Two weeks ago, This Is Us launched its “Big Three” trilogy. Each episode would flip the show’s status quo and provide an in-depth look into one of the siblings. Although Justin Hartley delivered some incredible work in Number One, that episode struggled to stay afloat. Number Two was thankfully much more effective thanks to Kate’s touching journey. Number Three however is definitely the trilogy’s strongest offering. In fact, it’s one of the most memorable episodes of the season.
The key to this hour’s success is undoubtedly Sterling K. Brown. If you ask the average This Is Us viewer who their favorite character is, chances are he or she will say Randall Pearson. Sterling has done such a remarkable job bringing to life a nuanced, complicated, and downright lovable character. Number Three allows the actor to tap into a full spectrum of emotions, and he does so with the utmost finesse and gravitas.
Randall’s story in the past is equally moving. As 16-year-old Randall, Niles Fitch is mature beyond his years. His performance packs a punch, as Randall finally finds his place in an all-black college, and Jack has to come to terms with his son having felt different his entire life. I think that’s the show’s magical formula: it’s stocked each of its timelines with first-rate performers. Wow!
Although I seriously doubt This Is Us will do away with Deja so quickly, it must be noted that Lyric Ross has done wonders as the foster child. Whether she’s reuniting with her mother, or bidding goodbye to Beth and Randall in the most heartbreaking way imaginable, Ross is impeccable across the board. I was unsure of the storyline when it first began, but I can safely say it’s been one of the season’s strongest elements.
And then there’s that unforgettable ending. This Is Us has always been proficient at throwing out stunning bombshells when you least expect then (maybe we should call this show Twist Is Us?), and Number Three is no different. The reveal of Tess in a drunken Kevin’s backseat is absolutely harrowing, and it’s made all the more impactful because it’s intercut with Jack talking about life (notice how he uses the word Bam to hint at a possible car crash). Thankfully, no such accident occurs, but the former Manny still gets arrested as Tess sobs in the back. It’s a haunting ending to the midseason finale, and I certainly can’t wait to see the repercussions of Kevin’s actions when the show returns (just explaining himself to Beth should be terrifying enough).
– How kickass is it to see Randall face off with poor Linda and threaten with a lawsuit?
– Stunning montage with William imagining if he had been part of Randall’s big moments.
– Anyone else sense a Vietnam episode coming soon?
– I’m so intrigued by the prospect of Randall and Beth (who are definitely #couplegoals) opening up their house to different foster kids in need throughout the season. That’s just a great arc for the duo this season.
– How is Milo Ventimiglia so likeabale every week?
– Tess and Annie hugging Deja: can you say awwww?
– Deja’s goodbye speech to Beth and Randall was perfection. Notice how much emotion and restraint Sterling evokes with just a glance.
– Love the final shot with Jack watching his kids… and Pac-Man of course!
Randall: Hey, why did the iPad go to the dentist?… It had Bluetooth.
Randall: I used to be obsessed with Pac-Man. I had it on my computer. I’d play it for hours after everybody went to sleep. Got the girls into it, too. And it’s strange, like, all these years later, the game really hasn’t changed, just different people playing it. And in the middle of it all is Pac-Man, right? Bright yellow little dude just doing his thing. Homie’s like Sisyphus. Decade after decade just eating those circles, I mean, trying different routes, trying his best to avoid all those ghosts.
Beth: What you talking about?
Randall: I don’t know. Uh, life feels like Pac-Man sometimes, I guess. It’s the same game over and over again. Same board, same ghosts. Sometimes you get a bunch of cherries, but eventually, inevitably, those ghosts catch up with you.
Beth: Damn. That’s bleak as hell, babe.
Randall: Or is it beautiful?
Beth: Nah, it’s bleak.
A tremendously affecting midseason finale that’s packed with impeccable performances.