NBC’s This Is Us is first and foremost a show about family and how each member plays an important piece in the Pearson puzzle. Because of powerful writing and performances showing the strength of its characters, viewers of This Is Us have not only taken the Pearsons into their homes week after week, but also into their hearts.
In November, the show aired a series of episodes focusing on each of the Pearson children, otherwise known as Big Three. We got to see the story unfold through the eyes of Kevin, Kate and Randall; experiencing their joys and sorrows for the kind of tearjerkers that This Is Us is known. The episodes were appropriately titled “Number One,” “Number Two” and “Number Three.” Let’s discuss each of these stories, starting with Number One.
Being the first in anything gives you the feeling of an unspoken responsibility to be the best. For Kevin Pearson, this meant being a star football player. Young Kevin’s (Logan Shroyer) skill on the field ensured him a full college ride on a football scholarship and a guaranteed a career playing pro ball. But a serious knee injury during a game ended this dream. Years later, Kevin (Justin Hartley) returns to his old high school for an Alumni Honors Ceremony where he is scheduled to receive the Distinguished Alum Award. Anyone who has ever gone back to visit their high school years later experiences one of two things. Either it’s a sentimental journey to a time when life was great and you were at the top of your game. Or it is a bittersweet reminder of what might have been and will never be. Kevin felt a little of both as he was treated like a rock star and the best thing to ever cross the hallowed halls. But as he looked at his old winning trophies proudly on view in the display case, Kevin felt like a fraud and a loser. He was never the football hero he was made out to be. In his acceptance speech, Kevin stated he was undeserving of the accolades.
But the real catharsis came for Kevin when he went to the football field. In a great scene, Kevin admitted to himself his failings and remember that through everything, how his father Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) always supported him. Reaching down for the pendant Jack had given him after his accident, Kevin realized it wasn’t there; he had left it at Charlotte’s. Pleading with her to allow him inside to look for it, Kevin was a man desperate to be reunited with the treasured gift from his father; this symbol of Jack’s love and faith in him. Justin Hartley expertly conveyed the pain Kevin was feeling. Later, he went to see his brother Randall (Sterling K. Brown). But news of Kate’s miscarriage delayed Kevin getting the help he needed to conquer his addiction to pain medication and alcohol. Will Kevin reach out again before it’s too late?
Being the only girl and middle of the Pearson children, Kate (Chrissy Metz) faced a crisis of identity her entire life as she struggle with her weight. Even with the gift of a fabulous voice, Kate still lived in the shadow of her mother Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) singing talent. I believe that Kate has a mixture of admiration and resentment towards her mother, which even when Rebecca is trying to offer praise, Kate takes it as a put down. So, when Young Kate (Hannah Zeile) decides to apply to Berklee School of Music and submits an audition tape of her rendition of “Summertime,” she keeps it a secret. However, Rebecca stumbles across the cassette and after playing it, gives her daughter the application fee. Rebecca believes in Kate. Now, Kate just needs to believe in herself.
The mother/daughter relationship can be a tricky one and it often seemed as though Kate and Rebecca could never really connect. However, they were finally able to reach a real understanding over their shared loss of a child. Kate’s tragic miscarriage allowed her to accept the love and comfort Rebecca was able to give. Rebecca even shared a personal story of how she herself had dealt with losing Kyle. She encouraged Kate to let Toby in, not push him away.
Kate took Rebecca’s advice. She and Toby came together in their grief. This should help them grow in their relationship. As for Kate and Rebecca, maybe they will finally become the mother and daughter they were meant to be. Chrissy Metz’s skill as an actress allows a viewer to connect with Kate’s pain.
Randall Pearson has always been an overachiever. Number Three not only walked, but also talked. Randall is a planner, someone who works out what he wants in life down to the last detail. Even though Young Randall (Niles Fitch) was smart enough to go to Harvard, he took an interest in Howard University. Despite his love for his parents and family, Randall longed to see others like himself and what better way than to attend a black college. As he got older, Randall’s value of everything his parents gave him grew and he wanted to do the same for a child as Jack and Rebecca had done for him. By becoming Deja’s foster father, Randall believed he was giving the girl a better life.
But taking a child from the mother and life, with it’s happy memories in which he had no part, was something Randall was unprepared to do. Sadly, Randall said goodbye to Deja. This viewer is hopeful that there’s a child out there for Beth and Randall to love and nurture. But in the meantime, I think Randall will have his hands full keeping his brother Kevin from spiraling out of control. Randall is only Number Three in terms of his birth ranking. As far as his attitude and strength in handling adversity, Randall is by far the big brother. Sterling K. Brown continues to portray Randall as a man with the courage of his convictions.
The Big Three episodes helped define who the Pearson children are as individuals. Kevin, Kate and Randall are siblings standing together but facing life’s challenges as three separate people on their own roads of self discovery.
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