After months of waiting, we finally have returned to America’s favorite Tuesday night family. Last season, we fell in love with the Pearson’s and now, we get to pick up where we left off. If you missed out on season 1, it’s not too late. Go binge watch with a pint of ice cream and a box of tissues. You won’t regret the hours you spend watching the show because not only will you be captivated by the story, but you will learn more about yourself as these characters delve into some heavy topics. This is a show that causes constant self-reflection, and I can’t get enough.
There is so much I could write about in my response to this first episode, but tonight I will keep it at one…ok two (because I HAVE to talk about Jack and Rebecca)…thoughts. So, let’s dive in.
JACK! Oh Jack. Jack. Jack. How I adore you and yet, and how you break my heart. Even at his worst, I can’t help but love this flawed husband and father because of how much heart he has. What we’ve been missing is his backstory, and I believe we will finally get more of that – his past, his motivations, his regrets, his passions…we need more. Despite his drinking, we seem to hold Jack high on a pedestal. Why? Well, it’s a tv show. We see snippets and his behavior doesn’t directly affect our lives. Plus, he’s handsome, and all the good we do see is really really really good! There is so. much. goodness. His goodness runs deep and he does so much to not only create this beautiful family, but keep it together. Unfortunately, he has a major addiction and of course that interferes with his life and his family. It’s an important issue – addiction. Like Jack, the best, most wonderful, loved, and respected people in our lives can be suffering from intense addiction, whether we know it or not. These aren’t bad people, but they suffer from something that is bad. And…don’t we all, on some level? Just makes me think…and it makes me feel extra compassion for those around me.
Rebecca. My heart dropped to my stomach as she cried in that last scene. There was so much pain in that wail and it was uncomfortable to watch. Maybe it was her calm response to Jack after they told the kids that their parents were going to… “take a few days” to figure things out. Maybe it was her honesty when she told her kids that she wanted to go to the movies with them to try to forget how crappy things are. Or maybe…maybe it was when she showed up at the door to tell Jack to come home. But I think what sealed the deal on my total respect for Rebecca was when she knocked on the door the second time. Yep. It was then. It was after Jack confessed that he was drunk and had a drinking problem – that he felt he couldn’t come home and he shut the door on her – and she knocked on the door again. She took him in her arms and told him to come home…that they’d work on it together. Respect. Rebecca became my girl in that moment and I was proud of her because she didn’t give up. She knew it wasn’t time to throw in the towel. I appreciate Jack and Rebecca’s story and how it brings light to addiction and how it affects not only that one person but their family. For those women living this reality, I recognize that This is Us is a tv show. You live a life I don’t know. What is most important is that you are safe. You will know if and when it is time to work on your marriage and these demons…or if and when it is time to walk away. Listen closely to what you feel and balance your heart with your head. But for Rebecca, in that moment she recognized it was time to work together. In his weakest, most shameful moment, she held him and brought him home. I thought it was absolutely beautiful…to only have the coin flip and feel empty as we received a glimpse into Jack’s death. (I’m already dreading that episode.) And can I just say “hooray” to the writer’s for not having Jack die in a car accident? That was the expected end, and I’m so glad they created something with more depth.
Now, to Randall and Beth. I know this show is about so much more than adoption, but man do they do adoption well. They must have birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees that they consult with when writing these episodes, because I’m truly amazed at how accurately these fictional characters and fictional stories reflect the thoughts and feelings of those who have experienced adoption as a part of their reality. They must do their research by interviewing people in the adoption triad. Randall and Beth. Do you not just love them!? They fight well and they make up well. (Total side note: I have a daughter with cerebral palsy and I have often said and written that she’s “perfectly imperfect” and so, I have to just say that I used the phrase before hunky Randall. Just sayin’. But I’ll let that be the new adorable Randall quote. I’ll let him have this one.) I love Beth’s process – how she absorbs and analyzes. She is smart but always goes with her heart. Adoption isn’t for everyone. It’s just not. It doesn’t make you a bad person if you decide adoption isn’t right for you and your family. There is a lot of pain that cannot be avoided…and that pain commences as soon as you start your paperwork. Just as the caseworker in the show said, it’s a long journey and it’s a very intrusive one. You have to lay everything out there – physical and emotional health, background checks, house visits, interviews with immediate family members. During this time, many find it overwhelming. Then, once all that work is done, you have to wait. And wait. And wait, until you are chosen. It’s a beautifully taxing process. From Beth’s body language, and then her actual words, it was obvious she was not wanting to adopt. I truly believed that we were going to get a quick storyline of “If adoption isn’t for you, it’s not for you…and that’s ok.” And we’d move on.
But they did it again! They surprised me with the BEST surprise ever. Beth doesn’t want to adopt an infant. She wants to “go all in” and adopt an older, inner city kid who needs a family and who maybe otherwise would have aged out of the foster care system and been lost. Seriously, it gave me chills because THIS is the story that needs to be told…not that we all just need to do what feels right. Nope. We don’t need to hear more of that. We need to highlight the fact that thousands of teenaged children are aging out of foster care and are LOST. A Google search can show you some quick statistics. For example, about 28,000 kids will age out of foster care each year, and 20% of those 18 year olds will instantly become homeless. There is less than a 3% chance that an aged out child will EVER get a college degree. And not surprisingly, 7 out of 10 girls who have aged out of foster care will become pregnant before they are 21. So yes, THIS is the adoption story that needs to be highlighted this season. Because Randall is black and his parents are white, we will have aspects of transracial adoption woven through the entirety of the show. Last season, we were able to learn through Randall, William, and Rebecca about reunification of birth parent and adoptee, and they did beautiful work in showing the joy and pain of that reunification. This season, adoption of an older child. It’s the story that needs to be told.
I keep fearing that This is Us won’t be able to possibly keep getting better. As excited as I was to watch tonight, I was also nervous. I didn’t want to be let down. But you know what? Sterling K Brown won that Emmy for a reason. My man Sterling along with his cast members, know how to take those perfectly crafted words on the script and breathe fresh life into the characters….and into each one of us