“This Is Us” follows a unique ensemble, as their paths cross and their life stories intertwine, from sharing the same birthday, to so much more than anyone would expect.
Who knew that the breakout season of “This Is Us” would have such a raw emotional impact that we would forever be in the debt of the director while he reconstructed the path our hearts would follow in anticipation of season two. When the series began, we were deep in the throes of the delivery room with Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore) as they anxiously anticipated the birth of their triplets. With three perfect names already picked out for their kids, Kevin (Justin K. Hartley), Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kyle (Sterling K. Brown), they couldn’t wait to see how their lives would change as first time parents with triplets. When they unexpectedly lose Kyle at birth in the delivery room, fate already has a resolution to the problem. While they struggle with the immediate dissolution of their new family, an African-American newborn boy who has been relinquished by his single father William Hill (Ron Cephas Jones), enters the delivery area, and without much ado, the couple agrees to give the homeless child their deceased child’s name and take him in as their own. This fateful action would keep them in alignment with their original plan of bringing three babies home. Things get complicated when Rebecca locates the father, William, near the hospital and makes him promise to stay out of their lives forever. Later, when she is at her wit’s end because Kyle is not adapting as well as his siblings, she seeks out William’s guidance and he tells her to give Kyle back his original name and that would solve a lot of their problems. Kyle is given his original birth name back (Randall) and he and Rebecca begin to bond while the rest of the family is challenged by who they are and what they represent.
Throughout the season, the show goes back and forth between timelines as the kids grow up and have their own relationships as well as going back and forth during the time they were kids. The relationship between Jack and Rebecca goes from being loving and supportive, then suffers as each of them tries to maintain their individual identities personally and professionally, while both are crushing under the pressure of child-raising. The main highlights of the season focus on the emotional rollercoaster that Jack and Rebecca ride with each other, Kate and Kevin’s childhood and adult relationship, Kevin and Randall’s lifelong tumultuous relationship and later Randall’s relationship with his wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) and their two daughters Annie (Faithe Herman) & Tess (Eris Baker), Kate’s relationship with her boyfriend Toby Damon (Chris Sullivan) and her constant weight obsession, and Kevin’s on-and-off relationship with his ex as he finds himself searching for his identity in the midst of a midlife career crisis.
Viewers like me have been drawn to the characters through their human flaws that expose the vulnerability of basic human creatures who are trying to live their best lives in spite of their flaws. Jack’s battle with alcohol, Rebecca’s inability to separate herself from her musical dreams and her mixed emotions, Kate’s insecurities about her weight, Randall’s overcompensation for his lack of acceptance and Kevin’s instability and selfishness all have a domino-effect on the people who they bring into their lives and the paths they take to maintain civility. The season’s defining moments were Randall’s relationship with his father William that comes unexpectedly after William is diagnosed with terminal cancer and the entire family’s crisis mode as the demise of Jack and Rebecca’s relationship seemingly leads to Jack’s sudden and possibly unintentional death.
While it has been a bit unnerving with the back and forth timelines, it is obvious that this dynamic is crucial to the show’s success. This two-time Emmy Award-Winning show has cultivated a regime of followers through its diverse casting and the raw exposure of life circumstances which are confronted with in ways that are relevant to audiences and extended families of all ages. The foundation of inclusion and the neurotic familial elements are just as entertaining as the inability to decipher what is going to happen next. I eagerly anticipate season two as the Pearson family saga has proven to be worth the wait for all of us to see ourselves through circumstances we never imagined.
Now available on DVD