This Is Us premiered last night. We are now in season three of the show I have hailed as the best drama on network television. I think that’s still true but it’s going to have to fix some major problems that have plagued the show since episode one if it wants to hang on to its top spot. After a rough start to season two, This Is Us recovered with a heart-wrenching Super Bowl episode and a solid season two finale. I hope season three is following the same trajectory. I hope the best is yet to come because last night was not the best of This Is Us.
I got into a minor fight with my friends Kayla and Allya last night because they started messaging me spoilers before I started watching the premiere. They wouldn’t stop. I almost friendship broke up with both of them over text. I was ready. My point is that I HATE spoilers. I will cut a bitch, no questions, if you ruin one of my favourite shows for me. Y’all have been warned. I realize that many of you may have This Is Us waiting for you on your PVRs. If you haven’t watched it yet, bookmark this page and come back when you do. Spoilers ahead. You’re welcome for that considerate and extensive Spoiler Warning. Ahem, Kayla and Allya.
Last year, Duana broke down the major problem with This Is Us. Her thesis was that everything on the show is from a man’s perspective. As usual, Duana was not wrong. The show recovered slightly with Rebecca’s evolving storylines and there have been glimpses of Kate’s growth and depth but for the most part, Duana is still right. The Pearson women face problems but they are told through the eyes of the Pearson men. Last night, Duana was very right. Almost everything was from a man’s perspective and it was FRUSTRATING.
Think about who we were supposed to feel sympathy for in last night’s episode. We were supposed to feel sorry for Jack Pearson, on his first date with his future wife with nine dollars in his pocket. We saw the beginning of the date through his eyes as he first spots Rebecca in the bar and collects his nine dollars from his buddy. We saw the day after the date through Jack’s perspective as he watched Rebecca kiss another man. We didn’t get to judge Jack for acting like a dick on his date without context. We knew it was because he had no money. We don’t know Rebecca’s reasoning for kissing that random dude at her door, we just know that our hearts are supposed to be breaking for Jack, fresh from Vietnam and fragile.
We are supposed to feel sorry for Toby. The Kate and Toby baby storyline is supposed to be from Kate’s perspective. I’m sure that’s what the writer’s room intended. This is Kate’s plot. Toby is just her sidekick. Is he, though? Every time something went wrong with Kate’s plan to try for a baby through IVF, we saw Toby’s face. The camera was on Toby’s reaction, which was pained and full of concern. We were supposed to see that Kate is being unreasonable in her desire for a child while Toby is the one who can see that she’s putting herself in danger. The episode was also very preoccupied with foreshadowing that Toby is going off his anti-depressant meds which will cause serious problems in the future for Kate. But we’re not given insight into Kate’s perspective, aside from an exhausting and confusing monologue in the middle of her birthday party in front of all her friends (since when does Kate have so many friends?). Also, once again, Kate can’t get through an episode without her weight being the singular focus. I understand that the medical aspects of Kate’s weight are real but I just want more for her. I don’t want to watch her journey through the eyes of her anxious husband.
In the season three premiere of This Is Us, we were also supposed to feel sympathy for Randall Pearson. Deja is one of the better written teen girls I’ve ever seen on television but still, her struggles are shown through the lens of Randall’s past trauma. I love that Deja called him out for his selfishness and the unfair comparisons between her life and his but in that moment, we were supposed to feel sad for Randall. And I did. Obviously, I was crying. At this point in the series, I’m very well acquainted with This Is Us’s emotional manipulation. Randall is a character that is KING of the manipulated tears. Usually, it works. I love Randall. But in this case, it wasn’t about him. Deja’s great moment of independence was still very much linked to Randall and how “exceptional” he thinks she is. I think that’s OK. It was a very nice scene that I SOBBED through but when the show rarely gives us moments where the women get to have their own moments, I wished Deja could have come to that conclusion on her own.
Finally, Beth and Zoe clearly have some cousinly drama to work through but all we got was a whole lot of Kevin. I actually really like the Beth/Kevin/Zoe drama because Susan Kelechi Watson is a spectacular talent and she shined bright in every scene but once again, who did we feel sorry for throughout that storyline? Kevin. Who were we rooting for? Kevin. I hope as we move forward in the season, we learn why Beth is so convinced that Zoe will chew Kevin up and spit him out but until then, Zoe gets no say in that “maneater” stereotype they’ve pegged her with. I loved Beth’s monologue about how much she loves Kevin. Again, Susan Kelechi Watson is incredible. I want more for her. I want more of Beth’s backstory. I want them to explore her relationship with Zoe aside from how it relates to Kevin.
As for the twists, we’re also seeing those from the men’s perspectives. WHO IS SHE? Kate? So far, we know that Randall and Tess are visiting “she” and Toby is upstairs looking rough not wanting to see her. “She” remains an off-camera mystery with no dialogue or story of her own… yet. I want to know who “she” is and I want the women of This Is Us to be the lead in their own stories.