This Is Our Emotional Reckoning

Maria Posted by Maria at August 24, 2017 19:52:40 August 24, 2017 19:52:40

We’ve reviewed This Is Us twice on Lainey Gossip – I did the first three episodes here and Duana wrote about it in the spring.

I stand by my season one review; my perspective on the emotional shallowness of the plot twists and the underwritten characters hasn’t changed. But it was Duana’s perceptive piece that made me scream, “YES that’s exactly what’s bothering me!!!” The show is heavily centered around a man’s perspective, particularly in the way Kate and Rebecca have been written. Kate went through major upheaval (changing jobs, moving, engagement) and there’s not a lot of growth or insight beyond, “I need to lose weight.”

The first clip of season two is actually much more nuanced than most of what we’ve seen on the show in that it’s Randall and his mother Rebecca simply talking. And as Randall is the most perceptive and well-rounded character, I’m not surprised to see him trying to strip away the family history and get to the truth of it. What really happens when you enter a hospital pregnant with triplets, give birth to twins, and go home with three babies? Could Jack’s adoption triumph have compounded Rebecca’s trauma? Obviously Randall has questions about how Jack has always framed his adoption.

In season one, a lot of things we learn about the Pearsons stem from family legend – stories they’ve told themselves over and over until experiences turn into memories tucked safely inside a nostalgic family chest. But how long can that nostalgia maintain relationships that are under strain in every direction? I think that is what season two will tackle – the fissures in all of those moments, the imperfect memories with Jack that are not talked about or celebrated. The writers also have one big fat surprise coming as they will reportedly reveal the cause of his death – something so traumatic that Kate can’t even tell her fiancé, the person she will theoretically spend the rest of her life with, about. (Is it bad that I don’t care if Toby goes? Because I don’t care if Toby goes away.)

So much of Jack’s character, the children’s relationships with one another and their relationship with their mom centers around how “it” happened. Death hangs over every scene, tinging even the happiest, most triumphant moments with sadness. The audience is now conditioned to those bittersweet moments. Every week, the show trends on Twitter and inspires a thousand “The new theory on how Jack died will make you catatonic for weeks!” stories. There’s a kind of camaraderie that comes from sharing TV grief with other people (see: Game of Thrones every week) and This Is Us has really tapped into that. Now they have to maintain it without throwing off the rhythm or chemistry of the show.

Look, the guy can only die once. And that death has to reveal things not just about him, but about each of his children. Why did Kevin freak out on the set of The Manny while doing a monologue about his father? Why can’t Kate talk about him? Why is Randall so perfect? This is the emotional crux of their lives and soon we will know why. The undercurrent of sad mystery will be gone. Then what?

JB Lacroix/ NBC/ David Crotty/ Michael Tran/ Getty Images

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