HOLLYWOOD—Rarely can I say a TV drama has made me cry or constantly reflect on my family dynamics after each episode, but man NBC’s “This is Us” sure knows how to pull on the heart strings America. The series returned for its highly anticipated second season this past week, delivering more emotional moments, tearjerkers and perhaps the biggest clue fans have been waiting for since the first season revealed that Jack would die. Yes, we have an idea of how Jack might die, but I suspect there might be much more to this than what meets the eye.
At the end of season one it was revealed that Jack and Rebecca were having some major issues in their marriage, notably the impact of Jack’s drinking on their relationship and how he pummeled her singing career that meant so much to her. Jack wasn’t able to come to grips with Rebecca chasing a pipe dream that seemed like a waste of time. As a result, it lead to fractures in the family, as Rebecca and Jack revealed to the kids that they were going to take some time apart and Jack would be moving out of the house. The kids certainly didn’t take the news well people.
Fast-forward to the present where Kevin, Kate and Randal are all celebrating their 37th birthday. Kevin is a bit bummed that his girlfriend won’t be able to celebrate with him in Los Angeles, just as Kate and Toby seem to be in a great place. Well, it at least seems that way. Kate is prepping to audition to showcase her singing voice and is a bit worried about what to wear and what not to wear, while Kevin crashes the party causing a bit of friction between Kate and Toby.
I think this is an interesting dynamic to see the writers tackle: the relationship between a brother and sister, and just how strong their bond truly is. Kate is always going to have Kevin’s back and vice versa. However, when you introduce another party to the mix, friction strikes. Why? Toby is a bit jealous of Kevin. I mean he’s good looking, a celebrity of sorts, has plenty of money and tends to be Kate’s #1 confidant.
Toby wants to be all those things for Kate, so when he calls Kevin out on it, the two have a minor argument where Toby voices how he feels. In the end, all ends well because Kate who initially bailed on the audition decides to give it a second go. Even though things don’t go as planned, she has a newfound confidence in her from having failed. Great message people, sometimes you have to fail in order to succeed. You can’t embrace true success without failing a few times along the way.
As for Jack and Rebecca, the void of not having Jack in her life takes a toll on the mom of three who utilizes a trip to the movies to brighten up her lonely heart and to cheer up the kids. At this time the viewer, is still seeing Jack grapple with his alcoholism, so much to the point that he goes back to that club where Rebecca once sang begging the owner to give his wife a shot. I mean Jack was even willing to PAY the go for his wife to live out his dream. However, the most heartbreaking moment was watching Rebecca show up asking Jack to come back home. Jack in his most vulnerable state, breaks down in tears as he reveals to Rebecca that he has a drinking problem, similar to his father and he has been hiding it from the kids and her for years.
He was adamant that he needed to fix himself before returning to the home. When he slammed that door in her face, my heart literally shattered, but Rebecca refused to give up on her marriage and told Jack his problem was her problem and they would work together to get him the help he needed in regards to his drinking. Now that’s a marriage people. When things get tough you don’t just push things to the side and hope they’ll turn out for the best, you have to actively work to fix them.
I think the most powerful arc of the episode was the conflict between Randal and Beth about his never-ending desire to adopt. Randal made it clear this was not an option, even though Beth was a bit annoyed with the idea. It was nice to see a bit of friction in their marriage and to finally see Beth voice how she felt and for Randal to realize: it’s not always about me. Beth made that clear during that adoption meeting, and Randal was blown away about his wife’s brutal honesty. “This is Us” is showing so many sides to not just the family dynamic, but relationships: the good, the bad, the ugly and the really ugly. In the end, Beth wanted Randal to open his eyes to now assume they could have the same perfect adoption his parents had with him.
To take a chance and adopt an older child, one that has no opportunity and is quite often overlooked in the foster care system. I have to admit that was so powerful to see because it echoed something that takes place all too often in the real world. When it comes to adoption people go after the younger ones, while those who are middle-aged and teens are left out in the cold most of the time. It’s a harsh and stark reality for some to fathom, but it’s the honest truth and for the show to tackle such a topic and push a narrative that is likely to show what chaos can emerge with bringing in a much older child into a family dynamic that is solid will be interesting to watch.
At long last, let’s get to the juicy twist I teased at the beginning, regarding Jack’s demise. It looks like Jack might die as a result of a fire at the family home. Nothing is 100 percent confirmed, but we see Rebecca driving with Jack’s jersey on, and his possessions in a Ziploc bag, Kate and Randal are in tears, and Kate murmurs they have to find Kevin to tell him what has transpired. So where is Kevin? He’s making out with some girl, and has a cast on his leg. So we’ve gotten these teases, but we still don’t know how everything adds up.
I will say I watch “This is Us” for the narrative and exploration of family dynamics. I know so many who are enamored with HOW Jack will die, but this show has so much more to offer than just the death of a main character people. “This is Us” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.