After the incredibly emotional episode we received last week, it was always going to be difficult for This Is Us to follow that up with another strong slice of familial drama. While not quite as hard hitting as The Cabin, Sterling K. Brown takes the reigns of the show this week and boy does he deliver an absolute masterclass in acting, accompanied in part by some very clever editing (more on that later).
It’s report card day at the Pearson house and episode 15 begins with Jack checking Randall and Kevin’s report, with the latter acting smug about his two A’s. However, its tarnished by a couple of poor comments from teachers about his disruptive behaviour.
Kate meanwhile, discredits her own grades because her boyfriend has broken up with her. Alone, Jack and Rebecca discuss Randall being wound a little tight, concerned for his well-being and needing to find an outlet for him to control it.
Kevin talks to his Mother and laments how boring she is, wishing she was more like Sophie’s Mum. Determined to prove him wrong, Rebecca takes him to the local baseball shop and they have fun together, bonding over bubblegum cards.
Jack meanwhile, helps Randall out with his anxiety by introducing him to running before giving Kate relationship advice later.
In the present, Randall prepares for therapy while Toby outright apologises to Kate when she returns and tells her the weekend was a godsend. He has a surprise for her in the garage – an idea of turning it into a music studio for her. Only, she doesn’t take too kindly to his gesture, needing more time to process what he’s saying, while Kevin returns home to see Rebecca, confronting her about her condition and setting up a Mother/son day out together.
Rebecca and Kevin start their day out and go the record store, where she talks to him about the time they went looking for Joni Mitchell’s house. Kevin takes her there, where they talk openly about music and her memory loss. She tells him he has a gift for making things really fun and helping people forget about their worries, leading her to beg him to take her someplace else.
However, he puts his foot down and instead encourages her to go to her appointment. Along with Miguel they sit and hear the verdict in the office. It’s official – Rebecca has Alzheimer’s.
Randall arrives at therapy, sitting openly and confidently, before putting his phone on silent. He mentions Rebecca and then goes on to tell the therapist he suffers from anxiety. We don’t see the therapist’s face until right at the end of the episode, keeping the focus during these segments squarely on Randall.
It’s an absolutely genius bit of film-making and keeping the attention on him sees his demeanor change, bit by bit. The coffee machine hisses, the therapist asks simple but effective questions about his family, while a picture on the wall continues to grate on Randall. All of this gives him a sense of not being fully in control. So much so, that he walks out before the session is over.
Randall heads home and Beth tells him she’s suffering too and she needs therapy to work – for the sake of their relationship. As they talk, he learns all about the issues she’s facing and it’s enough for him to head back to therapy, only this time the camera is facing the other way; we see what Randall is seeing and in particular, see the face of his therapist.
As the episode closes out we see a montage through the years of baby Jack growing up with music, courtesy of Kate and Toby’s music studio and subsequent baby pen working, and of him becoming a recording artist and overcoming his blindness.
While Kate and Kevin both have nice story arcs this episode, it’s ultimately Randall who deserves all the plaudits here. His character has years of pent up stress and control issues, stemming all the way back to him as a baby and therapy is almost certainly going to see all of this bubble over in the worst possible way.
Many people have theorized that this is the exact moment he and Beth break up and given what we’ve seen so far, it wouldn’t be amiss to think that way. There’s also the subject of future-Kate too, who we haven’t seen in any of the flash forwards so far.
I’m guessing the show creators have something big in store for the finale and with only a few episodes left, we’re in the home stretch now for this drama and it all feels very exciting in this drama that continues to deliver the goods.
Hopefully This Is Us can pull off another memorable finale here and round out what’s been a very strong and much-improved fourth season.
Expect A Full Season Write Up When This Season Concludes!