Thursday, September 22, 2016

This Is Us 1.01: "Pilot"

“The man left me at a fire station and I invited him into our home. What is happening?”
- Randall

Much like “The Good Place”, I had extremely high expectations for “This Is Us”. After all, I fell in love with the trailer after the first time I watched it (and then watched it again….and again). You get the picture. I was beyond pleased with the premiere of this heartwarming (and at times heart-wrenching) drama. I know we tend to like quirky shows (and a lot of genre stuff) on this blog, but something about this show just called to me. It spoke to a need to have just a window into peoples’ lives.

The more I think about this show, the more I was moved by how everyone’s reactions to the situations they found themselves in felt genuine. Let’s start with Randall (and our quote of the episode). He is a successful businessman with a wife and two adorable kids (one of whom is super competitive and the other who is less interested in sports and more interested in French braiding a teammate’s hair on the field). By all accounts he is a well-adjusted happy guy except for the fact his birth mother was a drug addict who died in child birth and his father left him at a fire station after being born. Thirty six years later, he’s finally tracked the man down. At first he doesn’t think he’s going to reach out but eventually musters the courage to confront the man. In an emotional transition, Randall goes from telling his bio dad just how successful he is and flaunts that he had loving parents who supported him. He’s trying to throw all of that in his father’s face in the hopes of making the man regret what he did. But in the end, we (and Randall) learn that his father was also a drug addict and he barely remembered the day. He’s clean now but he’s dying. Randall can’t quite explain why but he brings his father back to the house and by episode’s end it seems he is going to be staying with Randall and his family at least for a little while.

We also have Kate, an assistant who is struggling—especially on her birthday—with her overeating and her weight. It’s also hard not to talk about Kevin, a dissatisfied sitcom actor (and her brother) at the same time. They are also celebrating their thirty-sixth birthday. As Kate injures herself trying to weigh herself, he is wondering why he even took the part on the sitcom when he hates the show and feels unfulfilled in his profession (while two hot chicks who clearly just want to have sex with him) listen to his ramblings about the Challenge explosion and how it led him to be where he is. There is a glimmer of hope for Kate when she goes to an overeating support group and meets Toby, a wise cracking fella who isn’t afraid to make jokes at his own expense. The go to dinner and things look like they might transition into a more intimate setting when Kevin stumbles in, drunk. In a very impassioned scene (I thought so much what Kevin had to say was spot on) Kevin rants about the ridiculous expectations placed on him on the show. He quits his job and now he’s at a cross-road about what to do with his life. There were some very funny bits, especially with Toby wanting a selfie with Drunk Kevin.

And finally, we have Jack and Rebecca. It is Jack’s birthday (he is also turning thirty-six) and Rebecca is heavily pregnant with triplets. Their scenes were interspersed with the rest of the storylines throughout the episode but they really feel like the anchor of the episode (and for very good reason). Rebecca’s water breaks and in a tragic turn of events, they lose one of the babies. The speech that the doctor gives to Jack is heart-breaking (I’m tearing up just thinking about it right now) but it is empowering and it sticks with Jack (as we’ll see shortly). Jack and Rebecca share a moment when he tells her about their loss (not having any sound made the moment that much more poignant). And then we see the way that all of these characters are connected. Jack meets the firefighter who brought baby Randall to the hospital at the nursery and we see that Jack and Rebecca end up adopting him to complete their family. It was a very tender moment as they stand over the bassinets at home for the first time, studying their new family with a sense of hope. I am excited to see what lays ahead for the family, especially the sibling dynamic between the twins and Randall. I have to imagine they have a particular bond that Randall can’t replicate.

I have to admit, I’d read theories and guessed that Kevin and Kate were Rebecca and Jack’s surviving twins. I did not see them adopting Randall. I really like how we are going to see Jack and his children experience the same time together. The writers and the producers did a great job hiding the more obvious signs that everything didn’t take place in the same time period. All of the actors were able to give such wonderful performances, at times hilarious and others super emotional. Jack’s reaction to finding out about the loss of his baby (where he didn’t process what was being said) was handled beautifully and was so realistic. I can’t imagine going through that (or what Randall went through) but I just felt his reaction was true to that situation. As I said at the start of this post, I think as a viewer, I needed this show in my life and I think that society as a whole needs a show like “This Is Us”. It’s a different kind of escapism from genre fare but equally as important.

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