Well that was different!
It amazes me how Lyric Ross, the 14 year old actress who plays Deja, can do such a phenomenal job of carrying an entire episode on her shoulders. This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life (what a title eh?) paints a heartbreaking and extremely depressing picture of Deja’s life, and yet it’s surprisingly necessary at this point in the show’s run. It’s the episode you didn’t know you needed!
Showcasing events we’ve already seen through a different perspective isn’t exactly new, but This Is Us manages to provide a fresh spin by completely alienating the entire’s cast. In fact, we barely see Rebecca, Kate, and Justin aside from some brief montages (which I’ve discussed in the bits below). Instead, it’s all about Deja’s journey, and it’s realistically brought to life down to every brutal detail.
It helps that Ross is surrounded by two incredible performers in the flashback scenes. As her mother Shauna, Joy Brunson is terrific as a down-on-her-luck single mother who never truly grew up. It speaks volumes to how effective this hour was that I finally understood the character. Even more impressive is Shauna’s grandmother G.G. played to perfection by Pam Grier. We only got to know the character for around ten minutes, and I still found it horrifying to lose her – that’s how impactful Grier’s performance is. Do I smell a guest-star Emmy this summer?
I don’t think anyone was caught by surprise by the episode’s ending with Shauna announcing her departure. It was pretty obvious, particularly with her lovingly watching Deja laughing with her other family. Ouch.
– Stylistically, this hour is packed with outstanding editing. Notice all the mini-montages that unite and create parallels between everyone’s individual journeys: giving birth, cooking, hugs, death etc… They’re all impeccably weaved together.
– Yup that was The Manny on TV as Deja was cooking.
– That knife wound was deep!
– As Deja’s foster sister Raven, little Ciera Hart is mindblowingly good. Notice her resilience in the face of abuse and how adept she’s becoming at being an adult. It’s so sad to see.
– Tess and Annie rushing to hug Deja was really darn sweet.
Randall: Oh, you didn’t know? That’s a new species. It’s a Hibiscus droopus. It’s very rare.
Deja: Oh, my God, you’re still so corny.
Randall: Like I’m on the cob, baby.
Deja: But then I started thinking, isn’t it weird how everyone goes to sleep at night? Like, everyone in the whole planet. All these people. People I’ll never know. Some are poor. Some are rich. Some sleep in beds. Some sleep on the floor.
But, at the end of the day, everyone sleeps. And I guess, if you think about it hard, you know, got other stuff everyone’s got, too. Things that hurt them. Things that make them feel better.
An unexpectedly moving hour that provides valuable insight into a character that’s bound to be part of This Is Us’ fabric for a long time to come. This experimental hour definitely succeeded!