Much better than last week’s forgettable hour.
After making a brief appearance as Rebecca’s mom in season one, Elizabeth Perkins returns and gets a whole lot of spotlight in Still There. I was an enormous fan of Perkins way back when she was the MVP on Weeds, and she’s just terrific here. She’s tasked with a ridiculously complex storyline as Rebecca finally confronts her mother over her “racism”. Perkins crafts a truly multi-dimensional character; you totally buy that Janet loves her grandchildren, but that there’s something “off” with regards to her treatment of poor Randall. The eventual blowout between mother and daughter is hard to watch, but it’s beautifully realized and affecting. Thankfully the show doesn’t tie the subplot up with a great big bow – Janet still has a lot of work to do, but has taken the first steps in salvaging her relationship with Randall (how cute was that “took you long enough” moment?”). Here’s hoping Janet makes further appearances during the show’s run.
In true This Is Us fashion, this hour is notable for a pretty gamechanging twist: Kate is pregnant. The writers did a clever job of throwing us off this scent with Kate’s fitness obsession, and then blindsiding us with this bombshell. I’ll reserve judgement for now, but I’m a bit worried about the writers juggling Kate’s aspiring singing career with this little detour. Hmm…
I definitely appreciate what the show is trying to do with Kevin. Justin Hartley has been saddled with the least developed Pearson sibling, and the knee injury / drug addiction narrative is a tried and true formula. However, it doesn’t make for the most exciting television (haven’t we seen this storyline a million times before?). The fresh twist here are the flashbacks which showcase a history of Kevin nagging about pain and his dad urging him to suppress it. As much as we love Jack Pearson, he certainly advocated keeping one’s pain all bottled up, and this just doesn’t bode well for Kevin. Hartley is nonetheless excellent in the role, so here’s hoping the show can keep this arc original and engaging.
Finally, the Deja chronicles are still as heartbreaking as ever. The “stinky scalp” is not an easy topic to tackle on TV, but Randall and Beth can handle anything the writers throw their way. Their partnership is so refreshingly solid and free of unnecessary drama, and Lyric Ross is gut-wrenchingly good as Deja. The family’s journey is believably draining, and I love that just when you think Beth has gotten through to Deja, the traumatized child does something drastic (cutting off all her hair) after she feels she’s been deceived by her “parents”.
– It’s a small moment, but notice how Janet tells a young Kate to make the mermaid outfit her “goal dress”. The parallels to her present day self and the concert dress are brutal.
– Amazing moment with Jack and Kevin roaring at one another.
– So what was the point of Kevin’s surgery if we’re back to square one and he’s just popping pills and hiding his injury again?
– “The twins and Randall”. Ouch.
– Love the visual of Jack waking up and the reveal of all three kids sleeping in their parents’ bed.
– Fascinating parallel: Jack with fever getting out of bed to shovel the snow, and Kevin in present day going to work with his traumatic injury.
Beth: Are we seriously having a conversation right now about the order of Annie’s boo-boo kisses?
Rebecca: Do you remember how we were talking about what Martin Luther King Day means? Someone shot him because he wanted to get black people equal rights.
Randall: Did Grandma shoot him?
Tackling some very weight themes, Still There might not be perfect, but it’s immensely memorable.