Strong cheese. But good cheese. The Stilton of comedy-dramas.
E4’s overemotional, melodramatic comedy This Is Us definitely shouldn’t be as good as it is. It’s mostly heartfelt speeches, and actually, not all that many laughs. But there’s just something about this family’s complete dysfunction that enamours you to them, the hefty emotional baggage carried by thoughtful performances from all involved. It must be doing something right; though it airs on Channel 4 here in the UK, NBC have renewed it for two more 18 episode seasons across the pond.
The halfway mark of the season sees a momentous occurrence, as the modern-day Pearsons have all gathered together for Thanksgiving at Randall’s. While it’s a delight to see pretty much all the cast together for the first time, the real joy comes from the adult triplets’ relationship, after spending so much time with their child counterparts. Randall (Sterling K. Brown), Kevin (Justin Hartley), and Kate (Chrissy Metz) flee the chaos of Thanksgiving dinner for their family cabin, all in personal turmoil. While Kate contemplates getting gastric surgery, and struggles after breaking up with Toby, Kevin’s own relationship with Olivia (Janet Montgomery) hits the rocks, and Randall contemplates the fact that his adopted mother Rebecca (Mandy Moore) knew his birth father William (Ron Cephas Jones) for his entire life. Quite the perfect storm.
One person who would seemingly be absent from the family reunion is Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), who, in the present day, lives in an urn on Kate’s fireplace mantle. But thanks to the accidental consumption of some powerful magic mushrooms, Randall is greeted by a vision of his dad, who urges him to forgive his mother for her lies. Though Randall’s subsequent vision of a terrified Rebecca protecting her family seems a little too melodramatic – even for This Is Us – it’s fantastic to see the implausible become plausible, and Ventimiglia act alongside Brown.
The flashback story equally pulls at the heartstrings, as Jack tries to find 9-year-old Randall (brilliant youngster Lonnie Chavis) black role models. Jack and Rebecca’s devotion to Randall is beautiful; which makes Rebecca’s decision not to contact William all the more heartbreaking. Blending perfectly with a present-day Randall’s anger, the viewer’s sympathies are well and truly torn. The final scene points towards a modern-day Randall forgiving his mother, a moral journey we as viewers accompany him on. As we enter the second half of This Is Us‘s first season, we’re left wondering if they can keep up these consistent emotional punches; and whether we might end up a little sick of the cheesy taste it leaves in our mouths.
This Is Us airs 9pm, Tuesday nights on Channel 4.