‘This Is Us’ 2×01 Review: Perfectly Imperfect

I was okay for the first 57 minutes of This Is Us’s Season 2 premiere.

I thought, considering the circumstances, that I was holding up pretty well. Sure, there were tears shed throughout the hour, which is to be expected, but it wasn’t anything gut wrenching that I felt I couldn’t handle. Hey, it’s been nearly five months since This Is Us was last on. I haven’t had time to properly prepare for the weekly emotional assault. Then again, can you ever really prepare?

It was as if This Is Us lured me into a false sense of security where I believed that, hey, this season premiere wouldn’t leave me nearly drowning in my tears. Maybe not this time.

My, oh my, how delusional I was.

I was okay for the first 57 minutes. But it was the final 3 minutes that broke my heart, my tear ducts, and the emotional sanity I had been building throughout the entire day leading up to this episode. It was the moment we all knew was coming but the one we weren’t prepared for.

Knowing that Jack Pearson was dead broke me in Season 1. But even knowing that as we headed into this Season 2 premiere — and finally got some pieces of what happened — wasn’t enough to assuage the emotions that overcame me as the heartbreaking sequence played out.

This Is Us is so good at what it does. It’s what every television show should aspire to be — right down to the actors to the writing to the direction to the balance of subtle and explicit. There’s heart in every aspect of this show, which is one of the main reasons why this show has resonated with so many people.




This Is Us is a reflection of us. Each and every week we find a piece of ourselves in this show. Each and every week we’re allowed cathartic moments where we can break down and cry. I look forward to crying every week with this show because, as weird as it may sound, it’s freeing.

The concept of pure emotion — of pure feeling — is something that’s so very human. Yes, it’s a television show. But it’s a television show grounded in reality and heart. It’s a television show that is so much more than that. It’s a release. It’s inspiration. It’s pain. It’s comfort. It’s family.

A lot has been made about This Is Us’s ability to live up to the expectations set by its freshman season, which brought us perhaps one of the most emotional hours of television in recent history (with “Memphis”). How could this show, which was renewed for a third season early last season, possibly live up to that groundbreaking season?

Well, the Season 2 premiere certainly set the tone in its final 3 minutes as we got a glimpse at what looks to be one of the core emotional cornerstones of Season 2.

This Is Us’s return was months in the making. Months and days of anticipation have been leading to this. And, obviously, it lived up to the hype.

This show reminds us that life is far from perfect. Life is, as Randall so eloquently said, “perfectly imperfect.” There are highs; there are lows; there are moments that we’re convinced we can’t live through; there are moments where we want to give up; there are moments where we need to let go; there are moments where we need to fight; there are moments where we need to just cry; there are moments where we just need to live.

There are moments where we need to be reminded that this is us.

Let’s embrace our emotional side and break this episode down further:

The Story of Jack’s Death

NBC

We know how this works on This Is Us. They’re never going to tell us exactly what’s happening. They were never going to reveal in the season premiere just how Jack died. But they did reveal some of the pieces. Now, it’s up to us to figure it out as we watch the season unfold.

Not that I was expecting us to get a little more clarification regarding Jack’s death in the premiere, but that final scene was something of perfection.

But I need help decoding what the hell happened in that final sequence.

At first, I thought Rebecca was an alcohol-induced hallucination that was luring Jack to the car — and I thought he died in a car crash. But then, we flashed to Rebecca driving with a bag of Jack’s belongings as she pulled in front of what appears to be their house burned to the ground.

So what happened? Did he die in a house fire? Then how come his belongings weren’t burned? Did he die another way? Is there a way he’s still somehow alive? (Sorry, that’s the desperate delusion talking.) How did it happen?

This is supposed to be confusing. We’re not supposed to be able to piece together what happened yet. What fun would that be? But here’s what we do know:

  • Jack is dead*
  • There’s a house that burned down
  • Jack’s belongings weren’t burned
  • Everyone’s crying
  • And everything hurts

The more I try to piece together the little that we have right now, my head hurts. So let’s talk about that scene between Jack and Rebecca before that scene.




