The season’s hottest show, This Is Us, just got real. Again. Really, really real. And a number of fans are having none of it. There is a backlash of upset fans, disappointed that the big Jack death reveal didn’t happen. The criticism can be found filling the internet airwaves with headlines reading, “Critics Notebook: ‘This Is Us’ Closes Season 1 on a Sour Note; That Was The Worst Episode of This Is Us, Ever; Mandy Moore Responds to Fans Unhappy With ‘This Is Us’ Finale; ThisIs Us Ends Its Solid First Season With An Episode That Disappoints”
Clearly I am part of the minority that actually loved the episode. It was the juxtaposition between the start of Jack and Rebecca’s love story and possibly the end of it. It was about the sacrifices that two people make for each other and for their family. The reality that sometimes, you can’t have it all. Life happens and it’s messy. Choices are made. Time passes. Dreams are lost. Love is found. And lost. And possibly found again?
It explores what it is like to be a stay-at-home mom, trying to find herself again after the kids have grown and no longer need her as much. To rediscover her passion. To uncover those pieces of herself that somehow got buried along the way.
Rebecca is at the club, preparing for her first set in years. Backstage, she tells Ben, “I look like a mom playing dress-up. I have kids, I have no business being on stage.” She is all of us, struggling with her identity now. In this new season of her life. In this moment.
Fifteen years prior she had made the decision to “diversify.” To take a fork in the road that led her away from a singing career and towards a life dedicated to her husband and children. Except trying to go back to that fork in the road leads her down a completely new road. One where she leaves her singing dreams, and possibly her marriage, behind.
After Ben makes a pass and a drunk Jack punches him for crossing the line, Rebecca cancels the show. As she walks out the backstage door to drive Jack home, she says, “It’s over Ben. It’s all over.” Lord help me, I can physically feel her dream dying, a piece of her soul shriveling up and turning black.
The episode also explores Jack’s history, his continuing downward spiral and his insecurites. It shows a man who desperately wanted a life different from his father’s. A father he describes as always making the wrong choices.
“Whenever my dad had a choice, he always broke the wrong way.”
In the big argument that occurs between Jack and Rebecca after arriving back home, we hear her frustration over her life now. A life of a housewife to a husband who doesn’t see her and teenagers that no longer need her like they used to.
“I have no life. I am a frigging ghost!”
We hear Jack’s frustration over the sacrifices he has made throughout the marriage. Feeling as though everything he has done has been in support of her and the family.
Can it get any more real? This is life folks. This is marriage. This is having kids. But it is also only one part of a marriage. It doesn’t have to define it. And that is where the hope comes in.
Even as they recognize that they are at an impasse, love for their kids and each other still shines through. Jack’s heartfelt speech at the end, declaring all of the reasons that he loves Rebecca, and all of the ways that he sees her, wrecked me, truly. But not as much as his words of wisdom regarding parenthood.
“We’re the parents but at the end of the day, how they turn out is bigger than us.”
Probably because I’m a parent and pretty much anything to do with kids makes me cry.
The episode ends with the age old question, where do they go from here? The question from which great stories are born. I for one, cannot wait to see what season two brings.