This is Us 2×08 “Number One”

Big Three Moments of the Week

There will come a time in every human being’s life where they will need the guidance of another. Those moments come differently to all, in some scenarios, it happens gradually without any sort of spiral. In others, it’s darker, bleaker, lonelier, and when the spiral comes, help isn’t always around. And while that moment of loneliness may be man’s most vulnerable time, it’s also his bravest. The choice to admit that there’s pain residing within a person awakens the kind of courage that showcases the magnitude of their heart. If they’re still aware of their emotions, then they haven’t shut their heart off to the world — they haven’t accepted the cold, overwhelming darkness that leads to far more treacherous roads. This trilogy surrounding the kids starting with Kevin is an interesting touch to the series, which is making it far more exciting than the usual flashback/present day episodes. I for one, am definitely here for this mini trilogy.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.”

Scene I: Jack’s prayer inspires Kevin

As a Christian, I have a number of favorite prayers, but nothing sinks to my core the way the serenity prayer does. And when Jack fell on his knees praying it, my heart broke. It broke because Kevin watched this moment of acute desperation and silently crumbled. I can imagine that it must not be easy knowing that someone in your family suffers from any form of addiction, and perhaps, especially in teenage years, it’s even harder to see the work they’re putting in to atone from it. And this was the first time we’ve seen Kevin come head to head with his father treating him as anything but the parental figure that he is. That’s why it was so important to see him in such a vulnerable state because in that moment, Jack’s frustrations and pain were bared so poignantly, he’d never been more human in his son’s eyes.

We often have our parents on pedestals so when they mess up, it’s harder to understand how the fall could take place when we’re meant to look up to them. But it’s in this very moment where Kevin needed to realize just how hard his father is trying to be better for them. It was in this moment where he needed to realize that sometimes, the hero falls apart no matter how hard they’re trying to hold on. It was everything he needed to understand just how much his father cares about him, and how hard he’s trying to ensure that his future is better, bolder, and brighter than the one he’s known. And Milo Ventimiglia’s agonized prayer needs to be discussed, too because sometimes, as human beings, we get so tired, so worn out, that even praying becomes difficult. The words don’t flow like some calm stream, sometimes they come from a breathless stammer with interwoven sadness through a fight against tears. And Logan Shroyer followed in Ventimiglia’s with his own breathtaking vulnerability. The subtle shift from a careless teenager to a boy in pain was stunning — the sudden shift in his broken expressiveness told an even bigger story than spoken words ever could.

Scene II: Jack gives Kevin his necklace after the accident

One of the things that could easily be appreciated about this episode is the peaceful display of the diverse religions in the world, which solidify that at their core, each spiritual practice is built on a foundation of love — spreading joy and a helping hand. When Jack handed Kevin the necklace he received back when he was at his lowest, I lost it. Because Jack’s choice to continue opening up to Kevin showcases utmost bravery, and the work he’s putting in towards achieving his steps, it makes it easier for Kevin to see the more human side of his father. We share our pain with people in order to remind them of the fact that they’re not alone. There’s hope. There’s light.

And in this moment, the two had never been closer. Because this moment meant that no matter what Kevin decided to do with his life, it’d be perfectly okay. He’d be fine. He wouldn’t be alone. He’d still be just as appreciated as he is as the star football player. He’d still be a star even if he didn’t pursue acting. And that understanding made it a little bit easier to grasp that everything will be okay. The embrace, the shared pain and vulnerability brought father and son so much closer than they’d ever been, it was almost unbearable to watch.

Scene III: Kevin’s breakdown

Justin Hartley delivered two of the most agonizing breakdowns on TV that have left me, the viewer, exhausted. And to imagine how he must have felt filming it? I’m a little worried to be frank, and I hope he was rewarded with some sleep plus ice cream. (Or whatever dessert he prefers.) Hartley was masterful in the field delivering one of the most heartfelt, groundbreaking monologues in recent history. It was downright heartrending to hear him play out his life with the weakness in his physicality showcasing the decay of his spirit — the innate sadness that’s taken such deep root in him, he has no means of release. And it’s during this breakdown where Hartley makes it clear that Kevin can no longer hold it in, there comes a point in a human being’s life where pain is so numbing, so distressing, it needs to be released because the effect its having is no longer only in the heart and mind, but in the body. It’s taking root like an unbearable virus that requires attention or it’s going to destroy.

And then came the final moment with a desperation so haunting, so heartbreaking words cannot describe. This is also a moment where the writing department deserves a hearty applause because the vocabulary usage was so simple, so child-like it had an even more profound effect on viewers. It showcased the very depth of depression and anxiety so acutely, I’m truly at a loss for words. Hartley’s means of repetition were downright distressing — this is a man at his absolute wits begging for help. At this point, he wasn’t even asking, he was begging, which makes it that much more difficult to swallow. The built up pain that’d eventually be released in a breakdown was instantly triggered upon realizing that his father’s necklace was gone was the display of a human being at his most vulnerable. I’m thankful to have a lot of things to remember my father by, but if I had what Kevin had and lost it, I don’t want to imagine the profound sadness that’d take over me. At that point, the word sadness seems too small. It’s not enough to convey the magnitude of pain that consumed Kevin.

This breakdown was far bigger than a man under the impression that he’s a failure, this breakdown is the story of a man who’s kept too much in. This is an explosion and not the cathartic kind. It’s the start of a solution, but it requires allowing the heartaches to be felt and understood in order to move forward. And since we know Kevin’s repressed a colossal amount of pain since Jack’s death, we know that the recovery will take some time. Time that will most certainly make for excellent television while it effortlessly inspires viewers, too.

This is Us isn’t just a series about family — it’s about people. It’s about life. It’s about the daily struggles we all face in the wake of tragedies or challenging obstacles that come as a surprise. And it’s these very obstacles that define us — the choices we make define us. But more than anything, the series is making it abundantly clear that there’s endless strength in vulnerability.

Further Thoughts

  • I won’t be discussing the final moment with Kate’s news because I’ll be doing a lot of that next week, so we’ll hold off for now.
  • I really appreciated the fact that Kevin went to Randall because though the brothers didn’t get along when they were younger, it’s a different story today. Today, the brothers have each other’s back. Today, Kevin is more comfortable knowing how much Randall has dealt with, too.
  • I can understand that Charlotte was frustrated by Kevin’s choice to leave, but I can’t understand how she chose to neglect him as a doctor. He was clearly unstable the entire time and the choice to disregard that because of her personal feelings felt wrong.
  • Logan Shroyer is shining so bright as 16-year-old Kevin, the similarities in his mannerisms to Hartley showcase such wondrous casting. We knew this cast was talented from the beginning, but this episode brought it to the surface so boldly, I’m in awe.
  • I also loved the fact that when Kevin was getting the award, he was imagining Jack because it gave Ventimiglia and Hartley the opportunity to be in the same room. More of this, please. Let’s find a way. Maybe Jack could visit Kevin in his dreams? It’s possible.
  • really hope Kevin finds his necklace. I seriously can’t let this one go. Dear writers, please make this happen. (Fun fact: I had lost the cross necklace that was given to my during my christening, it must have fallen off while I was playing (probably shouldn’t have worn it as a kid, but that’s another story.) a couple of weeks later, my friend found it in the dirt in our backyard.

What are your thoughts on this week’s episode? Remember, if there’s anything you’d like us to discuss, let us know in the comments below and we shall happily do so.

ByGissane Sophia
Check us out on Twitter@MGcircles

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