With the entire narrative focusing on Kevin, Episode 8 of the second instalment of This is Us, was an honest insight into the pressures of fame, parental expectation and high achievement.
The issues surrounding Kevin have been built up to a climax in recent episodes, culminating in Number One,
an episode devoted entirely to Justin Hartley’s tormented character.
Picking up where Episode 7 left off, we are greeted with a present-day Kevin who seems very much worse-for-wear. The tragic break-up between Kevin and his ex-wife, come girlfriend, Sophie formed an emotional part of the previous episode, reflecting just how far down the line Kevin’s problems have dragged him. Sporting a nonchalant beard and consuming copious amounts of alcohol, we find Kevin hauled up in his hotel room, avoiding the outside world.
Once a character who had the world at his feet, Kevin Pearson has retreated away from normality and away from those who love him the most, with his rejection of Sophie a prime example. Justin Hartley delivers an authentic insight into Kevin’s deterioration, reminding viewers of the character they came to know and love, whilst also suggesting his limitations. A call from his former school, enquiring about his presence at an alumni event, brings Kevin back to reality and suggests that despite his attempts to remain hidden, his celebrity status makes him easily found.
Meanwhile, in scenes which flash-back to the lives of the eighteen-year-old Big Three, Jack and Rebecca frantically prepare for the arrival of a College football scout. Kevin on the other hand is not so enthusiastic, answering back to his parents and embarrassing them when speaking to the coach. It would seem that the pressure has been on for Kevin from an early age, with brilliance constantly expected from him. The contempt with which he approaches these expectations, parallels the effect which they have had upon him later in his life and the link between these scenes suggests the long-lasting effects which both internal and external pressure can exert.
In a painfully honest scene, even Kevin’s attempts to come to terms with his own problems go unheard. After being awarded a prize by his former high school coach, who promptly sings his praises, Kevin is offered the mic himself to rapturous applause. Yet, instead of basking in his own glory, the TV star instead pleads with the crowd to realise his own limitations and informs them of his imperfection. Instead of the outrage and hatred he expects, Kevin is instead met with applause and more adoration than before.
This scene is a brutal statement about the nature of stardom of any sort, whether it be on the football field or in Hollywood and the dehumanising effect it has upon the recipient. Due to his status, as ‘The Manny’, Kevin’s cry for help is ignored and instead all that is recognised by the audience is the famous person that is stood before them.
It is in this episode that we are reminded of Kevin’s humanity and are truly able to reflect upon the impact which the various pressures placed upon him have had on his life.
This Is Us: Season 2 airs on Wednesdays at 9pm on More 4.