‘This Is Us’ Review: It could happen to anyone

Warning: This entire post contains spoilers from the January 23 episode of  This Is Us. If you have not watched it yet, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU WAITING FOR. Go watch it right now. Put your children in time out. Make up a reason. Leave work if you must. Then come back here and discuss. 

 

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This was us last night, amiright??

That was me, at least — and probably most of the viewing audience — in the final seconds of This Is Us when we finally got to see exactly what it was that was the cause of Jack’s death.

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Shock and horror, not at the fire we’ve known was the culprit, but at the ridiculously normal way it started.

A faulty appliance.

Sure, we can all say “But the crock pot was over 18 years old! And they knew it had a wonky switch!” to make ourselves feel better, like it was an avoidable mistake and one we certainly wouldn’t make (I mean, who keeps a crock pot with a faulty switch for over 18 years??), but deep down we all know it was a accident that could happen to anyone, which is precisely what now makes Jack’s death that much more cruel.

It could happen to anyone.

I think when bad things happen it’s our natural instinct to immediately look for the thing that makes us feel like the same bad thing could never happen to us.

She got cancer? That’s just terrible, but both her parents had it so…
Car accident? He was probably texting or had a couple of cocktails, and I don’t do that.
Overdose? *shakes head

Whether it be the bad hand that was dealt or the terrible choices that were made, I think death is just easier to grasp when we can explain it away: when we can make it seem like it can’t touch us. I’ll admit, it’s a horrible thing to do, but like with most coping mechanisms, it’s natural. And Jack’s impending death has been no different.

I don’t know about you, but over the past year I’ve imagined all sorts of scenarios that do Jack in. Scenarios that make him seem like he had it coming in a horrible-I-realize kind of a way. Scenarios that somehow would make the tragedy easier to take, especially the more invested I’ve become with this family and have, week by week, learned the gravity his loss has had on them.

During season one I was certain it would be his addictions that would kill him. Tragic, no question, but at the same time, almost expected. And then I was sure he would turn on Rebecca and end up being a cheater or hurt her in some other way which would make his death less unbearable (and yes, I know that the way they all still worship him in the present does not support that theory, but shut up, it made me feel better).

But nope.

Jack was certainly flawed, but was a husband who adored his wife.
He was a superb father who was unfailingly there for his kids, regardless if they wanted him there or not.
HE WAS A MAN WHO CLEANED UP THE KITCHEN AND WIPED THE COUNTERS DOWN FOR GOD’S SAKE.

His only flaw — his fatal flaw — is maybe that he was too good of a husband and father. 
Oh, and that he turned off the crock pot and didn’t hang up the dish towel that was sitting next to it. 

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DAMN THAT OLD MAN FOR GIFTING THEM JACK’S DEATH 18 YEARS AGO.
Seriously, how random was that whole thing? That dotty old couple, who until the final minute of the episode were a mystery to us; a puzzle piece that we just couldn’t fit in.
Until we could, in the most awful way.

And so now we know, and now many other pieces are quickly filling in, or will fill in next episode:

Kate’s feeling of responsibility over her father’s death and the reason she has an issue with dogs? I predict Jack is going to run back in the house for Kate’s trusty mutt, because as we all know, JACK WILL DO ANYTHING FOR HIS CHILDREN (especially Katie-girl), but he won’t come back out. (We know the dog is fine, btw, remember the end of the season two premiere when Kate and Randall are sitting on Miguel’s couch crying … with the dog??)

Kevin’s issues — all 200 of them? Not taking Rebecca up on the offer to talk to his dad when he called from Sophie’s — lying, btw — and not apologizing for being a dick to him. For taking his dad for granted. For hurting him. For being the only Pearson not in the house when it burned down. The only family member who didn’t live through the horror of Jack’s last minutes.

And Randall? Randall has spent his whole adult life trying to be a replacement for his dad, not just for Rebecca but for Beth and his own kids. I don’t know yet how the fire intensified those choices, or if it even did. Perhaps it was simply losing his adored father so tragically that drove him to become Jack 2.0 — right down to ditching his corporate job for construction.

I guess we still don’t know for absolutely sure the horrific and terrifying events that are mere seconds away from happening in the next episode. I mean, we do know that despite the inferno that is ripping through the house and the lack of batteries in the smoke detector, Rebecca, Kate, and Randall escape without much harm (again, remembering the end of the season two premiere when the kids are crying on Miguel’s couch and Rebecca is driving home with Jack’s things in a bag — they all seem, if not emotionally stable, unburned) … which again points to Jack going back in for the damn dog.

Again, an innocent, totally normal thing that any of us might do.
(Sidenote: When we predicted this, I turned to my husband and asked him to promise me he would not run back inside for the cats, which he could not do.)

A generous gift.
A faulty appliance.
A misplaced kitchen towel.
A forgotten smoke detector.
Harsh, hurtful words you wish you could take back.
A parent’s instinctual decision to do anything for his child.
A cruel twist of fate.
An unsuspecting recipe for a lifetime of pain.

And so now have 11 more long, painful days to rehash ALL THE MOMENTS and question ALL THE DECISIONS.
As if the Viking’s tragic loss last week wasn’t going to make Superbowl Sunday sad enough around here.
By the way, brilliant programming, NBC. Way to twist the knife and reveal Jack’s death on HIS FAVORITE DAY OF THE YEAR.

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Holy crap, you guys.
I’ll be under my desk if you need me.

 

*Other, less heartbreaking moments because I need a palate cleanser to end this: 

When Kate brought the “Jacob Tremblay look alike” dog home to Toby. Swear to God, that made me cry more than anything else in the episode. Her bringing that dog home to Toby really shows how Toby is healing for her and is a constant, trustworthy support in her life … much like her father was.
Kate+Toby = OTP

Any and every scene with Randall and Beth together. Their quick (loving) barbs are hilarious. Love their new venture, especially now that we know Jack wanted to have Rebecca join him in his new venture … HOURS BEFORE HE DIED.
Present day Jack FTW.

And perhaps the best moment of this tragic episode?
KEVIN GOT THE NECKLACE BACK.
HALLELUJAH AND CUE A MILLION TEARS.

 

Now, let me know YOUR thoughts in the comments below! I promise to check back and we’ll chat … and hold each other close for the next 11 days. 

 



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  • Jamie - The note that Jack left on Kevin’s door…Thank goodness Kevin never saw that. Can you imagine if he knew those were his Dad’s “last words” to him (“you owe us an apology.”)
    So, after we see this awful night, what’s going to be the next sobbing moments or history to explain? Hasn’t everything been wrapped up and explained?ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - Oh my gosh, I guess there’s so much more!! Yesterday I read a great article with Dan Fogelman (the show’s creator) and he was saying that these scenes — and more to come — were actually the first scenes they read to the network when they were pitching the show!! So they know all sorts of things still to come. I posted the link to the article on this blog’s Facebook page (see link up top on the right if you don’t already follow!).ReplyCancel

  • Karen - Thank goodness for Randall and Beth and the Jacob Tremblay dog for a few smiles. If you are right and he went back for the dog and the dog lived and he didn’t…oh my no wonder Kate has issues…

    ..oh and the necklace …cue tears!

    thanks for the recap – as always so great to read.ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - Right?? Don’t you just LOVE the scenes with Randall and Beth?? Their timing is spot on and the writers do such a good job writing for them. I just adore them. Toby also gets a lot of great one liners!
      I keep thinking of Kate and how that day she told her dad never to stop being her #1 fan and how she watched him watch her with such love in that video … and then she (might) send him back in TO HIS DEATH. HOlY cow that would be a weight that would be hard to bear (literally).ReplyCancel

  • Lara - Pretty much everything you said echoes everything I was thinking. My yellow lab, Major, had come to sit with me on the sofa because I was crying throughout the episode…and he is always concerned when I cry. When she brought Audio home to Toby, I turned to Major and just hugged him and cried on him. That poor dog probably thinks his Mommy is mental. LOLReplyCancel

    • Michelle - That’s so sweet!! And I’m telling you, I had more tears at that scene than any of the final moments. I think I’ve created an emotional wall for myself with this show, though. It’s like I won’t let myself cry at the expected parts, but damn if there are other — smaller moments — that get me!ReplyCancel

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