We saw Rebecca come to Jack where she admitted that despite what transpired, she shouldn’t have let him leave. She’s not unhappy, she’s not unfulfilled. And in saying that, she opened the door for Jack to finally admit the deep, dark secret he’s been harboring.

He’s a drunk. He was drunk in that moment. He’s been hiding it from his wife and his kids. And he knows he needs to get that problem under control before he can go back. He knows he needs to fix it. He says he needs to fix it on his own.

But Rebecca is having none of it. They’re husband and wife. They’re partners. Any problem he has, it’s also her problem and they’re going to fix it. Together. There’s no way in hell he’s doing this without her.

So he gets in the car with her…and we cut to that gut wrenching sequence where you just knew that Jack had died.

It continues to amaze me how these writers and these actors can infuse such raw emotion into such a short amount of time. Those three minutes were captivating, emotional, and so real. It’s truly a gift that this show possesses. And we are truly blessed.

Perfectly Imperfect

NBC

Nothing is perfect. No one is perfect. But there’s such a thing as “Perfectly Imperfect,” where imperfection comes together in a way that it’s simply, dare we say, perfect.

Life is perfectly imperfect.

Randall Pearson reminded us of that in the season premiere of This Is Us — a show that has taught us that it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to have an imperfect life, it’s okay to show weakness, it’s okay to aspire to this false ideology known as “perfect” only to seek comfort in “Imperfection.”

Randall Pearson’s life has been one of many ups and downs. Like us, he’s imperfect. He’s faced hardships. He’s had moments of weakness. He’s had moments of redemption. And one of the defining aspects of Randall’s life has been his two fathers, Jack and William. He’s loved them both. And he’s lost them both. And in brutal ways.

When we last left Randall and Beth, Randall told her that he wanted to adopt a child. How best to honor his two fathers than by adopting a child and giving him/her everything in the world. It’s what saved him, after all. He felt he was doing right by his fathers. But he wasn’t necessarily doing right by his wife.

Beth wasn’t so keen on the adopting because she felt overcome with this suffocating feeling of always doing what Randall wants. Randall never asked her about taking William in. Or Kevin. And now he was choosing to adopt without really talking this through.

One of the beautiful things about Randall and Beth’s marriage is that they have this very open and honest communication with each other. They’re not always perfect, but they’re always going to talk their way through things. But a relationship isn’t just about communication. It’s also about compromise. And Randall wasn’t willing to do that last part at first.

Rebecca spoke to Randall about how they came to adopt him. Like Beth, Rebecca wasn’t immediately keen on the idea. But it was Jack who pushed them to do it. And that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes in a marriage, someone has to push to make the big moves, as Rebecca says.

Only, interestingly enough, we saw both Randall and Beth push on their own accord. Randall pushed for the adoption. And Beth pushed for the adoption of an older child — one that has no one in the world that cares about them. They would be that support system.

And I’ll be damned if that’s not the most perfect thing. This storyline just became even more intriguing.

The “F” Word

NBC

We’ve all been there. Insecure. Doubting ourselves. Feeling our greatest weakness flashing in lights for all to see. Letting that insecurity, that self doubt, and that weakness prevent us from doing what we want to do. Fearing failure.

But, hopefully, we’ve at some point found a way to get past that. To find a way to use that weakness as a strength. To push ourselves beyond our wildest dreams. To keep fighting even when we feel like giving up. And if you haven’t, know that you truly are capable of it.

Kate Pearson showed that we’re all prone to succumbing to that insecurity and self doubt. But also that we’re capable of rising above it.

Kate aspires to follow in her mother’s footsteps when it comes to being a singer in a band. We find her in Los Angeles with Toby as she’s auditioning for a band. But before she even walks into the audition room, she looks around at the skinny, pretty, young girls that are also auditioning and she flashes back to her childhood when he stood out in, what she perceived, to be a bad way. So she bolted.

