Warning: This entire post contains spoilers from the February 4th and 6th episodes of This Is Us. If you have not watched them yet, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU WAITING FOR. Go watch right now. Put your children in time out. Make up a reason. Leave work if you must. Then come back here and discuss.
11:06 p.m. – post This Is Us’ post-mortem. And once again I’m lying in bed, sleepless, thanks to a fictitious family, a horrific event that finally has come to be and laid to rest, and incredible — insomnia-inducing — storytelling.
It’s not the first, second, or hell, 8th time I’ve lain awake over the past year or so, looong after watching an episode and gone over all the intricacies of the Pearson’s timeline, picking apart clues and events that shaped their lives, trying to make sense of and attempt to figure out each character’s baggage. But tonight’s sleeplessness is sponsored by something new: finality.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote this review and gave a few predictions, which turned out to be sort-of accurate. However, a few days after writing that review I read an interview with Dan Fogelman, the creator of This Is Us, which made me rethink a few things, as I often do.
So before my Olly sleep gummies kick in, let’s talk Jack’s death scene, Rebecca’s super-strength, Kate’s big speech, the metaphor of McGiggles, seeing the future, Kevin’s lifelong dickiness, and moving on.
Seriously, you guys, as gut-wrenching as Jack’s death was, for me, the quick and quiet way it happened was somehow less painful then if he had perished in that fire. Maybe it’s because the horrific image of your husband and father burning up and being consumed by flames is more terrifying than a quick (and I do mean quick — how long had Rebecca been out of that hospital room, maybe 3 minutes?) and sudden heart attack, but if I had to pick one method of death, I think I’d go with option B.
And maybe it’s because after knowing Jack survived the fire I could play out what was going to happen (we knew from the season premiere that Rebecca left that hospital alone with a baggie of Jack’s belongings) so I was able to anticipate it, which made it far less shocking to me than to, say, Rebecca. I don’t know what it was that made his death almost anti-climactic for me, but what I do know is that Rebecca’s reaction — not only her disbelief and irritation at the doctor when he told her Jack was dead, but also her breakdown when she realized the truth — was so, so heartbreakingly real. I read that Mandy Moore didn’t know Milo Ventimiglia would be lying on that hospital bed when she walked back in — she was expecting the room to be empty — which made her reaction that much more honest and raw.
And while we’re talking about Mandy Moore’s guaranteed ’18 Emmy nomination, let’s talk about how Rebecca pulled her shit together and basically told Miguel to get his shit together or get the hell out while she told Kate and Randall their father was suddenly and unexpectedly DEAD.
Her strength. The conviction in her face. The fact that she so bravely disregarded her own grief in that moment to be strong for her kids. Mandy Moore killed it (sorry for the distasteful pun).
I was actually reminded of that scene in this recent episode when Rebecca tells Dr. K that she’s not sure she can do it; not sure she can be the parent Jack was. I thought back to those moments after losing Jack so unexpectedly — how stunned she must have been, how her heart must have been ripped in a million pieces — and how she did exactly what Jack would have done. She put the kids first.
Speaking of the kids, on a personal note I have to admit that it was present-day Kate that unleashed my floodgate of tears in the Super Bowl episode when she shared the seemingly inconsequential memory about her dad always fixing her window … and how he was always there for them (something like that … TBH I was instantly ugly crying and was trying to find a Kleenex). You see, I didn’t have a father around when I was growing up, but that sad fact isn’t what broke me. What did it is knowing that my own girls have had a father a lot like Jack around, and have endless, seemingly inconsequential memories that they will be able to carry with them forever. Which is so wonderful. And did. me. in.
(When I blubbered this to my husband, BTW, he was like, you’re killing me off in your mind right now, aren’t you?
Me: I mean … no?)
That’s what this show does so well, isn’t it? Making us form connections to our own lives, experiences, families. I’m not sure my ugly, snotty tears always agree that it’s a good thing, but I don’t think we can dispute that it’s powerul.
Thankfully, we had a bit of comic relief with — as usual — Randall and Beth, and for a very short while, Mr. McGiggles, whose abbreviated life and death were certainly some sort of narrative of Randall’s coping mechanisms, but I’m not entirely sure what kind of narrative. What I do know is that having McGiggles die suddenly and so, so tragically seemed to switch something in Randall’s annual upbeat Super Bowl celebration as he was, again, faced with death and had to confront his feelings about it — heartbreakingly (and hilariously) in front of a group of pre-teens. His deep, thoughtful eulogy was so Randall. I loved it. And, AS USUAL, I loved Beth’s reaction.
What I loved even more? Seeing future-Randall!! And future-Tess, who looks exactly like present-day Tess (the casting department on this show nails it with matching the generations of characters, don’t they?) This opens up entire seasons now! Future Big Three! This Is Us forever!!
Before we talk briefly about the funeral, can I just say that as far as Kevin goes, the one thing I’ve really taken away about him from the past two episodes is that he’s always pretty much been a dick. The end.
Okay, the funeral. The whole “moving on” part we are all expected to do now that we know.
I’ve read today (yeah, I fell asleep about four paragraphs into this post, ya’ll, and then — naturally — dreamed about the Pearsons all night long) that for many people, this funeral episode was more gut-punching than the Super Bowl episode.
No question, it was another brilliantly written and thought out episode:
The Wagoneer and how it was more than just a car — especially after hearing Jack’s speech to the car dealer about what it would be for their family — it was the keeper of memories: good, bad, messy. A metaphor of their family.
The symbolism of having the doctor that not only delivered the kids but who brought Jack strength throughout the past 17 years being the only one to provide comfort and strength to Rebecca.
Rebecca’s continued strength for her children in the midst of the most terrifying time in her life. Again, Mandy Moore slaying every scene she was in.
The symbolism of Rebecca being able to drive her kids across that bridge without Jack after years of not even being able to ride shotgun across it with her eyes open. In that moment, we knew she was going to be okay. Was it too soon for it to be realistic? Was it too soon for them to all go to the Springsteen concert? It was, after all, only six days since Jack’s sudden, shocking death.
But hey, as much as we want to believe it to be, it’s not real life.
I think the folks at Crock-Pot will back me up on that.
Oh, you guys, I could go on and on and on. I didn’t even touch on Kate’s guilt or the evolving (but really static) relationship between the boys or how I now get how Rebecca has felt “less than” all these years: like she’s having to make up for Jack. But I think I’ve gone on long enough.
It’s your turn now. Thoughts? Leave them here and NOT on the Facebook page, please. As hard as it is to believe, some people haven’t watched yet.
As always, thanks for reading and being a virtual support group! xo