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TV Review: This is Us (Season 2, Episode 6)

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The sixth instalment of the family drama This is Us takes viewers back to a pre-Obama 2008.

Choosing a different epoch in the lives of ‘The Big Three’ (Kevin, Kate and Randall Pearson), the episode is tellingly titled ‘The 20s’. We see a different side to the characters we have come to know and love as the foundations of their lives leading up to where they presently stand are revealed.

A pregnant Beth is the main feature of this episode, expecting the arrival of the first Pearson grandchild at any minute. The first of Randall’s two break-downs has just occurred and initially, it would seem that this is an elephant in the room. Once again, Stirling K Brown, nominated for an Emmy for his role in the series, is achingly convincing as a twenty-eight-year-old Randall, anxiously waiting for the birth of his first child.

Despite his seeming more on-edge than the character whom viewers have come to know and love, Brown delivers comic asides with perfect timing, bringing nuance to his character. The arrival of a visibly younger Rebecca defuses the tension yet leaves a hint of tragedy, owing to the absence of Jack from the birth of his first grandchild. The concern which Rebecca and Beth share with regards to Randall reflects the strength of the bond between them and heart-warming scenes provide for some touching viewing. 

Meanwhile, Kate and Kevin, also twenty-eight, have gone down very different paths to their successful sibling. A struggling actor, Kevin is working at a hair salon. In a move which is far from the typical Pearson qualities honesty and hard-work, Kevin attempts to steal an up and coming role from a friend in a desperate attempt to gain some traction in his career, traction which we know later comes with ‘The Manny’. Seeing a more desperate and ruthless side to Kevin emphasises his own personal struggle in attempting to live up to the resilience and strength of his father. Kevin will do anything to secure himself and this is reflected both in the betrayal of his friend and in his later ongoing addiction to painkillers and unwillingness to let his injury inhibit his career. 

Kate’s journey is similarly hard to watch. Working at a diner, she is continually flirted with by a regular customer, with their evident bond growing stronger. As Halloween draws around, Kate finds herself in the same bar as her admirer, who quickly whisks her away from his friends. In a scene which was to be expected, it is revealed that Kate’s lover is not all that he initially seemed, with Kate’s revelation of this interrupted by the news of Randall and Beth’s new arrival. Kate’s storyline in this episode emphasises how real and genuine her relationship with Toby is but also allows for a comparison as to how the birth of a first child will play out for them. 

The flashback scenes in this instalment of This is Us was the highlight of the episode. Randall’s heart-breaking discovery of the death of Kate and Kevin’s brother, Kyle forms a key part of the narrative, reflecting the tragedy of his arrival into the Pearson family, but also its significance. Kevin’s protection of Kate is also displayed, as he pays off a friend with candy to escort his sister around the haunted house, portraying the strength of their bond even at a young age. Jack and Rebecca’s resilient parenting is supported by excellent performances from Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore, as once again they suggest the realities of bringing up three very different triplets. 

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

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