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This Is Us (NBC)

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by Adam Lenhardt, Sep 20, 2016.

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  1. David Weicker

    David Weicker Producer

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    Another terrific episode.

    Loved seeing
    William
    again. And Beth talking about her three favorite people.

    That was one of the greatest “Mom” speeches ever. I almost fell off my chair laughing. Whiny asses indeed.
     
  2. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    Will be very curious to learn what happened to Kate's young boy friend in the upcoming episodes. She seems very smitten with him, and he seems very nice, too. Must be a tragic story in there somewhere.
     
  3. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    I agree with both of those last posts. :D

    I'm kinda getting fed up with Randall as a character. He tries too hard...all the time. But when he's vulnerable and quiet, he's at his strongest.

    I still wish we'd revisit that scene from the end of last season where the family was gathering at Kevin's apartment.
     
  4. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    I agree. Randall can be exhausting (in all of his incarnations during these multiple timelines). The present day one often stubbornly refuses to admit when he's wrong or that he's made a mistake until it comes back to bite him, and then he's contrite and more humble.
     
  5. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Director

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    I agree. I should probably knock on wood as I type this, but the show seems to have pulled itself out of it's slump.

    Beth's speech to Randall and Tess at the kitchen counter was the first time I cried this episode.

    I've struggled with anxiety and depression my entire adult life. I could feel it building even in high school, but the panic attacks didn't start until college. Mental illness is not something that film and television usually gets right. Usually it's portrayed as something monstrous, or as something acute and and intense and in your face. For most of us who suffer from it, it's a chronic condition like high blood pressure or diabetes. Most of the time its manageable. And over time, you develop strategies to manage the symptoms.

    Neither of my parents knew what to do with a child with mental illness. It always made my mother, in particular, acutely uncomfortable. I internalized very quickly that it was something to be ashamed of. I can't express what it would have meant to me to have someone tell me the things that Beth told Randall and Tess. How much would it have hastened my road to self-acceptance? How much unnecessary suffering could have been avoided?

    I also really, really related to Randall shutting down Beth when she suggested a therapist to him as they were getting ready for bed. I made one attempt at therapy in college and it went really badly, and I've never been back since even though it would probably be helpful. Beth is carrying around a lot of guilt for not anticipating either of Randall's mental breakdowns. Here she sees all of the signs, she knows what's coming, and she's trying to be proactive about it. Everything she's doing is 100 percent correct. But Randall's just not in a place to hear it. He holds himself to an impossible standard, a much higher standard than he holds anybody else to. So it's going to continue to get worse. That doesn't mean Beth was wrong to try.

    This episode as a whole had a lot to say about memory, and family, and the things that tie us together. The second moment that made me cry was at the end, in Nicky's trailer, when he's telling Kevin the origin of the slices of ice cream. These two people had nothing to do with each other for well over three decades. Kevin didn't even know this man was alive until pretty recently. And yet, they're connected. Not just by blood, but by shared people and shared experiences. Jack's father was a piece of shit, but Jack found a way to pass along one of the best parts of him to his own children.

    I particularly loved the bit with college age Beth and the hot sauce. When she took it out, it was this moment of further alienation between her and the Pearsons -- she had inadvertently touched upon the raw nerve that was Jack's death. But in sharing the anecdote about her own father, something that was imperfect about him but something that conjured the love she felt for him, she provided Rebecca the template for how to start to move forward. So that, by the end of the meal, the hot sauce became something that made Beth feel included with the Pearsons rather than excluded.

    I loved it. We've all probably been on the receiving end of that kind of speech, when Mom's been pushed too far and she's just not going to take any more shit.

    I get a more ominous feeling than "tragic" from present day Kate and Rebecca's reaction to seeing those old Polaroids. The vibe was more unsettling than sad. Kate and Kevin do have that twin bond, and I have a bad feeling that Kevin's read on her new boyfriend was correct and that he's bad news. At the very least, he's probably a druggie. But I fear he might also turn out to be abusive. The Kate we met at the beginning of the series was dangerously overweight and resolutely alone. Nineties Kate is a healthy weight and in a happy relationship. I'm thinking whatever happens next in that relationship is one of the factors that explains the dramatic difference between the two Kates.

    I do think the writers are aware of that unlikable side of that facet of his personality. And to their credit, they're playing it honestly. He is a flawed character, like all great characters.

    It does look like there are going to be consequences for Randall playing ball with the other councilmen. I hope Randall suffers repercussions for failing to go along with politics as usual.

    If I had to guess, they're going to way to the mid-season finale for any big reveals on that front.

    Some other thoughts:
    • I loved the confession that Cassidy's estranged husband made to Kevin in his driveway. A lesser show would be content to paint him as the bad guy. He's a victim of Cassidy's PTSD, just like she is. And I loved that Kevin was unfazed by the man's hostility, and could see past his own interests to let Cassidy know that her husband was still in love with her.
    • I loved Jack's fear of birds. He's so lionized by the other characters and even -- at times -- the writers, that I always enjoy it when he's taken down a peg and revealed to be human.
    • Those ceremonies where sports teams use veterans as props have always made me feel vaguely uncomfortable, even though I know the intentions behind them are good. It was nice to see the show grapple with the complexity of that -- with both Nicky and Cassidy's husband being really turned off by it, and Cassidy appreciative of the opportunity for her son to see her recognized positively in a very public way.
    • College age Kevin and Sophie getting married was clearly ridiculous, but I liked that by the end of the dinner party everyone else was willing to accept this period of happiness between the two of them for what it was.
     
    David Weicker and Malcolm R like this.
  6. Jason_V

    Jason_V Lead Actor

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    Finally, finally, finally caught up and current I'm not going to rehash the first few episodes, but "Storybook Love" does what the show does best, regardless of time period and who is being featured. Everything that happened-from Kevin and Cassidy and Nicky through Beth and Rebecca's speeches to their families-felt right and true to these characters.

    You guys all said it better than I can right now...so many good things have happened in this season so far, I'm actually excited to watch the show again. (I just really wanna get back to Kate and Toby's son Jack; we haven't seen him since the first episode and I really dig him.)
     
  7. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    Thought the three golf games all held very interesting drama and made outstanding counterpoints to one another. I didn't find the Tony-Kate subplot very well written. It needed more development and exploration of feelings.
     
  8. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Agreed.

    Especially on your observations regarding the Toby/Kate story. Very much paint-by-the-numbers and uninteresting.

    I've kinda been hoping this might be the story arc which leads to Metz' contracted weight loss that we were reading about in all the media hoopla at the beginning of season 1. We'll see.
     
  9. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    Yes, I remember reading about that, too, but she looks unhealthily bigger this season than she ever has, and it doesn't appear to be padding.
     
  10. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Director

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    Just caught up with the season through the midseason finale. This is a show I have to be in a certain mood for, so I'm finding that these days I'm watching it in batches.

    The strange thing about the reveal that Rebecca is dealing with some form of dementia is that she's still alive for the flash forward 15 years later. While this is not unheard of, it is unusual.

    The manipulation of time in the midseason finale felt cruel, but in a purposeful way rather than a cheap way. We didn't have the necessary context to understand Rebecca's situation, and neither did she. My first thought was that the writers were cutting corners, taking her from 0 to 60 in two episodes when it comes to her memory loss. When the cop car pulled up to the old family cabin, I thought she was even more confused than she appeared. And then when we see it's the Big Three's fortieth birthday, we understand that her really bad day was: a) much further along in the timeline than we expected, and b) not as egregious as it initially appeared. She didn't forget to go to the movies, she didn't eat a big meal at a Chinese restaurant right before Thanksgiving dinner. She went out to pick up a birthday cake, forgot the birthday cake after getting distracted by flowers, and left her phone at the register. Nine months down the line, she's worse but still in the early stages.

    The flash forward also reveals that Kevin will be engaged and expecting a child in nine months. Just as conspicuous is the absence of Randall and his family, and the absence of Toby. Given that the season premieres are usually birthday episodes, I'm guessing that the back half of the season will fill in the nine months between this Thanksgiving and that birthday.

    The thing I loved about the Thanksgiving episode is the way that all of the show's current storylines crisscrossed and overlapped with each other. That's real, but not something that television usually does because it's hard. Lots of great stuff in there, too, like:
    • Nicky discovering that Jack shared the best parts of him with his family even if he didn't ever name him
    • Kevin finding a goofy way to take Tess out of her own headspace
    • Beth finding a way to be okay with Deja having a good relationship with her biological mother
    The Kate/Toby storyline feels tedious, because it's frustrating to watch people who can't get out of their own way. Kate resents Toby for getting into shape, Toby resents Kate for monopolizing little Jack's milestones, and neither of them will talk to the other about it or take steps to do something about it. They're all rookie mistakes, and they're the rookie couple in this mix, but it's still frustrating.

    In prior episodes: I'm really enjoying the relationship between Deja and Malik. They're two teenagers who have had to deal with a lot of very adult things in their lives. But there is something so innocent and pure about their relationship, and I love that the show is protecting that. I also appreciate that Malik's parents are completely different than Randall and Beth, and shown to be good parents in spite of that.
     
  11. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    Rebecca's storyline is so, so sad. For me, it is very hard to watch.
     
  12. Jason_V

    Jason_V Lead Actor

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    That's the one part of the episode I had to keep replaying over and over again for it to make sense. I honestly thought I missed something.

    Rebecca's problems were shown at the end of last year and they've become a bigger problem in the first half of this season. It's going to be a heart breaker to watch her descent and there's no way around it: we know it's going to happen. This isn't a sci fi story where the future can be changed. Just like we knew Jack wasn't going to survive into the present and future story lines, we know where Rebecca will ultimately land.

    All that being said, dang it if I didn't start crying at the end when everyone is together for Thanksgiving. For all the drama and angst the show has, this group coming together-with new faces and new parts of the family-is the real meat and potatoes for me. It reminded me of Thanksgiving's when I was very very young and it's something I miss badly in my "old age."

    I do need a rest from the show, which makes this a great time for a mid season break.
     
  13. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    I haven't had a chill go through me in a very long time...

    like I did during the ultimate scene of last night's episode. I had goosebumps. Wow.

    I also enjoyed the episode greatly. I really felt heavily vested in the story lines involving Rebecca's memory issues and Toby's issues at home. There was solid writing and performances in this episode.
     
  14. Matt Hough

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    Yep, all of the storylines had be involving from beginning to end. Kevin's grand romantic gesture only to have it blow up in his face: my heart just broke. Rebecca's memories of Jack that she may not have for much longer: tragic and tear-inducing. Toby and Kate's misery in admitting what's going on only to be (temporarily) enthused by young Jack's recognition of light. And, of course, Randall's out-of-nowhere confrontation.

    I have to say, the show has me back in its grip.
     
  15. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Director

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    That was actually the only moment in the episode that didn't work for me. It felt like a very "TV" cliffhanger, in an episode that largely otherwise defied my expectations in satisfying ways.

    But then again, I'm not a husband and father so I don't know that I can put myself viscerally in Randall's shoes the way you can in that moment.

    In both cases, the show took a more difficult and complicated path than it had to.

    In the case of Rebecca, committing to having a main character with some form of dementia is a really big deal. It opens up one line of storytelling, but it also closes off a lot of lines of storytelling. Given the nonlinear nature of this show, I'm sure there will be plenty of impactful storylines with Rebecca in full possession of her faculties, from the various time periods prior to her decline. But it means going forward that her character will be defined by whatever the diagnosis ends up being, and that will have a significant impact on the relationships of the other characters. We've already seen that with Randall and Miguel: Miguel having to accept that Randall's big hero moment was actually dead on, and Randall having to accept that Miguel is going to the boots on the ground caregiver for his mother, and that he's not going to be able to micromanage every little step of her care.

    In the case of Kate and Toby, it would have been cleaner in a way if Toby had been having an affair. Instead, the issues that he's dealing with -- and their impact on the family as a whole -- are murkier and more complicated. Kate has achieved acceptance when it comes to little Jack's visual impairment. Toby's still mourning the son he thought he was going to have. That rings true both as someone who prides himself on being able to fix everything -- this is something that can't be "fixed" -- and as someone who has struggled with depression. Exercise releases endorphins, and can help keep depression at bay. But it's no good if it's a tool for avoidance rather than an assistance with dealing. He's got to get through the stages of grief on his own terms and his own timetable, and Kate's got to find a way to be okay with that. None of the issues they're facing are resolved by the end of the episode. But that fact that they can hit pause and bask together in the enjoyment of this simple wonder that their son has brought them is wonderful.

