THIS IS US Review: “Number Two”

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My mother stopped having children after my brother was born.  It was a decision she made after my brother’s birth.  She felt guilty about something she did not have any control over.  I knew this week’s episode was going to be a hard one based on the end of Kevin’s episode last week.  Kate experiences a miscarriage.  It’s heartbreaking, but real.  Miscarriage is a topic that is rarely explored on television.  But by the end of the episode, I felt optimistic – that despite it all – perhaps everything will be okay and Kate will continue to fight.

I poured a glass of wine, wait no a goblet of wine, and mentally prepared myself for this episode.  Last week’s episode worked on a narrative level.  This week’s episode hit the right emotionally.  The structure wasn’t as strong, but in typical fashion it didn’t really matter.  What mattered was the important moment towards the end of the episode between Kate and Rebecca.   A touching moment between mother and daughter – both who have now experienced loss.

Kate loses her baby after writing down a list of questions to ask her doctor when she comes in for her next appointment.  It happens early in the first act of the episode, which sets up Kate’s grieving process.  Throughout the episode, Kate goes though the grieving steps of denial, anger and then acceptance which frames this week’s episode.  She first pulls away from Toby, which she does every time something difficult happens – maybe one day we will learn why she is so emotionally closed off.  Twelve hours after the miscarriage, Kate heads to a singing gig to perform.  She thinks she’s fine until she watches a young child dance on the dance floor.  It’s too much and she leaves in the middle of the gig.  Midway through the episode, Kate hits her anger stage which she takes out on Toby.  “Toby, it happened to me.  It didn’t happen to you.”  A conversation that I’ll dig into later because it’s a conversation that is worth discussion.  Near the end of the episode after the fight with Toby, Kate opens her door to find Rebecca.  And after talking to her mom, who also has been through her own grief after the death of Kyle, Kate learns to accept what happened and decides to try again in the future.  Landing the episode on an uplifting note, which is the complete opposite of where we were last week with the fall of Kevin.

This season has focused on Kate and Rebecca’s relationship.  A relationship filled with resentment from Kate and pushiness from Rebecca.  But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who was right or wrong or who did what – Rebecca will always be there for her daughter.  And Rebecca showed up in this week’s episode at the exact moment Kate needed her mom.  A promise she made to Kate at the hospital while Kevin’s knee is getting looked at in teenage Kate’s storyline this week.  “It’s my to keep standing there with my arms wide open waiting for you to maybe some day fall inside if you need it.”  

Young Kate’s storyline takes place the same day as Kevin’s from last week.  And while this day was a life changing day for Kevin, this was just a normal day for Kate.  A day she probably only remembers as the day Kevin hurt his knee.  And that’s one reason why I don’t this episode worked from a narrative standpoint like it did for Kevin’s episode last week.  This particular day had a direct connection to where Kevin is now.  But what connection does this day have on current day Kate?  Nothing really happened to Kate except she had a nice conversation with mom, which really just highlighted how great Mandy Moore is at playing Rebecca.  This is why I don’t think this episode is as strong as last week’s.  However, conversations were had that made this episode still impactful.

I cannot remember a time when I saw two women talk on screen about what it’s like to have a miscarriage.  The loss, the emotion, the emptiness, the guilt and wonder.  And while we’ve talked to each other about miscarriages in real life, because there is at least someone we know who has experienced it, when have we actually seen it talked about on the television screen?  It was a powerful moment between two women who have both experienced the grief and guilt over the loss of a child, but it’s also a powerful moment between mother and daughter.  Both Chrissy Metz and Mandy Moore do a terrific in this scene.

I’m not a Toby fan, I will probably never ever be a Toby fan, but we cannot have an episode about Kate and not talk about Toby.  Toby is half of the equation of Kate and Toby.  And while at times he is difficult to root for, I was on his side throughout this episode especially during the warehouse scene when he went looking for the box to ensure it didn’t arrive at their apartment for Kate to see.  And while it wasn’t his body, as Kate reminds him during their fight, he is also affected by the loss of the baby.  “I will be your entire support system through all of this.  I will hold your head in my lap.  I will stroke your hair and I will tell you that everything is going to be okay until the cows come home.  But what I will not do, which is not fair for you to do, is to tell me that I wasn’t apart of this. Yeah, it didn’t happen to my body, I get that, I have no idea what that must be like for you and I’m trying to be strong here because that’s the gig. But it happened to me too.  And it hurt.”  It’s a perspective that is needed to round out the conversation about miscarriages.  Because while the mother is both physically and emotionally impacted – the father is emotionally impacted as well and often times I think we forget that.

While this episode is not as strong narratively as last week’s, it brought up discussions that are worth having.  It was an episode that showed women sharing an experience that almost every female can relate to.  And with everything that is happening in the world today, it’s nice to be reminded that we’re heading in the right direction – if this show was on ten years ago, or even five years ago, I don’t think the conversation between Kate and Rebecca would have happened.  The episode ends with Kate telling Toby she is willing to try again in the future to and that’s the hope we need right now.

Bring on “Number Three.”

TB-TV-Grade-B+Season 2, Episode 9 (S02E09)
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 10PM on NBC

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