This Is Us has the ability to deliver emotional beatings like none other. Even when you think you’re prepared, you never truly are. It’s a gift for the writers. And a blessing and a curse for the viewers. A blessing in that this show is able to touch you in a way that’s deeply personal. A curse in that it’s deeply personal so you take it as such.
This was the episode before the episode that will destroy us all. This was the episode that you knew was the beginning of the end of the best of times. This was the episode where everything changes.
This episode was the calm before the storm. Where you’re trying to mentally prepare for the pain that will consume you. It’s the numbing before the pain — except the anesthesia has worn off.
“That’ll Be The Day” set the stage for next Sunday’s wrecking ball of emotion. Super Bowl Sunday. Goodness, why did this show have to ruin football for a football-loving family?!
Easily the most emotional moment of the hour came in the final minutes as that montage of Pearson family moments set to the beautiful and chilling “To Build a Home” played across my screen. Tears fell from my eyes like the memories burned to the ground of that beautiful home. And this is before Jack’s death. Just watching everything that the Pearsons had built go up in flames, that broke a piece of my soul.
One of the things that struck me most was the “could have beens.” All of the moments that we’ve been robbed of. All of the moment we’ll never get.
- Big Three Homes.
- Jack & Rebecca as business partners.
- Jack being a father to his children.
- Jack growing old with Rebecca.
- Jack being there for the birth of his grandkids.
- Jack meeting William.
- Jack walking Kate down the aisle.
- Jack being there for every important moment in his family’s life.
Everything in this season of This Is Us has been building up to Jack’s death. It hasn’t been a secret. We know that Jack died when the Big Three were teenagers. We know that Jack’s death was painful as hell. We knew that one day we’d have to see it happen.
I don’t even want to think about next week’s episode. The episode where Jack Pearson dies. The episode where a part of us dies in the process. An hour that will consist of sobbing, Kleenex, and waterproof mascara.
I don’t know if I’m ready for it. It’s something that I haven’t ever really thought about as a viewer. That I don’t think I can handle an emotional event that’s already set in stone. But what happens after Jack dies in the flashbacks? Does that mark the end of him on the show? Will he still be prevalent in flashbacks?
Perhaps the most painful part will be the after. After Jack dies. As his family is forced to bury the greatest man they’ve known. As his family is forced to go through the most painful experience of their existence. As his family is forced to wonder: What now?
But while I’m completely dreading the pain that comes with the aftermath, there’s a part of me that’s excited to see what this brings out in these characters. This kind of pain forces change, and we’ll get to see these characters directly and immediately affected by this tragedy. Things will begin to click even more in place as we get a good idea of how we got from then to now. Not to mention this sequence of episodes — starting Feb. 4 — will deliver some of the best performances from this outstanding cast to date.
If you’re making your audience feel pain, you’re doing your job. It’s not something that’s easily accomplished. It’s one thing to say, “Oh, I’m so sad” and another thing to start sobbing before the thing you know is coming even comes. That emotional investment is what has made This Is Us the powerhouse it is.
Honestly, This Is Us, while amazing, hasn’t had the same emotional flare that its first season had. The first season’s emotion was anchored by William and his impending death, which we knew was coming. And when that moment finally happened, it opened up the floodgates in a way I’d never experienced in my life watching television.
Now, I feel like This Is Us is about to deliver that kind of emotion with Jack’s death, a death we also knew was coming. While the thought of watching how Jack died makes my eyes blurry with tears, I can’t help but think of the epicness that awaits in terms of the acting and storytelling.
This Is Us’s heart is its heart. The way it’s able to to so genuinely communicate human emotion in a very personal way. How it doesn’t shy away from the ugly or the painful. Yes, we get the heartfelt and feel-good. But this show also reminds us that life isn’t fair; that life can be painful. And it serves as a cathartic release.
The Big Three Emotional Moments
Randall & Beth Partner Up — Like Father, Like Son
This Is Us works in beautiful, mysterious ways. As Randall and Beth partnered up and bought William’s old building — to fix it up and bring light to it — the flashbacks showed us that Jack and Rebecca were preparing to do the same. Rebecca had helped get Jack’s first house to flip, and he extended an offer for her to partner with him. Not because he felt obligated to. Because he wanted to. And that’s always been the way he was.
While Jack and Rebecca never got the chance to bring Big Three Homes to life, Randall is carrying on his father’s legacy in a way as he’s doing something similar with his own wife. It’s one of those small moments that is so significant. It’s one of those moments that bring tears to your eyes, and you wonder why you’re crying. But that’ just what This Is Us does.
Kate & Audio Bring the Feels!
Dogs are enough to make me emotional in any circumstance. But on This Is Us? Forget about it. Clearly young Kate’s dog Lou dies in the fire along with her dad. That was evident in Kate’s reaction to having a dog and the timing of everything. What if Jack manages to escape the burning house with his family but goes back inside to get Lou? Kate said that “it’s my fault.” How could that be possible if not related to her dog? Just typing these words is making me emotional.
Back in the present, Kate decided to feed Toby’s dog desire and visited a local shelter, where she — and all of us — fell in love with a stray named Audio. Who was the cutest and sweetest dog. But we saw Kate initially back down because even the thought of having a dog brought back clearly traumatic memories. Memories that will surely come to light in the coming weeks. But in bringing Audio into her home, Kate took an important step forward in not letting the past dictate her present.
Kevin Got His Necklace Back!
Kevin certainly isn’t my favorite character. The only person that’s lower is Miguel. Sorry not sorry. But This Is Us certainly has a way of creating moments of relatability with Kevin in such emotional ways. As Kevin struggled with his alcoholism, he lost the necklace that his father gave him after his football career was done. It was the last thing he had of his father, and in knowing that and experiencing that in the moment, we saw Kevin just break down. You began to wonder if he’d ever find that necklace again. And then you assumed it was lost because that’s life.
But Kevin — and we — got the most pleasant surprise when Charlotte mailed Kevin the necklace. I audibly gasped and started crying (because that’s always the expected with this show.) When Kevin lost the necklace, it was like he’d lost his dad all over again. And in getting that necklace back, it was like getting a small piece of his father back. In wearing that necklace, Kevin carries his father close to his heart. Always.
This Is Us returns on Sunday, Feb. 4 following the Super Bowl on NBC.
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