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TV Review: This is Us (Season 2, Episode 1)

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The second series of the award-winning US drama This is Us began on More Four this week. Picking up where the first series left off, the show chronicles the lives of the Pearson family, past and present, as they navigate the trials and tribulations of modern family life. 

Four of the five protagonists share the same birthday, and it is on this date that both the first and second seasons start. The show follows the lives of the family both in the present day and through flashbacks to earlier periods, suggesting how much family life can be affected by decisions made in the past. Positioning the first episode of the second series a year on from where its predecessor began, highlights how much has changed for the family and is an effective way of emphasising the cyclical nature of family relationships. 

Although the first episode is perhaps slightly slow starting, it quickly resumes the storylines which were left open at the end of the first series. Kate has decided she wants to pursue singing professionally; following on from his own experience Randall is looking to adopt a child; and Kevin has begun shooting his new movie in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, in the flashback scenes, Jack and Rebecca are still in the midst of a marital crisis, precipitated by Jack’s drunken outburst. Unlike the heroic and idolised Jack we observed in the first series, we are beginning to see the cracks in his seemingly perfect façade. 

William, Randall’s biological father who tragically died at the end of the previous series, still maintains a presence in the first episode. However, instead of emphasising the effect of his loss upon the obvious candidate, his son, we actually observe the feelings of loss endured by Randall’s wife, Beth. Sensitive scenes convey an emotional conversation between William and Beth, reflecting that he was not only important to Randall but to the family as a whole. His presence throughout the episode, via his reading of a poem addressed to Randall in the voice-over, emphasised the importance of familial love to the programme and was a touching reminder of the reasoning behind Randall’s monumental decision to adopt.

An interesting and fulfilling potential storyline came in the form of Kate’s first singing audition. Her defiant and provocative outburst gave some real hope and drive to a character who has been through so much, and her determination to work on her singing was a poignant moment in the show and sets the tone for the rest of the season. Once again, her relationship with Toby was a heart-warming addition to the programme, despite his clashing with Kevin. Toby’s adoration for Kate is evident and it will be interesting to see how this relationship progresses in the coming series. 

A final, painful scene, hinted at the long-awaited but unwanted cause of Jack Pearson’s death. Although a key part of the series, due to the lack of knowledge surrounding it and the anticipation attached to it, adding such traumatic scenes at the end of what had been a fulfilling and hopeful first episode seemed out of place. Instead of achieving perhaps the desired effect, of encouraging viewers to watch more, it took away from the joy and emotion of previous scenes.

However, the episode as a whole was an exciting and uplifting start to what promises to be a series full of potential. 

This Is Us: Season 2 airs on Wednesdays at 9pm on More 4.

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