“You’re so busy making sure Kate’s not eating too much and Randall’s not too adopted, and meanwhile, where’s Kevin? Oh, he’s dead!”
Ouch. Watching everyday life continue to unfold during a family visit to the pool in the past timeline, it makes a poignant sort of sense that the young Kevin, desperate for attention, grew up to seek the spotlight as an actor, while the young Kate, desperate to avoid it, grew up to hide behind him as his PA, and the young Randall, conscious of “otherness”, grew up to strike out on his own, away from both of them.
In the present timeline, meanwhile, the same themes continue to resonate. Randall and William disagree on how to deal with issues of race and class. Kevin heads to New York to leave The Manny and its particular spotlight behind, but it follows him there. And Kate’s self-absorbed self-loathing continues to infuriate me, this time taking form in her stalking Toby’s ex-wife.
As the weeks go on, it’s become clear that This Is Us is much more complicated than its sweet happy families exterior, exploring difficult themes with a deft, sensitive touch. The pool scenes are particularly brilliant – although we know Kevin makes it to adulthood, his near-miss somehow still terrifies, and Kate’s pain over that stupid, cruel note is piercing. But in both timelines it’s Randall who breaks my heart with his tally of black people and his million things he has “to choose to let go every day, just so (he’s) not pissed off all the time.” Lonnie Chavis as young Randall is wonderful, Sterling K Brown as adult Randall is a marvel, and this show? This show is just terrific.