"The Big Three" lived up to the expectations set by the premiere.
With this format of examining characters in the past and the present, it was hard to tell if it was going to work well, but with This Is Us Season 1 Episode 2, the past helped to shed light on what was happening in the present.
With 36 years worth of material to mine, there is a lot we can use to help connect the dots going forward.
First of all, the good news. This Is Us was picked up for a full season!! I love it when a great thing turns into a terrific thing. America really was starving for a show like This Is Us, and now we get to feed on it for 16 more episodes! Congratulations to all involved. Very well deserved.
Now. Onto the hour at hand. There is so much to talk about. Beautiful relationships with flaws that don't in any way tarnish the love.
Randall and Beth have a great relationship. Randall is the only one of The Big Three who has followed in their parents' footsteps. Well, so far he doesn't have an alcohol addiction, but what I mean is he married a woman who means the world to him and had a family.
They're really close and loving, and they don't hold back. I have a bit of a girl crush on Susan Kelechi Watson at the moment. She plays Beth with fiery normalcy, if that makes any sense. Beth's not trying to be anything but a wife and mother, but she really kicks arse doing it.
And oh does she believe in Randall. She wants to protect him and make sure he is free to continue striving for the perfection he seeks. He knows it, too. They way they rely on each other is beautiful.
William: Hey, I'm sorry. I know they're too young to talk about cocaine.
Beth: I feel like six is a hair young for cocaine.
Randall: Yeah, but seven. We'll let them try it at seven.
The ease with which the two of them handle unique situations is so enjoyable. But Beth was so certain she was going to find out her ex-crack addict father-in-law was in some way taking advantage of the family. But he was fitting in pretty well, all things considered.
Then he revealed he was taking a three-hour drive to Philadelphia daily to take care of his ugly cat named Clooney, which he didn't want to give up, but he also didn't want to tell them about, because he was afraid it would mean he had to leave.
Well now I feel like a bitch.Beth
And she did seem like a bitch, but she was only looking out for her family, so it was better that she got it out there than sitting on it and letting it ruin how she felt about William in the long run.
Confirmation from Watson on Twitter that the family lives in New Jersey. It doesn't help with where the kids were born, but given the ridiculously successful ride of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the '70s, they could have been living anywhere and been huge fans. (Although Dr. K. being Polish was a clue, too...).
Speaking of family...marriage wasn't always great for Jack and Rebecca. By the time the kids were eight, they had kind of lost their way.
It wasn't clear what the trouble was between them, but it was clear they both noticed it and wanted it to change, at least by the time this particular episode ended.
Along the way, we learned Jack had started drinking too much. He wasn't taking in a couple beers with the guys, but was swilling back bourbons with his best friend, Miguel. When you're on your third bourbon and it's only 5:05p.m., even your best bud notices something is going wrong.
On that particular night, he pushed Miguel's buttons. Miguel didn't want to take sides, but he had to remind Jack that he had the gold standard in wives with Rebecca, so complaining about her was kind of difficult to listen to.
We have nothing, yet, that shows us what is happening here. By the time Jack got home, Rebecca had put out fires and put the kids to bed. Miguel had called Jack and apologized. Jack bought a present for Rebecca.
Rebecca was wondering how they were doing, parenting wise. The kids are kids. They're arguing. Growing up. Having issues. But she's doing the best she can. She thinks, though, that with as hard as she tries, when Jack is home and being Jack, he's better. It bothers her that their best parent is blowing in the wind.
They talk about that when he gets home. He can't drink like he is anymore. She needs him. The kids need him. He's knocking them down the parenting scale they've tried so hard to top. You can see in Jack and Rebecca where the relationship between Randall and Beth comes from.
While Rebecca may be demanding something from Jack, she's not being hurtful, and neither is Jack when he receives it and promises to do better. They're strong, fair and the gift he gives her appears to stay with her, remains important to her, just as she said it would in the moment she put it on, for the remainder of her life.
While that night was a turning point in their relationship, in the present, she has been living without Jack, because she's now married to Miguel.
I picked up on signs that Jack was no longer with us while watching This Is Us Season 1 Episode 1, when everyone talked about Dad in the past tense. We know he made it to the kids' eighth year, but how much farther? If Randall's kids are calling Miguel grandpa, he may have been gone as long as six years already.
