This is Still A Triumph
A Look At Season (The Big) 3 of This is Us
After last year’s Super Bowl, one of the great mysteries on television was revealed on This is Us. We finally learned how Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimigilia) died. When the Pearson family home burned to the ground, he managed to rescue his family. But just a few hours later, smoke inhalation caused his heart to give out, and he passed away in the hospital. I considered it one of the fifty greatest episodes of the last century, in that it revealed in full context, just how much the death of the beloved patriarch affected every member of the family.
Things seem to have gotten better for the Big Three as they all turned 38 as Season 3 opened. Kate (Chrissy Metz had finally gotten married to Toby, after a rocky courtship. Kevin (Justin Hartley) had finally achieved sobriety, was about to become a genuine movie star, and seemed to be having a good relationship with Beth’s cousin. And Randall (the incomparable Sterling Brown) was finally ready to adopt the troubled Deja, who spent most of last year, struggling to deal with her mother’s abandonment. But, as is inevitably the case with the Pearson clan, nothing is going to come easy.
Kate’s desire to have a child is still at her core, and even though she managed to convince a fertility doctor to begin a troublesome process of artificial insemination, we know there will be repercussion. Toby, who was told that his anti-depressants could have led to a low sperm count, stopped taking them in the premiere, and the effects are coming rapidly. Randall is still struggling with his desire to make the block where his late birth father William (Ron Cephas Jones) lived habitable, but is still having trouble letting his desire to fix things stop him from being a good person. Kevin is actually in a good place, compared to the last couple of seasons, but was warned off by Beth when the relationship with her cousin came to light. Not because she thought he was bad for her, but because she thought she would ‘chew Kevin up.’
As always with this series, there are still poignant flashbacks to be had. In the season premiere, we saw the very first date between Jack and Rebecca, and how it was something of a disaster. We also have seen the Pearsons trying to keep going after Jack’s death, and this is painful, even for This is Us. Kevin has become a veritable drunk, Kate has started the overeating that will make her life so much more difficult in the future, Randall is sacrificing his own future for the good of the family, and Rebecca barely seems able to stay in the room. However, there is a new wrinkle to this season — the flashforwards that we got at the end of Season 2. We know that Toby will be bedridden by his depression, that Kevin will fly to Vietnam to try and learn the history of his father, and that way in the future, Randall and his grown up daughter will be saying: “It’s time to see her.” Who is this unnamed woman, and what relationship does she have to the Pearsons?
It can often be agonizing to watch This is Us — it’s almost become a recurring joke about the series. But the show would be a mawkish melodrama without the light humor that does seem to filter through it. Brown and Hartley in particular have a great gift for comedy in addition to their fine dramatic skills, and Brown has great chemistry with Susan Kalechi Watson, who, like Jack and Rebecca, have one of the most marvelous marriages on television. And its because we care so much about the Pearsons that we’re willing to go along with the twists and turns about the mythology that the writers seem willing to put together, usually because the payoffs are so much better than the ones we get for oh-so many mythology series these days.
As This is Us enters its third season, the writers led by Dan Fogelman claim that they have put together, with the flashforwards, an end-time for the series. I really hope that they don’t have an exit strategy planned for the show any time soon. It has one of the greatest mixtures of tears, laughs, and anguish that no series has managed to accomplish since Parenthood was at its peak. Broadcast TV needs series like these. TV needs series like these.
My score: 5 stars,