Failure.

It’s a word that we’re taught to fear. It’s a word we associate with disappointment. It’s a word that we underestimate.

FAIL.

By day, I’m a school teacher, and one of the things I preach to my students is something called Growth Mindset, where you approach things from the perspective of taking failure as a learning opportunity.

F.A.I.L.

First. Attempt. In. Learning.

Making mistakes, failing at things you try, ultimately can be a motivator, if you choose to use it as so. Don’t take mistakes as all bad. Don’t run screaming from the word “failure.” Use them as a chance to grow.

So I was a proud mama bear when I saw Kate do that exact thing.

Not only did Kate return to her audition, not only did she speak up when she believed she was being judged by her look instead of her voice, but she tried and failed.

And you know what, she didn’t give up. Her response?

“It’s okay. I can do this. I know I can do this. I just have to work my way up.”

Don’t say: I can’t do it.

Do say: I can’t do it yet.

You can do anything you set your mind to. And that’s exactly what Kate is going to prove to us this season.

This Is…6 Times We Were Beyond Emotional

  1. Jack’s death. We didn’t see it. We didn’t need to. But it was the before and the after that was so much worse. I remember the exact moment I realized what was happening. Or something along the lines of it. At that point I couldn’t see out of my eyes they’d welled up so quickly. That was the moment where it all changed. Where it didn’t matter if we saw it. Where it didn’t matter how it happened. Where all that mattered was how this was going to change everything. Where a family was ravaged by alcohol addiction and one of their own taken from them. Where three children were left without a father. Where a wife was left without a husband. Where the world was left without the great Jack Pearson. It was a blow worthy of the tears it incited.
  2. “You don’t know everything about me.” What. A. Freaking. Moment. There’s just pure magic when Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore are on screen together. In this raw moment, Jack finally admits to his wife the dark secret he’s been harboring — alone — within himself: He’s a drunk. He’s embarrassed, he’s ashamed, he’s scared, and he knows he needs to fix it. Just seeing how Jack opened up in that moment — and how Rebecca refused to let him face this problem alone — was the scene of the season thus far.
  3. Young William’s appearance in the intro. Proof that even after his death that William will continue to live on in this story. It’s your memory — and how those you loved and that loved you choose to honor you after death — that makes you immortal in spirit.
  4. Young Randall sees his parents fighting. There’s nothing easy about your parents separating or getting a divorce. But usually you don’t have a front seat to the action. But when we saw Randall leave that party early and head home, we all knew what he was walking into. He had to watch and listen to his mother and father — two of the most important people in his life — screaming at each other and tearing each other down in a moment of immense emotion and weakness. Watching Randall’s face — and knowing this was the last time he saw his father — was just gut wrenching.
  5. William flashback with Randall. Anytime William showed up on screen — whether it was as his younger self, older self, or a mere voiceover — my eyes started tearing up. But it was the scene between William and Beth at his spot in the park — before he left with Randall for Memphis — that really hit home. Then we flashed to the present, where Beth was sitting in his spot. And knowing she probably goes there a lot. All the feels.
  6. Kevin talking about his love for his sister. We’ve seen a lot of the bond between Kevin and Kate, but we’ve never really heard Kevin talk about just how important his sister is in his life. Watching that scene between him and Toby — where Kevin confessed just how much stability she provides in his unstable life — was one of those beautiful, touching moments that we live for. It’s also where we learned that it was Kate that delivered the news of their father’s death to him.

This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.



Alyssa Barbieri

Senior Managing Editor

Teacher by day, writer by every other free moment. Obsessed with sports, TV, books, movies, and superheroes. Proud shipper and supporter of strong female characters. TV Editor and Sports Editor. I write about DCTV, This Is Us and so much more. Contact: alyssa@fangirlish.com.

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