This Is Us: The Big Three
September 29, 2016 11:31 AM - Season 1, Episode 2 - Subscribe

Much of the episode revolves around the aftermath of Kevin's decision to quit his job, as well as William's place in Randall's family life. Kevin's agent tries to reconcile him to the head of the network at a party. Randall's wife Beth becomes suspicious of William's activities, although the kids enjoy having him around. Meanwhile, Kate's relationship with Toby grows stronger. In flashbacks, we see trouble developing between Jack and Rebecca, and glimpses of the Big Three as children, showing the roots of Kate's weight problem and the distance between Kevin and Randall. Another big twist comes at the end.

This episode wasn't as strong as the pilot, although it was still really good. The characters are all relatable, and the writing and acting makes you feel like they're real people you actually know. I'm impressed so far.

There was a lot of criticism of the pilot because of the predictability of Kate's story. I definitely see what they're saying, but I think it kind of misses the point. None of these characters are supposed to be ground-breakingly original. The point is that they're supposed to be familiar, and the genius of the show is the way the writing and acting expresses the humanity of the character. I think the Kate character is the realest of them all. I know there is more to the reality of being an overweight woman than what they're showing, but a lot of her scenes - throwing dog crap on top of food she just threw in the trash so that she won't go eat it out of the trash later, being interrupted by her significant other while working out, drinking to escape judgment in social situations - are immediately recognizable to me as people I know and care about, in a way that Randall's or Kevin's scenes (or even Jack and Rebecca's) are not. The emotional impact is pretty heavy. It may not be an original story, but it's a powerful one. Compare it to Randall: I love the character, he's awesome, but I don't know anyone who's ever bought a BMW cash just because he felt like it. The Randall character is too good to be true, whereas Kate is capturing at least part of the real-life experience of a lot of people.

I didn't catch the twist at the end, and only caught the significance reading a recap. It's obvious that the guy with Rebecca isn't Jack, but I couldn't make out who it was. For those of you like me, it was Miguel, Jack's best friend from the bar earlier in the episode. But Rebecca is still wearing the necklace that Jack gave her, so it doesn't seem like a divorce situation. I wondered how they were going to follow up a twist like at the end of the pilot, and this was a good way. I want more.

Personal highlight of the episode: seeing "KEVIN" in refrigerator magnets. Now *that*'s something real that I can identify with.
posted by kevinbelt (5 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I missed that it was Miguel too, until I rewound it and put the captions on. Randall really swallowed his name.

I think Jack's going to die young-ish; I agree - the necklace is a pretty big argument against divorce.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 5:34 AM on September 30, 2016

From the minute we saw Miguel on the phone, calling Jack, sitting all by his lonesome, I knew he was either in love with Jack or with Rebecca, so I wasn't surprised to see him at the door. And it was fairly obvious from the end of last week's ep that Jack was dead (or dead-ish, like a permanent vegetative state) because Kate had harkened back to what their father "always said" and not "always says" re: the lemons.

But I have issues. Yes, we only saw Rebecca for a moment, and yes, Rebecca was probably younger than Jack, but since the twins were born on Jack's 36th birthday, and all three are 36, Jack, if he WERE alive, would be 72, so Rebecca's got to be at least late sixties, and I don't think they did much of a job making her look like that. (Then again, my mom is 80 and can pass for late 60s, so...)

I don't agree about too-perfect Randall, and I think his wife telling William the story about his hysterical blindness was important to get out of the way. I *DO* know people who have bought luxury cars outright, instead of via loans, because they were categorically opposed to non-deductible debt. However, most of the people I know like Randall are trying to live up to something more than promising an adoptive mom they'd always be good; usually, they're struggling to NOT be like one of their parents, and usually the people I know who do this are adult children of alcoholics. Kevin's character seems the least realistic to me of everyone. And does Kate even have a job?

My favorite bit of the entire episode was Randall's wife saying that she sounded like a bitch, because it completely broke the tension in an incredibly believable way. I loved that they didn't take the easy way, making William nefarious. (BTW, I love that the actor who plays William is the father of the woman who originated Peggy Schulyer/Maria Reynolds in Hamilton.)
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 11:02 PM on September 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

No uptake here? I was put onto this by my adoptee support group POC peeps excitedly pointing at the show and saying, "look, look, non-terrible media representation" and I'm sort of puzzling over my thoughts on the show, not being a big contemporary family drama viewer. I feel like I lack the context from which to make aesthetic judgements about the show, as if I am lacking general subject knowledge and to an extent the grammar of the genre.

Anyway, you guys gonna keep posting or can I just start blabbing my guts out here?
posted by mwhybark at 12:21 AM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

You should babble your guts out because I'm catching up and want to hear someone's thoughts!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:17 PM on January 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Well then! We were just swamped by all the December-January streamer drops plus this n that so I've just been caching this show for a bit. I'll get us up to date this week and start trying to figure out my feels.

Since December 29 as far as I can tell the show is continuing to gain adoptee-community attention - my FB adoptee-ish groups are starting to point at it and go "shiny!" and so forth.

I have mixed feelings about the show. In part, this is because its genre and purpose as TV is very far from what I usually watch - give me a hundred Mr. Robots and a thousand The Expanses please - and so it's somewhat challenging for me to watch the show without eyerolling. That said, my wife is happy I want to watch a mainstream network family drama, a genre much closer to her tastes.

I have mentioned on FF previously that I have a particular interest in the media representation of adoptees, and noted that by far the most common representation of them is within superhero genre material, a legacy of Clark Kent, and before him, Moses, among others. The fellow closest to my own heart in genre representations of adoptees is of course Whorf Rodchenko, who, not incidentally to "This is Us" is not only a transspecies adoptee: he is also a transracial adoptee, although TNG never discusses relative density of melanin among the children of Koloth.

I'm not down on this show, and I want to write about it fairly - but word to the wise, when I start talking crit on this show on the couch with my wife, she gets mad at me because she percieves my analysis as an attack on the genre of network family drama. She may have a point.
posted by mwhybark at 12:56 AM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older You're the Worst: Twenty-Two...   |  Podcast: Reply All: #78 Very Q... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments