‘This Is Us’ 2×06 Review: ‘The 20s’

Even when it feels like the end, This Is Us reminds us that there are new beginnings to be found. If only you’re willing to begin them.

This Is Us dabbled mostly in flashbacks, as we celebrated Halloween with the Pearsons, which included as many tricks as treats. We got a glimpse of our Big 3 as young trick or treater each with their own motive, whether that was maximizing candy input or holding hands with a cute boy. But we also got a glimpse at our Big 3 some 10 years prior to the present — when they were in their late 20’s all beginning new chapters in their lives.

This Is Us always manages to transcend reality. There’s something so viable about this show and how relatable these characters and these stories are for audiences. Whether that’s the feeling of being lost in your own life or feeling like the world is closing in on you or just feeling like you’re stuck in quicksand with nowhere to go.

This Is Us has always — and will always — thrive off the emotional implications of its episodes. Sometimes, the emotions are more intense than others. But the message always gets through.

The episode’s defining theme was new beginnings. It was fitting that we found Randall, Kate, and Kevin their late 20’s as they each began new chapters in their lives. All three of them struggled in some regard, whether it was in their career, their mental state, or their direction.

There’s always something so very honest in how This Is Us handles its characters and their situations. It doesn’t shy away from the ugly — whether that’s being so desperate you attempt to steal your friend’s acting gig or sleeping with a married man to try to feel something or dealing with the fact that you’re “different” after your first nervous breakdown.

This Is Us is so successful because it embraces the tough, the ugly. It’s all a part of the human experience. But it also shows us the beauty in life, including how every end is just a new beginning. And we’d be lost without this show.

Let’s break this hour down:

Randall…And His 20s

NBC

Ten years ago, Randall was expecting his first daughter Tess with his gorgeous wife Beth, while also dealing with the repercussions of his first breakdown some two months prior.

Randall’s flashbacks were definitely the most intriguing to me because we got to see Randall before his family was fully in place. This was when his family was just starting out, and there was a sense of uncertainty. And we know, even in the present, how Randall does not like uncertainty. He needs to be in control, know what’s happening, have a plan for it. It’s what we saw in the flashbacks when he was 10. That’s just always been Randall.

We pick up with Randall with Beth set to be induced the next day, and it’s been two months after Randall had his first nervous breakdown. Beth is worried telling Rebecca Randall was “blind and weeping and a million miles away” during his breakdown. Beth didn’t know if she could believe him again.

Meanwhile, we find Randall obsessed with getting this ceiling fan in Tess’s room to work. He’s at a hardware store just staring at fans as he’s trying to replace the broken one. One of the workers comes up to him and asks if he needs help. And Randall lets it all out.

Randall admits that he’s “not the same; like he was.” Not since his breakdown. He knows, his wife knows it. The day of his breakdown, Randall was looking at a baby website when Beth was six months along. He started thinking about being in charge of a child, of a universe. He got overwhelmed with the possibility of failure. Sure, if he fails at his job, it’s just money. But what happens if he fails with a child?

The lovely hardware worker sheds some much-needed wisdom on the soon-to-be father. He says he had questions before he was a father, too. But babies come with answers. “They tell you who you are,” he says. He tells Randall that he’ll soon see.

But we all know that Randall is someone that thrives on certainty, on structure, on the predictable. So he had to let go of that when welcoming his first child into the world. And you saw him do that once Beth went into labor and Randall was the one calming her down. You saw him jump into action, taking charge as Beth gives birth to Tess in their house.

Kevin…And His 20’s

NBC

Ten years ago, Kevin was a struggling actor looking for work and washing hair and whining his way through it. Oh, Kev.

We follow Kevin as he’s a struggling actor alongside his roommate/friend, who just happened to land his first big acting gig. He invites Kev along to a studio party to help make contacts. This is how Kev’s career is going to begin, we think. Only, not so much.

Here, we saw Kev’s friend, who landed a huge gig, trying to help his friend. On the flipside, you had Kev trying to steal his friend’s role away. Not that Kevin is a bad person, but he was just going about things the wrong way. That’s not how you make a name for yourself. Not the way you want, anyways.

Kevin was immature, selfish, and not very smart in his dealings. So things needed to change. And we saw the beginnings of Kevin’s dealings in comedy, which would soon lead him to The Manny.

Kate…And Her 20’s

NBC

Ten years ago, Kate was a waitress going to night school and still struggling to move forward after her father’s death.

Kate was essentially in a standstill. She wasn’t moving. She wasn’t progressing. She was stuck in the past — still hung up on her father’s death — and trying desperately to feel something, anything.

We saw Kate’s interaction with a regular at the diner she worked at. There was attraction, there was flirting, but there was something missing. Kate was trying to feel something so much that she even ignored the fact that she was sleeping with a married man.

But we saw how Kate’s life was going in New York. And it wasn’t good. She needed a fresh start, and we got the sense of that as she moved to Los Angeles to live with Kevin, which kind of brings us up to speed on where we initially found her.

Her 20s were an end followed by a new beginning. And knowing what we know where we’ve found Kate now — engaged to Toby, following her dream to be a singer, tackling her weight loss in an effective manner — you can see how Kate used her 20’s to drive her forward.

A New Beginning For Rebecca

NBC

This episode’s theme was centered around how one end is a new beginning. That was prevalent for our Big 3, but it was also relevant for Rebecca, who continued to struggle with Jack’s loss and how she was supposed to continue on in life without him.

Given the iconic nature of Jack and Rebecca, when This Is Us introduced Miguel, Jack’s old friend, as Rebecca’s new husband last season, it was met with a lot of criticism. There was no elaboration, no clarification, and it just made a good portion of the fanbase angry. Myself included. It was inconceivable to imagine how Miguel could marry Jack’s wife. How Rebecca could marry Jack’s best friend.

This Is Us is definitely attempting to rebuild Miguel’s persona and figure out a way for audiences to embrace him. And we saw the beginnings of that in this episode, as we saw Miguel reach out to Rebecca through Facebook (the beginning!) to check up on her. We saw Rebecca make the active move to respond back.

Sure, it wasn’t the beginning of anything romantic. But you get the sense that this is the beginning of that relationship. Where the two of them talk to each other. Rebecca finds someone she can share those memorable moments with. Miguel finds someone to do the same. The pieces are in place.

I’m not saying that I’m on board with Miguel yet. That’s going to take some time to adjust to. But I can definitely see where this is headed. There is definitely the potential for Miguel to grow on me if done right. Wait, who the hell am I kidding? This is This Is Us. Of course they’re going to do it right.

Okay, This Is Us. Sway me.

This Is… Five Things

NBC
  1. That final montage with Rebecca talking to Randall and Tess for the first time brought out some serious waterworks. It was so beautifully paralleled, so beautifully shot, and so beautifully said. There’s always a new beginning to be found. Especially when it feels like it’s an end.
  2. There’s nothing like a Halloween episode to really bring out the feels. Gotta love young Randall making a map to “maximize house to candy ratio.” Seriously, this kid had it figured out.
  3. I love how This Is Us continues to shine a light on anxiety and breakdowns. It’s not something that’s look down upon. It’s confronted. It’s shown in all of its ugly reality. It’s dealt with in full. Kudos.
  4. Jack and Rebecca are couple goals. Even in 1990. The pair not only slayed in their Sonny and Cher Halloween costume, but they’re such an amazing team in general. While Rebecca tackled telling Randall about “Kyle” alone, she discussed it with Jack afterward and you just know there was nothing they couldn’t get through together.
  5. You’ve got to love episodes like “The 20’s” as they show us what led our Big 3 to the place where we met them last season. It was interesting to see them in a younger light, a less sure light, and then see how much they’ve grown in just 10 years.

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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