This Is Us has been the one show I was most looking forward to this fall season. On top of being a sucker for great marketing (because this show had an amazing way of popping up everywhere) and being a huge fan of both Milo Ventimigla and Mandy Moore, this show’s family drama feel really intrigued me. With Parenthood no longer on the air it seems like a great time to have a show that intertwines multiple families, the struggles they are all facing, and how they face them together. And boy did this show deliver.
Based on the previews and descriptions This Is Us follows a group of people who all share the same birthday and how that connects them all to each other. It’s a cool premise already but as the show goes on you soon realize that there is so much more to it and that family plays a much bigger part than they initially led on.
The show opens with Jack and Rebecca, played by a scruffy looking Milo Ventimiglia (Gilmore Girls, Heroes) and a very pregnant Mandy Moore (Tangled, Red Band Society) celebrating Jack’s 36th birthday. The two seem to have a very sweet and fun relationship. Rebecca is determined to follow through on her birthday tradition for Jack – a sexy dance while wearing lingerie. Except she’s 6 weeks away from giving birth to triplets and can only fit the lingerie on top of her clothes. Jack doesn’t care in the slightest and continues the fun…until her water breaks.
Jack isn’t the only one celebrating his 36th birthday though, so let’s meet the other three characters!
First up is Kate (Chrissy Metz, American Horror Story) who we first meet staring into her fridge filled with all sorts of tempting foods. A closer look shows post-its lining the items with notes such as “do not eat this cake before your party, Kate” and “throw this crap out.” It’s a scene that many can relate to and a character that can often be portrayed with a lot of cliches on television, so it will be interesting to see how Kate’s journey is executed. We later find Kate stripped down in her bathroom about to step on the scale, but not before taking her earrings off just in case. In what I believe was a way of showing that she hasn’t gotten this far in her journey before Kate loses her balance when stepping on and falls backwards.
Second we meet Randall (newly awarded Emmy winner for The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) celebrating his 36th birthday at work, where he is clearly the man in charge. He seems distracted and it clearly has something to do with the “Good News” titled email he just received. Randall is happily married to a woman named Beth and they seem to have a great relationship based on the scene in which they are watching their two daughters play soccer on two different fields (one chooses to make friends and do braids in the middle of the field while the other plows her way to the goal). It’s the subtle touches of humor such as this scene that make me believe this show is going to work.
Our final birthday is Kevin (Justin Hartley, Smallville, The Young and the Restless), a very handsome fellow who is the star of the ever popular sitcom The Man-ny. However, it’s immediately obvious that Kevin wants more out of his career then the cheesy story lines, shirtless scenes (although this recapper is not complaining) and ridiculous anecdotes the show provides. He wants to do work that means something and challenges him as an actor. He’s smart and knows that he’s capable of so much more.
Kevin is interrupted by a call from his sister later in the day and our first connecting line between these characters is made. Kate and Kevin are siblings! And both turning 36…twins….this igniting any light bulbs for people? I’d had my suspicions about this after watching a few of their promos and this definitely made them seem more accurate.
Jack and Rebecca have safely made it to the hospital ready to have their babies, even though it’s 6 weeks early. It’s here that they are greeted by a clearly unfamiliar doctor and the unfortunate news that their original doctor’s appendix had just burst and Dr. K would be filling in. Doesn’t this always happen on TV? While the couple is clearly distraught over the news, Dr. K calms them almost instantly by opening up and swearing on his children and grandchildren that he will take care of Rebecca and her babies no matter what.
Meanwhile, while at the aforementioned soccer game, Randall reveals to Beth that he had been searching and found his biological father, William, who left him on the stoop of a fire station when he was baby. Although he has no idea why he did it, Randall finds himself at his father’s doorstep with a provoking speech about the wonderful parents he was raised by, his successful career, his family, and that he did it all despite being abandoned. Below you can see him pointing to his $143,000 car that he purchased. With cash. Because he could.
William simply asks if Randall wants to come and he surprises himself by agreeing. It’s clear that Randall just wants his father to open up and admit his wrongdoings but William wasn’t clean at the time and doesn’t even remember dropping him off at the fire station in the first place. He simply says that all Randall wants to do is drop a “screw you” and storm out, which is exactly what Randall does moments later, only to return and ask if he wants to meet his grand-kids.
