It’s getting to the point in THIS IS US where there is almost some nostalgia for the days of the convoluted twists. It was never a great writing choice to end every episode on an expectations-shifting cliffhanger of a plot twist, but at least there was something to look forward to during that time. Now, every episode is starting to feel a little sluggish. It’s clear where most of the plots are going, and there just isn’t enough intrigue to keep the show captivating. Sure, bringing back to twists would bring a whole other slew of problems, but it would get rid of the biggest issue that plagues the back half of this season: it’s kind of boring.
The most concrete example of this takes place in the flashback portion of the episode. Though it was marketed as the big wedding day episode, we see about three minutes of Jack and Rebecca’s wedding, and then flash forward to their marriage in 1996. The episode begs the question, “is the love gone” seeing as the spark has worn off, and their friends are getting a divorce. This is This Is Us though, the main couple isn’t just going to deal with the fact that a marriage can potentially go stale. There is going to be a big romantic gesture to remind the captive viewers at home that love is real, and all you need is some twinkle lights and re-reading some vows to completely save it. The one interesting thing this plot gives us is that Rebecca wants to go on tour, which she brings up to Jack at the tail end up this episode. It would be interesting to see that conflict try to play out more, and I’m sure it will, but the hint of it tacked onto a cheesy romantic gesture was not enough to create a compelling episode.
Equally predictable is Kevin’s pursuit of his ex-wife. He essentially chases her through a subway, tell her he loves her and they need to give it another shot. Poor Sophie has to be burdened with a man who, we find out, cheated on her and now won’t leave her alone. She tells Kevin that he really messed her up before, but now she’s finally dating someone who’s nice. Kevin, of course, and the entire canon of the show, interprets “dating someone nice” as a passionless relationship. I bet Sophie’s x-ray technician boyfriend is great, or at least better than Kevin who made a fake facebook account to keep tabs on his ex. What This Is Us claims to be romantic, most people would claim to be creepy. Kevin tells Sophie to meet him at their table at their restaurant the next day, and if she doesn’t, she’ll leave him alone. Just imagine how great it would be if Kevin realizes this gestures don’t work and just sat along and figured out some stuff about himself, but alas! That cannot be. Just when hope is almost gone, Sophie appears in the restaurant ready to give this very sweet tool another change. Just as we all knew would happen.
Another predictable move is throwing one of the endlessly joyful Toby and Kate arguments back in the mix. Kate doesn’t want Toby to interrupt her weight loss program! Toby feels like he’s being neglected! They both have good points and clearly are not a good fit, despite a post-heart attack proposal. In fact, though Toby is a nicer person, it’s easier to root for the kind of mean guy at the fat camp who keeps hitting on Kate. At the end of the episode, he tells her to stop trying to be a good person, and then gives her his cabin number if she’s into it. It’s unclear what Kate will decide, but it will probably to go back to Toby. It would be a much more interesting story line if she did cheat on him though. Normally infidelity is and old and boring device, but exploring the side of Kate who wants to act out and doesn’t fall all over Toby would be fascinating, also a great excuse for her to do anything that isn’t sit around in self pity about her weight.
Finally, our hero and the man who deserves his own show, Randall Pearson, is having an understandably difficult time with the idea of his father dying soon. It’s a plot that would seem to fall into the over the top territory of the rest of This Is Us but Sterling K Brown plays Randall’s fear and anxiety so close to home, that the cheesiness of the writing falls into the background. Also, we get more of Beth and the girls who are criminally underused in most of the show. Beth and Randall’s marriage seems so much less forced than Jack and Rebecca’s as Beth makes her husband attend their daughter’s chess tournament instead of his business meetings. Of course, that means Randall’s boss doesn’t give him as much work and he’s no longer the top guy at his firm. This feels very low stakes as he still has a high paying job, and is doing well, but just isn’t the best anymore. Considering it would give him more time to spend with his family, including his dying father, it doesn’t seem to be the end of the world. Of course, it may just be displaced fear at the thought of William leaving soon. That fear and that family deserves more than the silver they got this week, and hopefully the nuances will trump the predictability in weeks to come.
Season 1, Episode 14 (S01E14)
This Is Us airs Tuesday at 10PM on NBC
Raina spends most of her time watching television and trying to find the perfect bagel and lox, because she likes being emotionally distraught.
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Raina Deerwater | Contributor