THIS IS US Review: “Last Christmas”

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It was so close to being a Christmas miracle. We were almost there. was in rare form, balancing the characters pretty well, finding togetherness and ties to the rest. “Last Christmas” was primed to be not just a great Wham! Song, but one of the better episodes of This Is Us. However, the last two minutes had to happen. The show had to do one of its now infamous twists. Just when we were getting into the Christmas spirit too. If This Is Us is good at anything, it’s the sap and cheesiness usually reserved for Christmas specials. That’s what makes the maudlin twist at the end even more infuriating: they were so close to a good thing.

THIS IS US -- "Last Christmas" Episode 110 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mackenzie Hancsicsak as 8 year old Kate, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

— “Last Christmas” Episode 110 — Pictured: (l-r) Mackenzie Hancsicsak as 8 year old Kate, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

This whole episode is tied together by a refrain that “nothing bad happens on Christmas Eve.” This is what Rebecca told Kate when she had to get her appendix taken out on Christmas Eve, and the family spent it in the hospital. While there, they see the doctor who delivered Kate and Kevin and was a lovely source of advice. He’s there hospitalized and Jack and Rebecca are determined to make sure his surgery will go smoothly. It’s a sweet story of a family being so thankful for this one man.

There is more good in this episode than usual. A great reveal is that William has a man in his life, Jesse, a British gentleman he met through AA. Though, William kind of abandoned poor Jesse after he found out about his son, it’s a Christmas episode, so old wounds seem to heal themselves. Besides just giving William more depth, the inclusion of Jesse finally gives a hint of LGBTQ representatio to the “Us” that this show supposedly is. As Randall’s daughter points out, “Grandpa’s gay, or at least bi.” The children really are our future. Jesse being present provided both the representation and backstory for William that is a welcome delight.

THIS IS US -- "Last Christmas" Episode 110 -- Pictured: (l-r) Ron Cephas Jones as William, Denis O'Hare as Jesse -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

— “Last Christmas” Episode 110 — Pictured: (l-r) Ron Cephas Jones as William, Denis O’Hare as Jesse — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Kevin also has some romance budding, and we can all that our lucky stars that it’s not Olivia. Instead it is the playwright he slept with once, and is now getting Hanukkah dinner with. Sloane is a charming addition and works well off of Kevin. It’s a small little romance, but works well, given as she wrote the very play that brought him to New York in the first place. The play can no longer go up due to their lead jumping ship, but Kevin tries to convince Sloane to be the lead, and still mount the play. Despite the fact that that’s not really how the theater industry works, Kevin’s commitment to the work is the definition of character development. There were surely be some turmoil regarding the play/romance/the Olivia situation, but for now it’s good to see two people encourage each other artistically.

The third romantic plot of this week is the ever insufferable Kate and Toby. After she continues to pursue a seemingly dangerous surgery for weight loss, she gets a surprise visitor at Randall’s house. Who could it be but her ex who does not respect her boundaries? Lo and behold, like a clean shaven Santa Claus, Toby comes in a gives a romantic speech about how he’ll keep dieting for Kate and loves her and sat in a middle seat and all that jazz. Though it’s sweet in the moment, it’s just another instance of how Toby is good at romantic gestures but not at being a steady boyfriend.

THIS IS US -- "Last Christmas" Episode 110 -- Pictured: (l-r) Justin Hartley as Kevin, Eris Baker as Tess, Milana Vayntrub as Sloane -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

— “Last Christmas” Episode 110 — Pictured: (l-r) Justin Hartley as Kevin, Eris Baker as Tess, Milana Vayntrub as Sloane — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

During all this, Jimmy Smits visited from Westworld to be Randall’s suicidal coworker. Randall tries to talk him down off a ledge, and partially succeeds, even though the whole thing seems to exist so Randall can become grateful for the things in his life. It’s kind of a cheap ploy, using Jimmy’s pain to make Randall have a realization that he loves his family. It does pay off for Randall when he simply lights up at every new face that comes into his home. Watching this mish mosh of a family all celebrate the holiday together is a reinforcement of the thesis of the show. This is us. It would be a great way to end the fall finale, with a moment of joy and togetherness. Oh no. Wait. That would be too easy.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Toby passes out and has to be rushed to the hospital for surgery. It’s not looking well as his monitor beeps irregularly. What’s going to happen? Is he going to die? Why did the writers do this to a perfectly good fall finale? All these questions and more will have to wait to be answered when This Is Us returns in January. Something great better happen to justify hospitalizing a random character for no other reason than shock value. There’s probably a “good times are fleeting, so we must cherish them,” lesson that This Is Us is trying to teach us here, but it just feels like a way for them to remind the audience that they still have twists. Overall it feels cheap and dampening to an otherwise solid episode.

TB-TV-Grade-B

Season 1, Episode 10 (S01E10)
This Is Us airs Tuesday at 10PM on NBC

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Raina spends most of her time watching television and trying to find the perfect bagel and lox, because she likes being emotionally distraught.
Follow Raina on Twitter: @ItsRainaingMen
Keep up with all of Raina’s reviews here.

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