Frankly, I'm already a bit choked up at the thought. And no, I do not think they're divorced. That necklace wouldn't hold the meaning it still does for Rebecca if they had parted in any way other than Jack's death.
One of the things we learned about during the flashbacks to childhood was that Kate's weight issues go back too long. It saddens me to think she was under the stress of believing she was overweight by the time she was eight years old.
And as much as Rebecca wanted to give herself kudos on the parenting scale, here's where I think she failed. Kate may have been a big girl, but she was not a fat girl. But put that pressure on her about food, and you can pretty much guarantee she'd be obsessed with it for the rest of her life.
A little girl who looked like eight-year-old Kate wasn't fat because she hadn't even reached puberty yet. She would have easily have grown up and out of where she was at that point just by playing outside with her brothers, but instead she was thinking about eating fruit all day and eating half melons at breakfast instead of sugary goodness with her brothers.
It makes me want to cry.
Skip forward to 36-year-old Kate, and she's having trouble losing weight. That weight has been her issue for so long her body may not even be capable of losing it without surgical help. And men just lose weight easier than women, so seeing it drop off of Toby is difficult.
Kate: It's always going to be about the weight for me, Toby. It's been my story ever since I was a little girl. And every moment that I'm not thinking about it, I'm thinking about it. Like will this chair hold me, will this dress fit me. And if I ever get pregnant, will anyone ever notice? It's just at the core of who I am, it's just deep inside, and eight tequila shots can only mask that for a couple hours.
Toby: I know. And it's ten tequila shots. But I know.
But gosh. Isn't he sweet? I'm doubling back on my initial thoughts on Kate's story because it is rooted in childhood, and on Toby's presence because he's such a positive light in her life.
As much as Kevin loves her, he needs her too much, and doesn't truly see the struggle she has. He just loves her. That's it. He didn't think how she would feel at a big Hollywood party; he just needed her by his side when his life imploded again. Toby knew Kate would need him by her side.
I'm looking forward to seeing how they grow together.
Kate had great advice for her big brother. She knew he wanted out, so she made him Manny Out and he stuck with it. Still, it's going to completely change his life.
Kevin was always the star of the family.
In school, the kids loved him. Nobody understood why Randall was his brother and all called him Webster, a joke Kevin went along with, even though he knew it was wrong. There's a reason for that, though, and one his brother understands, despite their shaky past.
Randall: What are you gonna do?
Kevin: I was kinda hoping you'd tell me.
Randall: Because you care what I think.
Kevin: Because I care what everyone thinks. You know that. I was not a very good brother to you, was I?
Randall: No, you weren't. But you still got time.
How they know each other well enough for Kevin to turn to Randall when times are tough and for Randall to accept his call and walk him through it is beyond me. Maybe they've had conversations like this before. Maybe the olive branch has been extended if not exactly shared.
When Randall started "The Big Three" saying on the phone and they all chimed in, I got so emotional. That's such a great way for parents to get kids together, even if they have a hard time finding common ground. Even as adults, just saying it connected them once again. It was so touching.
And if Kevin cares too much about what people think, maybe turning his back on a role making him a star for not using his talent will help him to better connect with both Kate and Randall as adults.
It will certainly help him get closer to Randall, because he's going to do theater in New York. Not that he has many other options. It means he'll be spending a lot more time with his brother than he has in the past. Whether they get along or not will be tested.
And I'm really antsy for some scenes with Sterling K. Brown and Justin Hartley, so I cannot wait to see what's ahead for the brothers. Do you think Kevin will really make the move? Were you surprised to find out Rebecca was married to Miguel? Are you rooting for Kate and Toby?
On a personal note, I want to thank everyone who dropped by to read the premiere review. It's been a while since I've had the pleasure of writing about a family drama, and I've forgotten the beautiful readers who come along as a package deal. It's a wonderful reminder of why I started this job and continue to do it. It's all about you.
So let's get some more conversation going. Did this hour hold up? If you didn't see the premiere yet, you can watch This Is Us online to become one of us!
Here's a look at what's ahead...
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.