early in This is us Finally, the all-time great emoter Randall Pearson (Sterling K. Brown) effectively sums up my mood writing this farewell to the NBC drama: “I’m fine. I am appropriately saddened and I am appropriately concerned about this eulogy.”
Last week, the extended Pearson clan said goodbye to matriarch Rebecca (Mandy Moore) in an episode that made me cry so much it gave me a headache. That sounds like a terrifying experience, and at times Dan Fogelman’s series has leaned into misery — think dragging out the mystery of Jack’s death, for example. Headache aside, “The Train” is a beautiful penultimate track that highlights Moore’s magnificent performance and Fogelman’s ability to weave an unexpected narrative into the well-known Pearson tapestry.
“We” is far more understated by comparison, combining two elements that the series exemplifies brilliantly: the mundane and the meaningful. In the “before” finale, the shot of Rebecca telling Miguel (Jon Huertas) that she’s not ready to let go of memories of days “when nothing big really happens,” is a neon sign pointing to the “completely free Saturday.” of the Pearson family. this coincides with the day of Rebecca’s funeral.
The decision to combine a familiar weekend setup with a celebratory ritual softens the overall tone, and the latter (thankfully) focuses less on the funeral itself and more on what comes next. It hasn’t escaped my attention that Rebecca’s death dragged on for over a decade in her final years, in sharp contrast to Jack’s (Milo Ventimiglia) sudden death when the Big Three were teenagers. It doesn’t matter that Jack has been dead for 30 years as his legacy lives on in his children, grandchildren and younger brother Nicky (Griffin Dunne). (Sorry Jack, I’m still not over the fact that you left Nicky after the Vietnam War.)
In the case of Randall’s eulogy, we never get to hear his oratory skills because Fogelman keeps those words a secret. The brief church montage is deliberately confusing, and Randall later says to his three now-grown children, “I don’t remember anything I said.” His grief, too, has taken on an uncharacteristically nihilistic tone. “It all feels so pointless,” he intones before Déjà (La Trice Harper) pulls him (and us) back from the brink of despair.
Nobody is better at weeping on screen or serving up a single tear than Brown, and his reaction to finding out he’s about to have a grandson after being surrounded by women his entire adult life is heartbreaking. Jack and Rebecca aren’t the only two parent figures this family remembers. Déjà tells Randall that she wanted to name the baby William, which got my tear ducts going. “Your grandson will be named after a man I’ve never met, but I know him because I know you. It’s not pointless.”
Déjà’s “very good news on a very sad day” hints at the cyclical nature of life (the struggle not to sing Elton John’s Lion King anthem) that This is us served up from day one. The pilot blends tragedy with hope, and this pattern is repeated through all six seasons.
Rather than opting for a different abstract timeline, like last week’s account of the accident that happened on the same day as the Pearson house fire, this narrative is entirely Pearson’s. Tricks aren’t required for the series finale, on the order of How I met your mother to six feet under, lands closer to Alan Ball’s farewell to the Fisher family. (Though nothing detracted from the effectiveness of that final sequence to Sia’s “Breathe Me”.)
The future isn’t fully mapped out just yet, but we got a glimpse into the rock star career of Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby’s (Chris Sullivan) son. The grown-up Jack (Blake Stadnik) isn’t too aloof to take his kid to the park to play on the swings, as the montage at the beginning of “Us” shows. If there’s one thing that a story across generations tells us, it’s that swings are good no matter the time.
Rebecca has a scar on her eye because of a swing, but it reminds her of the time with her father. “I really wish I had spent more time appreciating when it all happened instead of just worrying about when it would end,” she says in the opening scene of Us. We don’t need Moore to break the fourth wall to understand that this line is a knowing wink at the characters we watch and our own lives.
We don’t know if Randall will become president or if Kate’s music school for the blind will turn into a global empire. Their mother told them to “live fearlessly,” and the Big Three have big ambitions to fulfill their desires — and their dreams.
Perhaps the most poignant part of this final conversation between siblings is when they sing the “Big Three” chant, which first appeared in the second episode. A cute invention of Jack’s ties the three kids together and we see the origin this regular Saturday at home. Younger Kate wants to watch home videos, and Jack pulls out the premiere, much to the annoyance of Kevin for having watched it “like a million times”.
Timelines stack upon timelines and the scene switches to Jack filming this original lecture. Well, here it is This is us might be considered too cheesy, but it’s the final episode and I welcome the added cheesy callback.
In the present, Kate admits her nightmare is that a busy life will inevitably result in the Big Three drifting apart. The non-linear narrative device has uncovered the many ups and downs, including monumental arguments between Kevin and Randall, particularly around Rebecca’s healthcare. Differences of opinion are eventually put aside and hurtful words are forgotten. The singing isn’t the glue that holds them together, but it is a tangible connection to their father. If only they had all inherited their mother’s musical talent. They could have taken this show on tour as well.
Flashes from the Pearson family’s past run parallel to what is now the near future. (One mystery the series doesn’t answer is what year it actually is, but I put it around 2032.) The paradox of always looking forward (when we’re young) or backward (when we’re getting older). , is fundamental to the why This is us strikes a chord. Jack’s “try to cherish the moments” sentiment sounds like something you’d find sewn on a pillow or an affirmation to hang in your kitchen, but it also rings true. Clichés are clichés for a reason.
Covering large periods of time in a family setup means most viewers will find something or someone that resonates. For my friends who had a baby during the pandemic, Kevin and Madison’s story struck a chord, and there are plenty of details that fit their new parents’ worldview.
For me there is so much about Nicky that reminds me of my father who passed away this year This is us debuted. Seeing this portrayal of his struggles with alcohol and the warmth Nicky exudes when he is sober felt like seeing my father again. So I find it impossible to forgive Jack.
Whenever I mention there is a new episode of This is us watch, my catholic husband (tongue pressed tight to cheek) refers to it as “going to church”. The reason? “You don’t always want to go there, but you always get something out of it.”
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve uttered the phrase “fuck this show” with tears in my eyes because it gets so bone-deep. None of this sounds like pet names, but I can assure you it is, and I’ve spent six years laughing, screaming (often Kevin) and talking about this series — even if sending multiple cry-face Emojis spoke louder than words.
The finale mixes hilarity and heartache with reticent MVP Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) shining in one last worst-case-scenario game to loosen up husband Randall. Of the Big Three, Randall deservedly gets the lion’s share of Us. This includes a poignant look back at a conversation with William (Ron Cephas Jones) about being a grandparent, which explores the notion of unconditional love and the power of smell as a memory.
Completing a 100+ episode run is no easy feat, especially at a time when network shows look like this This is us belong to the past. Fogelman and the extended cast (calls to the casting team) can rest easy knowing they nailed the landing. And luckily it didn’t give me a headache this time.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/this-is-us-series-finale-review-and-recap-made-us-weep-the-perfect-amount?source=articles&via=rss Recap and recap of the This Is Us series finale made us cry