This is Us 1×15 “Jack Pearson’s Son”

Big Three Moments of the Week

Spoilers Ahead

This is Us continues to outshine everything and make us ugly cry more than once. After last week’s episode, it’s nice to cry again, and while that’s strange to say, with this show, tears seem to be the best sign. “Jack Pearson’s Son” encapsulated some of life’s toughest battles so effortlessly into one hour, it almost feels like it was longer. And that is quality television, world. “Jack Pearson’s Son” took its viewers down dark, hasty, unwinding roads showcasing the horrors of stress and the pangs of miscommunication. Concurrently exhibiting the significance of kindness and choice. I say this every week, but a large part of this show’s gift comes from its realistically written characters — no one on this show is perfect, and things get as ugly as possible. And sometimes, unless the show’s on cable, writers shy away from going too deep, but thus far, that’s never been the case with This is Us.

 

Scene I: Miguel tells Kevin he’s just like his father.

First things first, this isn’t my first choice, but in order for my first choice to feel complete, my second choice must come first. (That made sense right? Okay good.) I wasn’t expecting this out of Miguel, but it’s a start to making him a lot more likable. Or at least, forgivable, we’re all still mad at him even though we don’t know how the story goes down. After a nervous Kevin visits his mom to get some stage advice, he’s actually given some sharp advice from his father’s best friend. Jon Huertas has never resonated with the audience as beautifully as he did in this moment. I honestly thought he was about to cry while talking about how much Kevin reminds him of his best friend. And that moment of sincerity felt so right, my heart’s actually thoroughly pleased.

Loss in any way is a tragedy no one deserves to experience, but it’s a little easier when those who’ve passed have experienced life and leave us at an old age. But when it’s a friend, when they’re close to our age, it leaves us with a gut wrenching pain we must always carry. We’ve imagined how difficult Jack’s death must have been on his kids, but I personally never sat there and wondered how it’d be on his best friend. And how could we when the series told us he’d found love with his dead best friend’s wife. Though as it turns out, losing his wing-man, his best friend, his person has broken Miguel. And that brokenness could never be fixed, only temporarily mended when in the presence of his son. The one son who’s shown nothing but anger and frustration towards him.

I’m still not okay with this marriage, I don’t know how I can be, but right now, I’m appreciative of Miguel. And I appreciate him for carrying Jack’s kindness with him. If Miguel was a terrible person, Kevin’s opinion of him wouldn’t matter. He got the girl, why should it? But because he cares deeply enough to be hurt by it, it showcases the depth of his heart, and the heartache that still lives inside of him, despite this act we as viewers, can’t understand. And that’s why Miguel’s choice to remind Kevin of how much strength is inside of him was perfect. It brought to light just how much of his father truly resides in him, and that there’s nothing he can’t do because there’s nothing Jack Pearson couldn’t do. A fact everyone knows to this date because as a father, for fifteen years, he’s always given his kids everything.

Scene II: Kevin leaves his play to go help Randall.

Fair warning, this scene will probably be This Week’s Most Exquisite TV Momenttoo because I can’t imagine anything coming close. “Jack Pearson’s Son” started out with a recurring nightmare Kevin has where he’s interviewed by Katie Couric, and she walks away from him because he can’t be taken seriously. And to present us with this in the beginning clearly exhibits just how much Kevin wants to achieve as an actor. So when it’s finally time for his play’s opening, you can’t imagine anything taking him away from what could finally be his big moment.

As we explore Randall’s nerves further while diving into his past as a teenager, the series gets a bit darker. And this is probably, definitely due to Sterling K. Brown’s incredibly nuanced and raw performances. (All the tears. All the time. When Randall cries, I cry. Tonight’s episode alone should be his submission for an Emmy.) That said, it turns out that Randall’s nature as a perfectionist has challenged him in ways that haven’t been healthy. And having mental breakdowns derived from the need to be better and do better has worked for him to some degree, but it’s caused a serious strain on his health. It begins in the mind and finds its way into the body. Randall’s exhibition of early MS (Multiple Sclerosis) symptoms crushed me, and when Beth mentioned the previous episode, it became clear that it’s more than the occasional nervous breakdown. (I also hope I’m completely off by this assumption.)

And showing us how unresponsive Kevin was when they were teenagers alongside today’s grown version made for a faultless scene. I don’t necessarily feel he was indifferent to Randall’s breakdowns, but rather because Jack knew how to calm down, what more could he do? They could never establish a closeness, but that also didn’t mean Kevin didn’t love and care for him. As kids, even teenagers, you’re taken aback by someone in such a vulnerable position not because you don’t care, but because you’re inept. So when Kevin rushed to his brother to find him in a state of paralysis in the corner of his office, he embodied Jack Pearson’s son in a way he’s never done before. And that selfless choice to leave his big night behind after all the preparations to be by his brother’s side was perfect. If he really wanted to, he could have had an ambulance rush over there. He could   have called his mom. He could’ve called Beth. He could’ve even called Kate. But this was something he needed to do. And you could see the concern in him all throughout the episode with the muddled expressiveness Justin Hartley wore after visiting him in the morning. This was Kevin’s moment to be taken seriously, but not as an actor, as a human being, as a brother. He is Jack Pearson’s son, and in difficult times, he’s doing whatever his father would have.