And after a successful meeting with his grand-kids, William let’s Randall know that he’s dying. Not just sick, he’s been sick. Now, he is simply dying. It’s an interesting scene as they stand in Randall’s mansion and makes me wonder if maybe William could no longer afford treatment and how that is going to come into play with this new relationship. William seems like a genuine person, but it must be hard for him to ignore the situation and just how successful and kind his son is. Randall allows William to stay the night.
Time to check back in with Kate! After a loving and motivating conversation over a tub of ice cream with Kevin, Kate finally admits that she is going to lose the weight. The two have only been together for one scene and I already love their relationship. There’s no judgement, only love. I am looking forward to watching this playful and thoughtful relationship be explored.
She finds herself at a support group where a handsome man catches her eye across the room. His name is Toby and asks her if they want to be “fat friends.” She replies sure but also lets him know that she’s going to lose the weight. He replies that he probably won’t, to which she responds, “I can’t fall for a fat person right now.” “I guess I’ll lose the weight then,” he says and walks away.
The two later find themselves on an adorable first date where their personalities match up perfectly and are both being supportive of each other’s weight loss. However, when the date is over and Kate tries to go inside, Toby manages to smooth talk his way to an invitation. Toby asks Kate if she wants to fool around, which leads her to say no and open up to him about how long it’s been for her and how anxious she is about her body. Kate is so honest in this scene and I realized that the writer’s aren’t going to go surface level with her. She is going to be amazing and I’m already rooting for her so hard.
Toby calms her worries and just as they are about to start fooling around Kevin comes shambling in drunk, leaving Toby completely star struck and asking for shirtless selfies with “The Man-ny” himself. But as it turns out, Kevin is no longer The Man-ny. After performing a dramatic scene with Alan Thicke (yes, that Alan Thicke) Kevin feels exhilarated and thinks that the show is finally seeing it’s potential and giving him good material. Unfortunately the writer tells him they need a lighter version and Kevin has to take off his shirt for it. This sends Kevin into a meltdown and he promptly quits the show.
As we near the end of the hour we are taken back to the hospital where one triplet, a boy, has been successfully delivered. However, Rebecca’s health starts to falter and she knows something is not right. Dr. K is going to have to perform an emergency C-Section and a panicked Jack is taken out of the room.
When Dr. K finds Jack again it’s hard to read him exactly. We find out that Rebecca is stable and healthy and that a second baby was born (a girl!). However, the third baby was stillborn as he had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. There was nothing he could’ve done. Completely shocked and visibly shaken, Jack sits down with Dr. K, who informs him that he lost his wife a year prior and the two of them had lost their first child during childbirth. It was that moment that made him want to be a doctor and he offers some sage advice to Jack.
“I like to think that maybe one day you’ll be an old man, like me, talking a younger man’s ear off, explaining to him how you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade.”
Jack takes these words in stride as he looks at his two children in the nursery, where he meets a fireman who just dropped off a baby that had been left on the doorstep of the station. You can visibly see the light return to Jack’s eyes as he looks at the baby…later to be named Randall.
Have chills yet? Because I had them while watching this scene and just got them again writing about it.
It’s this exact moment that This Is Us comes together. We flash to Kate and Kevin talking about his meltdown and she reminds him of what their dad, Jack, always said about lemons.
“There is no lemon so sour that you can’t make something resembling lemonade.”
4 seemingly different stories just beautifully weaved into one family.
I am very interested about how the show is going to handle the flashback scenes of Jack and Rebecca with the triplets, since I don’t think we will be seeing the two in the present day scenes. However, I do think that it’s a very interesting concept to have both the parents and the children all being the same age at the same time. There’s a lot of potential there.
The twist at the end of This Is Us was a great one. Whether you were like me and had a strong feeling this was the case prior to the show or you figured it out during, you have to admit that the execution was pretty flawless.
We’ve got a great group of character’s each with a new journey or challenge in front of them and I’m looking forward to writing about them with you!
Having studied Media & Writing at James Madison University, I always knew that I wanted to do some type of creative writing, but being able to write about zombies, Starks, and superheroes on a daily basis for Fan Fest is my actual dream. While I probably shouldn’t be as proud as I am to be so similar to Nick Miller, I do hope to one day write my own “Pepperwood Chronicles’.