Why do we do this to ourselves? If you’re a crier like me, the Super Bowl episode of This Is Us was not fun to watch. It was good television – if you like emotional network TV dramas –but enjoyable? Gratifying? I mean, is sobbing into your laptop fun? Then I’m having a f-cking blast right now. I’ll get to whether Jack’s death was worth the long, annoying and heavily promoted buildup but first, let’s take a moment to acknowledge Mandy Moore.
Mandy. Moore. Holy sh-t. I was moved by A Walk to Remember like everyone else with a soul in 2002 but did we know she had all of THAT in her? The sequence from the vending machine back to Jack’s hospital room has to be her 2018 Emmy submission. Strong runner-up is the scene when she’s standing in front of Miguel, her husband’s best friend and future husband, like a badass telling him to get his sh-t together for the kids. For the love of Beyoncé, give this woman an Emmy. Grief can be overacted. We’ve all seen the over-the-top, head in knees, scream-crying, doctor-hold-me-back-while-I-flail-obnoxiously upchuck of emotion that typically happens on network dramas. Mandy Moore was understated and enthralling while still being utterly devastating. At one point, I just yelled STOP at her face through tears. I needed a break from all the feelings, damn it.
The details of Jack’s death have never interested me. I’ve made it very clear that the big mystery surrounding This Is Us was always the least intriguing thing about this show. Both Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia say they feel “relieved” that Jack’s death has been revealed. I’m relieved I can stop complaining about how much I don’t care about how Jack died. For those of you who did care, was it everything you hoped for? I was LIVID when they foreshadowed last week that Jack would go back for the dog. Really, This Is Us? I love dogs. I’m not going to be the person who says Jack should have let the dog die in that burning house but it is SO clichéd to have the man die from going back in the house to save a dog. This is not how I wanted Jack Pearson to go out. I was initially disappointed by Jack’s heroic send-off (I wanted him to relapse and go out in a complicated, very unheroic blaze of glory – too soon?) but this episode was so beautifully crafted and executed, I came around by the end. I’m not even mad at the show’s latest and maybe even biggest BIG TWIST.
Welcome flash forwards. I knew you were coming and I still gasped and screamed at the same time when Future Tess said hi to Future Randall. I am SO HERE for Future Randall. I’ve had issues with the show’s twists in the past but the Super Bowl episode had multiple twists (Jack not actually dying in the fire started by a CROCK POT, Tess’s flash forward, Deja’s return) and they all felt organic. They didn’t feel gimmicky. They absolutely were gimmicks and I’m sure other critics will call them lazy plot stunts but for me, this was This Is Us at its best. I sobbed the whole time, obviously, but I was also in awe of the talent on screen.
Hannah Zeile as teen Kate was exceptional. Chrissy Metz was solid, even though she was out-acted by Mandy Moore. Justin Hartley as Kevin still continues to surprise me when he’s even just a notch above mediocre and he was actually pretty great. Eris Baker who plays Young Tess destroyed me. As someone with serious Daddy Issues, watching the Randall/Tess scenes were what I imagine being impaled by a spear feels like – but, you know, in a good way.
Now that Jack is dead, I’m really excited for what’s coming next. Don’t worry. Milo Ventimiglia says he’s not going anywhere. Sure, there are approx. 14 timelines to follow now and there’s a lot of room for the twists to get annoying as f-ck again (and they promise Nicky is coming back UGH) but without the “How Did Jack Die?” question looming over every episode, there’s more freedom to delve deeper into these characters who are really starting to feel like family.
The best part of This Is Us’ Super Bowl episode? After the big game took a massive rating dip – which I’m going to chalk up to Justin Timberlake and the NFL’s declining social relevance/ treatment of Colin Kaepernick—This Is Us garnered the biggest post-Super Bowl audience since 2012. A TV show whose defining characteristic is making people cry was (relatively) more popular than America’s biggest football game.
Here is Milo out in LA yesterday.