This Is Us is capable of shaking us to our core and eliciting powerful, emotional responses. William’s death. Jack’s death. To name a few. But This Is Us’s ability to elicit those kind of responses isn’t a novelty. It’s just as powerful in its quiet moments. It’s quiet moments are still powerful.
It has its ups. It has its downs. It can build us up. It can break up. It truly tests us as individuals. How do we respond to adversity? How do we respond to good fortune? Life is a series of experiences that shapes the person we are.
Amidst an overlay of flashes featuring previous shots of our returning favorites — Rebecca as a young mother, Randall as a new father, William as a new father, Rebecca and Kate’s reconciliation, Jack and Kevin’s substance abuse, and so much more — we were shown similar circumstances and the similar effects they have on different people.
We saw the good. We saw the bad. We saw that every experience — good, bad, ugly, and downright heartbreaking — is a part of life. It’s big. It’s beautiful. It’s amazing. Just like the title of this episode says.
But when it comes down to it, this episode was all about Deja, who we fell in love with only to have her ripped away from us like she was ripped away from the Pearsons. Following last week’s episode, which found Deja and her mom living in their car, we knew that this was going to be a big moment for Deja and her story.
This episode was Deja’s story.
Ever since we met Deja earlier this season, there’s been a silent pain that she’s carried with her. She’s always tried to remain brave in the face of darkness and pain, but Deja was hurting. We didn’t know exactly what she’d experienced in her life, but we knew that it had to be too much for a child to endure.
One of the things I really admire about This Is Us and how it approaches these character-specific episodes that focus on the life of a character is how we meet them at birth and see key moments in their life right up to the present. We got to see Deja from birth to present day and how her past has shaped her but how it hasn’t defined her. And the performance by young actress Lyric Ross was simply a thing of beauty. She was able to so perfectly encapsulate all of these emotions that this young child is experiencing in such difficult circumstances.
We saw from birth that Deja had a rough but promising. Her young, 16-year old mother wasn’t immediate to embrace motherhood. But once she held her daughter in her arms, everything changed. It wasn’t easy. This young mother didn’t want this responsibility of caring for another human being. But when her grandmother died — and left her and Deja alone — she was forced to grow up real quick. And it wasn’t always pretty.
Shauna loved her daughter. She did her best to be supportive in every way that she could, which wasn’t always a lot. It put Deja in some rough situations, but it was all part of her story.
One of the things I really admire about Deja is how this young woman, this child never let herself succumb to the darkness that threatened to overtake her. Despite all the mess she had to endure in her troubled life, Deja never sacrificed who she is.
Watching everything that Deja went through, it’s just heartbreaking to see a child have to deal with the kind of things that adults struggle to deal with. That was the beauty of all of the overlays of scenes from this series, featuring Rebecca, Jack, Randall, Kate, Kevin, and William. Usually, it was the adults going through these hardships. And yet, here was Deja, a young girl, forced to grow up too quickly because of everything that she’s gone through.
We saw the struggles it came to with her mother’s desire to sometimes just want a break. The first time, it forced Deja into a foster home. When she got her mom back, it later forced her into another foster home. This poor girl was being tossed back and forth and she never once compromised who she is. Including when she was in that abusive household that made her initially cringe near Randall. Yes, Deja was strong in the face of adversity. But she was still hurting in these situations. And all you want to do as a compassionate human being is take this child in your arms and tell her everything is going to be okay.
But life isn’t always okay. It’s not typically easy. So Deja and Shauna’s circumstances forced them back to the Pearsons. It was as if the universe brought the Pearsons back to Deja, really. And it was a beautiful thing.
One thing that you cannot say about this episode is that Deja’s mother, Shauna, doesn’t love and care for her. Your circumstances, however easy or difficult, doesn’t define you. It doesn’t diminish a mother’s love in any way, shape, or form. Deja’s mother was also a victim of her circumstance. She had a rough life, and she had to fight to survive. It’s that same fight that she’s instilled in her daughter, who’s been tossed from foster home to foster home in her mother’s absence. Until she wound up with the Pearsons. Her perfect fit.
Deja’s mother, who when she had Deja at 16 didn’t want to be a mother, came full circle in “This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life” as she showed us that she’s as true as a mother comes. A mother cares for her child. A mother does what’s best for her child. For Deja’s mother, that meant giving her daughter a life she deserved. Even if that meant it wasn’t with her.
Deja’s mother saw first hand the effect that the Pearsons have had on Deja. Not only is she in a safe, nurturing, love environment. But she saw her daughter happy. In fact, she was mesmerized by her daughter’s happiness. That was what she’d been waiting for. It was worth everything to her to see her daughter’s sense of comfort and satisfaction and pure joy.
This is, after all, about Deja. This is about what’s best for Deja. She’s a child in need of stability and a nurturing environment. We saw that the Pearsons give her that. We know that the Pearsons will continue to give her that.
Life is a beautiful thing. You’re given a family. And sometimes, you’re lucky to find a second family.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.