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Last year, NBC’s drama This Is Us became the breakout hit of the year. While many broadcast network series struggled to stay afloat and find an audience, This Is Us, which centers around the Pearson family and its three siblings, had viewers tuning in – and crying – by the millions.
Each Tuesday, folks watched to learn a little more about the story of “The Big Three” — Kate, Kevin and Randall — and fans weren’t disappointed. Almost immediately, viewers became enraptured by Kate’s (Chrissy Metz) struggle to love herself and step into her power, Kevin’s (Justin Hartley) decision to stop playing it safe and become a “real” actor, and Randall’s (Sterling K. Brown) quest to connect to his biological father. The show adeptly switched between the past and the present to tell the interwoven narrative of the Pearson siblings and their parents Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia).
At the end of last season, each member of the Pearson family was on the verge of a major shift. Kate stopped being afraid of her relationship with Toby and decided to marry him, Kevin reconnected with his ex-wife and rekindled their relationship, and after burying his birth father, William (Ron Cephas Jones), Randall decided he wanted to adopt a child. And though we found out earlier in the season that Jack had passed away when the Big Three were teens, we didn’t know how, and viewers were eager to find out how the doting dad met his end.
This season promised to once again incite all the feels, and the premiere didn’t disappoint. It opened with a poem from William, one of the most beloved characters of season one, giving some advice to his son. William’s words also bookend the episode, which was all about love.
Like last season, the show begins on the Big Three’s birthday. Instead of their birth story, the show flashes back to their parents telling them they are separating for a few days, throwing the their seemingly perfect marriage into jeopardy. The siblings are understandably upset at the news, but Jack and Rebecca insist they’ll pull through.
In the present day, Kate finally seems to be in a happy place. She’s no longer taking care of her brother or hating herself because of her weight. Instead, she decides to get back into singing, something she loves. She decides to audition for a wedding cover band, but gets intimidated. Though she’s come a long way to feel more confident in her skin, Kate lets herself get psyched out by all of the thin, traditionally beautiful women at the audition. So she leaves… something she fails to tell Toby until she meets him and Kevin for dinner later that evening.
Toby is excited to hear about the audition, but gets upset when he finds out Kate already told Kevin she didn’t go through with it. Kevin tries to smooth things over, but Toby tells him to fall back, especially if he’s going to be Kate’s husband. Kate hears her brother and her fiancé arguing and steps in. She doesn’t choose sides, but she puts them both on notice, telling them they don’t have to “coddle” or “push” her, as Toby suggests. In that moment she decides to head back to the audition where things don’t quite go according to plan. Instead of out-singing the other women, Kate is cut short after a few notes and she thinks it’s because of her size and says so. But after having another woman sing the opening bars of the same song, the gruff musician tells Kate her size doesn’t matter, her voice just isn’t good enough. Kate isn’t deflated, she’s actually hopeful because her weight didn’t cost her an opportunity for once. She decides to get better as a singer so she can pursue her dream.
Across the country, Randall is on a mission. After finding, then losing, his birth father, Randall wants to have another baby with his wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson). He decides adoption is the best route, but Beth isn’t feeling it. Still, they decide to go meet with a private adoption counselor who tells them they both need to be on the same page. After quipping that Randall wants to adopt a baby because he was adopted (and it would be even better if they found one at a firehouse), Beth leaves the meeting. The pair meet up in the parking lot where Randall tells his wife she “needs to get her head around this” adoption because it’s going to happen.
Beth, like many Black women, objects to her feelings of being dismissed so she leaves. Instead of going off, she retreats to a park where she used to meet up with William, Randall’s birth father. During a touching flashback, Beth tells Williams that Randall is stubborn and has forced his needs — like finding his biological dad and inviting him to live with them — on her. It’s clear Beth is still mourning William’s death and isn’t certain about replicating Randall’s experience by adopting a new baby. Randall, on the other hand, is looking for some advice so he heads to his mom’s house.
After asking how she knew she wanted to adopt him, Rebecca tells Randall it was complicated. He presses the issue, telling his mother, “That’s something people say when they don’t want to tell the truth.” So Rebecca comes clean and admits she initially didn’t want to take Randall home after losing one baby and giving birth to two more, but Jack insisted. Eventually Randall became her life, but Jack had to push the issue. Rebecca explains it this way: “Sometimes in marriage, someone has to be the one to push to make the big moves.” Randall seems like the one making the big move and pushing Beth to get on board with the adoption, but he realizes that’s not what he wants to do.
He returns home to his wife and says that if she doesn’t want to adopt, he’ll just have to put that energy into volunteering or mentoring children because he doesn’t want to mess of their “perfectly imperfect” relationship. But Beth has another proposition. After taking Randall to William’s favorite park, Beth tells him that if they’re going to adopt, they should choose an older child nobody wants and really pour into his life.
The episode ends with William’s words to protect love once you find it and Jack and Rebecca deciding to work on their marriage. After admitting he’s an alcoholic who needs help, Jack tells Rebecca he has to clean himself up first before going home. But Rebecca won’t go away that easily, she tells him that they will both deal with whatever he’s struggling with and in a few months things will be better. Unfortunately, a few months later Jack is dead. While we still don’t know what exactly happened (I’m not sure if I’m emotionally prepared to find out), in the last scene of the premiere we see the kids crying after finding out he’s passed away and Rebecca pulling up in front of the charred remains of a house.
Fans of the show still have a ton of questions, but if the first episode is any indication, we’re in for another emotional ride.