I don’t believe anyone else could have been as useful as Kevin in that moment because for Randall, it meant that the one person he’s often has a strained relationship with will do anything for him. Kevin’s choice wasn’t just the right choice, it was the honorable one. It was the choice that exhibited the value of family and illuminated the tremendous growth he’s gone through in his life.

Scene III: Kate stands up for herself + 21 questions with Toby.

Kate Pearson standing up for herself and stating that she’s awesome even with all her issues deserves a standing ovation. The attention This is Us places on self-love and self-care is incredible, and it’s beautiful that we get to see it through the eyes of someone who’s struggled deeply with BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder). And I hope that anyone who’s currently struggling with it, watches this scene and remembers that though they may not be where they want to, their heart is what makes them extraordinary. It’s what matters most .

I wasn’t a fan of Kate and Toby in the beginning, but right now, I’m loving the direction their relationship is headed. And the one thing that’s always stopped me from appreciating this relationship is how fast it was going. It needed to slow down just a little bit and the pace we’re at right now is perfect. It’s lovely that it’s so easy for Toby to open up to Kate because it depicts just how far he’s come from everything he’s been through. It also illuminates just how trustworthy she is and that the love they share is in fact, very real. But I also appreciated that he understood her when she wasn’t able to talk about Jack’s death. Humans are strange that way, sometimes, something that’s happened to us is so easy to share, but another event may the be the most difficult thing. I want Kate to be able to talk about her father’s death, but I also want it to be when she’s ready. And sometimes, it’s not for a very long time. I think it was easy for me to appreciate this scene because as someone who’s lost her father, there are still stories that I can’t revisit because they’re too painful. It’s as if when I think about those very details, it all happens all over again. I lose him again. And it becomes just as hard as it did that very night I found out. That’s why when Toby understood this, and wasn’t offended by her inability to open up to him, it proved just how much he cares for her. It doesn’t matter that she couldn’t open up after he did. The only thing that matters is that she’s okay and whenever she’s ready, he’ll be there to listen. So, marriage is still on the table, but taking their time to get there will make for a pleasant journey.

 

“Jack Pearson’s Son” was without a doubt one of my favorites. It took the show to a place I dreaded it going, but it do so with so much depth, I’m satisfied with the heartache it’s left me with. If “Jack Pearson’s Son” was indication of anything, it’s that human beings are flawed and come with a lot of baggage. There’s not a single person in the world who doesn’t have a story to tell — a weakness, an issue that keeps them up at night, a memory they can’t let go of, a trigger, a broken piece of them they can never mend. And perfection cannot be achieved, but rather through small, kind gestures, things can get better. A little honesty goes a long way, but the choice to accept someone for who they are, and where they’ve been, is what we all need to maintain healthy relationships with people. As we continue to explore all that’s inside these people, I don’t doubt for a second that we’ll find ugliness, but everyone’s got time to improve. And we’ve got two whole seasons ahead of us already.

Further Thoughts:

  • A few headlines I’ve been seeing floating around are calling this episode the worst for Rebecca, but for once, I disagree with the judgement towards her. Rebecca was wrong not to tell Jack about her past, but her reasoning was merited — still wrong, but it doesn’t make her a terrible person. And neither does wanting something that’s her own. It may have come out wrong, but the reality is, in order to maintain healthy relationships, especially marriages, couples need to have their own things going on. It gives them the platform to express a part of themselves that’s solely theirs and that’s perfectly fine. As a mother, Rebecca deserves her little escape, and in the same way, so does Jack. And even the kids need their time away. These things don’t equate to some ridiculous imbalance in the force, but rather they contribute to human growth, and while togetherness is good, solitude is just as vital.
  • I want the series to show us Jack’s flaws, but I’ll be lying if I say it won’t upset me if his death is somehow due to alcoholism. Yes, it’ll show the horrors of it, and it’s a realistic approach, but it’d be too sad. It’d be too sad if he brings the death upon himself.
  • Just as the kids playing the young three are impeccable in their mannerisms, the teen actors are holding their own perfectly. Niles Fitch and Logan Shroyer were exceptional as 15-year-olds Randall and Kevin.
  • It’s so heartbreaking to see Randall fall apart, but Sterling K. Brown is putting on some of the best performances on TV right now, and I can’t help but wish for more only for the sake of how Brown will continue to shine. I also now have a desperate need for Beth to have a moment with her husband.
  • I’m loving the little glimpses we’re getting into Sophie and Kevin’s relationship so far.
  • Toby’s sense of fashion gives me secondhand embarrassment, but hey, if it makes him happy, may the force be with him.
  • Also, Kate getting kicked out of fat camp because little Duke’s ego was wounded? Pathetic. And they say girls are sensitive. Psh.
  • I’d apologize for all the Star Wars references, but I’m really not sorry. Blame the force, but also, blame Timeless, but mainly, blame the force.

What are your thoughts on this week’s episode?

@GissaneSophia // @MGcircles

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