Bring on the Waterworks: ‘This Is Us’ Returns Triumphantly

It is no surprise that the hashtag created for “This is Us” would be followed by one simple emoticon: a tissue box. Though, two tissue boxes might be suitable after the season opener of the hit NBC show returned to millions of viewers who fell in love with the emotionally charged Pearsons.

The biggest cliffhanger from season one, is incontrovertibly Jack’s (Milo Ventimiglia) death. How did it happen? When did it happen? How will this change the storyline? The first episode in the series addresses these questions, but opens another can of worms for the Pearson kindred. The layout of the show relies on emotional flashbacks and present moments and the void of the missing patriarch in present time is all too noticeable.

The sophomore season of “This Is Us” opens up to the Big Three’s birthday, much like the pilot. Kate (Chrissy Metz), Randall (Sterling K. Brown), and Kevin (Justin Hartley) are all undergoing life changes of their own. Randall is looking into adoption after his birth father Willy’s (Ron Cephas Jones) death. Kate is trying to find her voice and Kevin is trying to make it in the entertainment industry and iron out the kinks with his ex-wife Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge). It appears that all is well on the homefront.

But, as viewers know, the pent-up emotions of the Pearsons are anything but ordinary as we journey through a series of flashbacks and more twists and turns than our hearts could handle. Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack reconcile soon after the supercharged fight that closed out the last season. But, it isn’t without consequences.

One of the most memorable moments of the opener is the heart to heart between Randall and Rebecca who have overcome a rocky relationship with his adoption issues. Now that Randall is debating adoption of his own, he seeks the advice of Rebecca and wonders if she ever debated adopting him. The matriarch put the whole series into perspective in one sentence. “He (Jack) pushed a stranger on me, and that stranger became my child, and that child became my life,” she says. “He became you.” This was the emotional tear jerking moment that solidified Rebecca’s love to her family.

Fans waited nearly a year for the drama to persevere, but it only took one minute towards the end of episode one to tug some momentous heart strings. In the last moments before what appears to be Jack’s life, Rebecca forcefully, yet lovingly, coerces Jack to come home. Jack has an alcohol problem and she argues they need to deal with it as a family. But the tender moment doesn’t last as the scene transitions into a future time where a teenage Kate and Randall are emotionally overcome with grief and Rebecca is seen driving alone with what appears to be Jack’s belongings on the passenger side.  Kevin is seemingly missing from this intense family moment as he has he blissfully engages in his favorite pastime – women.

As Rebecca slowly parks in front of the old Pearson home, she breaks down to a freshly burnt dwelling that stares back at her with solemn grief.  The many memories she shared with Jack are seemingly gone in one single flash frame.

However, the writers and directors of the show have hinted that viewers shouldn’t come to any forced conclusions of the show just yet. Scattered through the flashbacks and present moments are puzzle pieces that will eventually fit into one cohesive storyline. Major developments included teenage Kate, Kevin and Randall with characters arcs of their own. Kate had a dog, Randall had a girlfriend and Kevin had broken his leg at the time of Jack’s “death.” These short spurts of flashbacks hint at some major plot revelations that will be spread throughout the season.

“This is Us” is the true epitome of an American television show that enunciates to the soul. With the recherché combination of drama, humor, and tempestuous characters; it is hard not to look away from the Pearsons and their daily struggles in life. The setup for season two almost guarantees serious life affirming drama as it segues into future episodes.

This is Us” premiered Sept. 26 and airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.