Maybe it’s the hiatus, or the remnants of the holiday spirit, or Sterling K Brown’s always exceptional performance, but either way, it was good to have THIS IS US back. As per always, there were some overly cheesy moments and questionable plot choices, and Toby is still far too much, but overall, the mid-season premiere of This Is Us, got it mostly right. It was a welcome surprise.
To start with the not great, let’s delve into that wild mid-season cliff-hanger, where Toby had to be rushed to the hospital. It turns out he’s fine, or at least fine enough to make a bunch of sexual advances toward Kate. It could be charming at first, but he keeps doing it so much that it feels a bit creepy. But maybe that’s just Toby’s M.O. He’s gotta do something to make up for the literal hole in his heart that he is sporting. He has to have some surgery, which he isn’t too happy about, but Kate, being a responsible adult, makes him get it. This leads to a confession of love from Toby that Kate doesn’t reciprocate at first. It would have been fascinating to see the universe where Toby said he loved Kate and she didn’t feel it yet, or doesn’t want to say it for a while. We could experience the contrast in Toby’s love versus the inevitable anger he would feel, and see if Kate really wants the presence in her life. We don’t get that, though, we get Kate coming in post-surgery and telling Toby she loves him and then he talks about marriage. Their relationship is moving way too fast, and there’s something very off putting about Kate’s shock and awe at Toby being so in love with her. It would be preferable to see the growth of Kate’s confidence instead of her relationship.
Speaking of relationships, Kevin has found himself in a fun little love triangle. Him and Sloane seem very happy with each other, on an artistic level and a not artistic level. Of course, that’s gotta be ruined by the British annoyance known as Olivia, coming back and saying she’s all better and wants to be with Kevin. It’s a weird and abrupt turnaround to have Kevin yelling at her to change a couple episodes ago, and then her essentially saying “okay!” It doesn’t feel earned in the slightest. Justin Hartley does a solid job, though, of being bewildered about these two women wanting to be with him. There’s a great scene in the hospital, one of the few where we see all three triplets together, where Randall tells Kevin this might not be a real problem. Kevin, being a lovable idiot, accidentally makes it into a bigger problem when he tells Olivia he can’t be with her, even if he wants to because it’s not “the right thing to do.” Ah, romance. Sloane is rightful upset by this, leaving Kevin with no girlfriend at all.
Also with no girlfriend is William, given that he is dating a very nice man named Jesse. Randall has a hard time processing that his father is bisexual. Also, props to William for being the rarely seen demographic of older bisexual man, it’s a much needed viewpoint in television today, and Ron Cephas Jones plays it with grace. Even Randall’s confusion is purposefully shown not to be homophobic as he himself literally questions if he is homophobic or not. It turns into being a much more honest and real conflict, of Randall being upset that his father hid something from him, and that he might not get to see that much of William in the little time he has life. Turns out, William is well aware of this, and the two of them share the best scene of the episode, where Randall confesses these fears, and William says he doesn’t want his son to see him die. It’s a moment fueled by love and hurt and works with these two talented actors really giving it their all. It’s peak This Is Us, and hopefully is an indicator for what is to come in the future from this show.
The snippet of the past we received this week centered around Jack and Rebecca finding out they were going to have twins and rightfully panicking. More than anything, this lead to a confirmation how how terrible both of their parents are. Rebecca’s mom was aggresive and straight up mean to her daughter and Jack’s father was an abuser. It’s a little heavy handed, but still inspiring to see how the two of them managed to raise three pretty decent kids despite their less than ideal upbringing. The episode ends with Jack borrowing money from his terrible dad to buy a house for him and Rebecca, and not telling his dad about Rebecca nor vice versa. This will surely come back to bite him in the ass, but for now it’s appreciated as a sweet gesture of a guy just trying his hardest to be a good person. Hopefully that intention is carried out by everyone for the rest of the season.
Season 1, Episode 11 (S01E11)
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