.
Just as with life itself things don’t always go the way that you planned, this is a common theme for This Is Us. I think it’s important that I remind you about something, fairly early in Season 1 this theme comes up again when we learn about the huge twist that changes the tone of this show. Right before the kids’ high school graduation, Jack unexpectedly passes away. We have to wait until midway into Season 2 when we finally find out just how this happens. Their beloved home that Jack and Rebecca spent years remodeling together, catches fire during the night. The family manages to escape the fire unscathed but Jack suffers a heart attack from all of the smoke inhalation. To no surprise this is a gut-wrenching episode and possibly the strongest one in the series. The first time I watched the episode when his death was revealed, I was shocked! I asked myself, “This is extremely risky, what are they going to do when one of the lead characters dies so early in their first season”? Thankfully the writers have done a fantastic job so far. Jack is a larger than life type of father, his death leaves a big hole in this family and I wanted to make sure that we didn’t dance around the elephant in the room.
In the pilot episode, we not only meet Jack and Rebecca but we were also introduced to a brother and sister, Kevin and Kate (Justin Hartley and Chrissy Metz) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown), a man searching for his biological father. Through a series of flashbacks the show’s creator, Dan Fogelman, cleverly revealed that the show is jumping back and forth through different timelines within the Pearson family. Kevin, Kate and Randall are Jack and Rebecca’s children, their babies all grown up. These flashbacks show Jack and Rebecca raising their three children in all stages of life. Each of those different stages bring their own set of issues that present themselves again later in life. In Season 1 each of “The Big 3” goes through a bit of an identity crisis but Randall seems to have been experiencing one since birth. Randall is successful in his personal and professional life. He and his wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) have a strong marriage and two young daughters, Tess and Annie (Eris Baker and Faithe Herman). Being black and having been adopted by white parents, Randall has always had a strong curiosity about his birth parents despite his great relationship with his adoptive parents. He hired a private investigator to find his birth father, William (Ron Cephas Jones) and acting out of excitement he invites him to come live with his family. Sadly William warns him that he will not be around much longer, he has cancer and only a few months to live. While his stay is short, his presence has a large impact on Randall and his family. William’s passing ignites a new passion in Randall and he and Beth decide to take on a new role as foster parents. A young teenager named Deja (Lyric Ross) comes to live with them and she and Randall build a strong connection with eachother.
Kevin and Kate also have a special sibling relationship. You can tell that the two of them rely heavily on eachother unlike anyone else, even Randall at times. Kate will drop everything to do whatever she can to help him. Kevin is a handsome actor starring in a cheesy but popular sitcom. On the set of his show, Kevin has a mental breakdown about wanting to be taken as a serious actor. His emotional rant is caught on camera and ends up going viral. Looking for a challenge he decides to move to New York and take his chances on Broadway. It’s during this time that we learn about his ex-wife Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) who he has been in love with since he was a young boy. Kevin decided to take acting seriously and they divorced when he moved out to Los Angeles but has never stopped loving her. They give their relationship another try but Sophie gives a final goodbye after Kevin looses control and becomes addicted to pain medications for reinjuring his knee in high school. Kevin is clearly searching for something that is missing in his life. One of the most memorable moments is a conversation between Kevin and Jack after Kevin injuring his leg ends his dreams of playing football. Jack reminds Kevin that one day he will find his purpose in life and clearly Kevin is still searching.
Kate is also struggling to find her purpose. At 36 she is single, overweight and working as her brother’s assistant. Her dad was her biggest cheerleader. Ever since his death she has been missing that role in her life. One day at her support group she befriends Toby (Chris Sullivan) and they start dating. Much like Jack, Toby is a larger than life sort of character. Toby loves her the way that Jack loved her. He encourages her to pursue passion for singing, motivates her in her weight loss and builds her confidence in her self worth. She quits working for Kevin and starts booking singing gigs. This is a tough spot between her and her mother. Because Rebecca was also a singer, this is another one of the aspects of her life where Kate feels like she can never measure up to Rebecca or her expectations. Shortly after becoming engaged, Kate discovers she pregnant and is cautious of her pregnancy because of her weight. Sadly, she miscarries the baby, which causes issues with her weight to resurface. It also brings to light her grief in loosing her father. Just before their wedding she discovers that she has to let go of the tight grip she has on her relationship with Jack and the fact that Toby is the lead man in her life. Season 2 closes with a beautiful ceremony outside the Pearson family cabin as Toby and Kate exchange their vows.
One of the best parts of this show is that I never know where it is going. Hopefully in Season 3 we will see more of Jack and Rebecca before “The Big 3”. It would also be interesting to see the kids in their lives shortly after Jack’s passing and how Rebecca goes on without him. What’re some of your favorite moments from the show? What do you hope to see happen in Season 3?