Ever since Parenthood went off the air nearly two years ago, there’s been a Braverman-sized hole in my heart. Clearly NBC was trying to fill that gap, and from the get go, This Is Us was surrounded in Parenthood-esque branding. I was so thrilled when the pilot lived up to my high expectations. Beyond the gasp-worthy reveal, the multi-fascinated exploration of family dynamics had an immediate sense of honesty. I was hooked by each of the characters in different ways, and I wanted to spend more time with each of them. So when Kim texted me with about five minutes left to the second episode and asked if I’d think about recapping the show, I honestly couldn’t say no. What better way to hang out with my new favorite television family?
The next time we see Jack, it’s clear why Rebecca’s out of sorts – he’s on his third bourbon by 5:05pm, with the tired excuse that he’s being driven to this because he just can’t see the woman he married anymore. Granted, it’s only episode two, but from what we’ve seen of Rebecca so far, I’m calling bullshit, and his best friend and colleague Miguel clearly agrees with me.
Despite Miguel’s best efforts, Jack stays out past the kid’s bedtime, leaving Rebecca to tuck them in by herself. Here’s where the structure of This Is Us can really shine – we’re not relying on the characters to tell us about their childhood traumas, severe or otherwise, and much less exposition is needed to show us who they are in present day. There is, of course, a downside – the “end of episode twist” that has an extreme law of diminishing returns attached. It’s perhaps unavoidable when dealing so heavily in flashbacks, though I’m cautious about how long it can be sustained. For now, it’s fascinating to watch character development on a 28 year cycle.
Every time Randall was on-screen this week, I couldn’t shake his mother’s plea – “promise me you’ll always be good” – out of my mind. He wants to be the perfect husband to Beth, the perfect father to his kids, the perfect brother to his siblings (even when they might not deserve it, but more on that later) and the perfect son to his biological father. Randall pushes so hard it’s impossible not to wonder when he’s going to snap, and Beth sees it coming too. She quietly watches every moment between William and her family, but after finding her husband pushing himself to the limits on a treadmill when he should have been asleep, she knows it’s time to step in. This kind of balancing act isn’t sustainable when it’s wrought with so many emotional minefields, and as we learn when she confronts William, they’ve been here before.
Her trust isn’t guaranteed though, and truth be told my heart broke a little when Beth looked wearily at William presenting the inhaler to Annie the next morning. I understand her suspicions, and I even share them a little (the cat story was maybe too good?) but I want desperately for William to be everything he seems to be, and I hope she does too.
What do you do after blowing up your career in public? Sit down for an uncomfortable meeting with your representation, of course! Kevin’s agent Lanie (Katy Sagal, bringing her best sardonic glares out to play) explains the situation as it stands, after taking a moment to remind him that she’s the only reason he has a career at all. Kevin’s got a contractual obligation to stay at the network for the next two years – and if he backs out, the best case scenario is that he’s not allowed to work in television or film during that time. Of course, for the privilege of keeping the job he hates for the next two years, Kevin has to play nice at an industry party and grovel to the higher-ups.
source: sheoing. tumblr.com
OK, a few words about Toby. He clearly has a genuine affection for Kate, and I love that he loves her exactly as she is. But turning her machine off mid-workout was a mystifying move. If it seemed like she was clearly pushing too hard, that would be one thing. But Kate looked like she was just lost in thought, mid-workout, leaving us to a scene with a woman who wanted to do something and a boyfriend who wanted her to stop. This relationship is starting to emerge as a real double-edged sword; Kate deserves nothing less than a supportive partner who will be there regardless of her size, but she also deserves someone who will listen to her and respect her decisions.
Kate believes that she’s not keeping pace with her peers in the support group, and it’s compounded after she agrees to support Kevin while he formally resigns at his industry party. Kate is already anxious to accompany her brother to a “nightmare Hollywood party,” and an unsuccessful shopping day leaves her feeling even worse. Ultimately, Kate lashes out at the next support group meeting, and Toby cheers her up by insisting he come along too.
- Beth throws out that Randall was 28 when they married and bought the house, the same age as Jack when he met Rebecca. In both eras, the oldest kids are now 8. I see you with the direct timeline symmetry, show.
- If Ron Cephas Jones could continue to have excellent supporting character runs on all my favorite shows, that would be spectacular. (RIP, Romero.)
- It was so great to see Brad Garrett as the exceptionally skeezy network boss! He switches with ease from friendly, to intimidating, to flat-out terrifying, and while I’m not sure how it’d happen, I hope we haven’t seen the last of him.
- Manny OUT.
What did you think of “The Big Three”? Let us know in the comments.