    I loved it because it was such a "TV" storyline -- celebrity guest star included! -- with such a grounded, realistic outcome. Kevin seeing a woman from a cross the room and falling in love would have been easy. Having someone devoid of baggage with him would have been easy. A lot of things in Kevin's life have come easy to him. By contrast, any of the three main candidates for being his baby mama would be hard:
    1. Sophie is his high school sweetheart, but he's betrayed her trust over and over again. If she's his baby daddy, it's a long road to get to a place where she can trust him and he can trust himself around her.
    2. Zoe and him were good together. She pushed him out of his comfort zone, forced him to grow. But she doesn't want children, and never has. There has been nothing to demonstrate that she is equipped to be a mother, and there is every reason to believe that she would resent both Kevin and the child if she carried a baby to term. Given that in the flash forward to 12 years in the future, Kevin's white, blonde son was about 11 or so I'd say Zoe is out of the running.
    3. Cassidy suffers from significant PTSD, and is trying to repair her relationship with her estranged husband and the child she had with said husband. If her affair with Kevin resulted in a baby, that would probably be the final nail in the coffin for her marriage. It would also mean that Kevin's son would be growing up with two alcoholic parents.
     
  16. Matt Hough

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    A rather trying episode this week. We've all known about Randall's internalized fears since that meltdown that Kevin rescued him from before, and this just laid it on very thick showing us the history of his problems with internalized fears. I absolutely DREADED that Town Meeting knowing he was going to have another public meltdown. This was a long hour for me.

    Pretty clear from this what he and Kevin will have their falling out over: lying about his visit to see their mother and her diagnosis.
     
  17. Adam Lenhardt

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    This is Part 1 of 3. Each episode focuses on a different member of the Big Three, putting them each through the same consequential week.

    It was one of the best depictions of an anxiety disorder I've ever seen. It got so much right.

    I thought it was a great use of the show's nonlinear storytelling to capture the continuum of how he has dealt with stress and adversity his entire life.

    Obviously, a home invasion would give anybody anxiety. It's a horrific violation. That's why the college scenes were so important; back then, he'd been dealing with his father's death in an unhealthy way but he was managing. And then a relatively minor thing -- a middle of the night fire drill in his dorm -- sent him spiraling. That rang so true to my own experiences living with an anxiety disorder. When you're in a crisis, you can look back and see all of the warning signs that it was coming. But while you're managing, you allow yourself a certain amount of denial until you can't anymore.

    I'm also always interested in moments where the show doesn't paint Jack as this saintly figure. The stuff with Randall's anxiety over sleeping in a new bed was not indicative of an anxiety disorder; it's perfectly normal behavior for a little boy. But Jack's response -- while perfectly reasonable for a parent who'd been up half the night with his child and just wanted to sleep -- spoke to how Randall ended up being the way he is. He was the good kid, the smart kid, the kid who understands consequences and can be trusted to do the responsible thing. Jack and (especially) Rebecca relied on him for that, and he internalized it. Personality-wise, Randall was probably always going to end up being an anxious person. But his upbringing made it very difficult for him to seek out and accept help. And that has contributed to his problems with anxiety over the years.

    I loved that Malik's blue collar father was the one who opened up about his own positive experiences with therapy. Any time the show challenges my assumptions about characters in a way that feels believable, it increases my engagement.

    I was glad the episode didn't have him completely meltdown. It was obvious to both him and to the audience that he wasn't in a good place, and he didn't handle the situation nearly as well as he would have under normal circumstances. But he didn't completely fly off the handle, either.

    That seems like the obvious answer, though this show has pulled a bait-and-switch in the past. It was a really unfair request for Rebecca to make of Randall.
     
  18. Matt Hough

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    That seems like the obvious answer, though this show has pulled a bait-and-switch in the past. It was a really unfair request for Rebecca to make of Randall.

    I certainly agree with you about that.
     
  19. John Lee_275604

    John Lee_275604 Stunt Coordinator

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    I don't know if this is intended as a criticism, but for me it's the singular best part of the entire show.

    I've seen enough mainstream network stuff to be tired of straightforward narratives. Half the time, I watch shows not for the actual content, but daydreaming about the writers room recycling and repurposing old storylines like a more sophisticated iteration of daytime soaps.

    For me, drama isn't 'this happened, then this happened,' it's all the small personal details that go into what happens.

    Particularly, I was dreading Kate and Toby's storyline, as it seemed primed for the usual narrative arc of; two people uniquely perfect for each other, who persevere to create a life together, but since we're a network drama we eventually have to give them a ham-fisted roadblock to wedge them apart. Toby's difficulties are something new in network narratives, and Kate's responses are thus far mature and measured. They're acting like real people, not script devices.
     
  20. ScottH

    ScottH Producer

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    Celebrity hall pass? Really? People are okay with that? That was so ridiculous. Between that and Randal glued to his phone after having the security system installed might be the last straw for me. Such lazy writing.
     

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