A Trio Of New Faces
Last year I decided not to cover This Is Us every week and instead, spent an entire day blitzing through season 3 a couple of days before the finale. The result was a really pleasant, satisfying watch but also one that felt fleeting; I’d returned to the Pearson family for a quick visit rather than really savouring the experience. After the poignant ending last season, I couldn’t do the same again this year as This Is Us returns with a renewed vision, introducing new characters and delivering another surprising twist at the end, reminscent of the same one way back in the first episode.
With the usual back-and-forth time jumps, we begin in the past with Jack invited to a country club dinner to meet Rebecca’s parents after their trip to LA. Jack heads to the tailors and picks out a dinner jacket and after explaining his financial situation to the owner, he agrees to let Jack borrow the jacket if he brings it back the next week.
The big night arrives and awkwardness ensues immediately as Rebecca’s family start talking about Vietnam. After gaining his composure during a bathroom visit, he returns to the table and answers their questions with brutal honesty. This is met with a silent respect, as they finally understand Jack’s story. Only, despite making a good impression Rebecca’s Father tells him in private that he’ll never accept him into the family and that he’ll do everything he can to stop their relationship from blossoming.
Interspersed around our familiar couple are a trio of new characters, including a blind man and his dog, 17 year old Niles and Cass, a soldier on the front lines. The former smashes a plate on the floor and heads off to the nearby diner for a meal. There, he meets a young waitress and as they get talking, he tells her he’s a musician.
Meanwhile, 17 year old Niles works hard at a nearby garage to provide for his daughter and after asking for more work, he’s turned down and told once he can grow a moustache, he’ll be given more hours. Downhearted, his Father tells Niles he can still enjoy life despite his responsibilites and encourages him to go to a barbeque with his friends.
In the bleak, unforgiving Middle East, Cass pleads with the locals for information about a terror suspect, promising to get them water. Unfortunately, as she heads back to base she learns the village has been bombed and her promise is no longer feasible.
Suffering from PTSD, Cass returns home from the war and struggles to adjust to normal life. Flashing back to her time in the Middle East, she lashes out at her child, Maddie, and promptly leaves, shocked at her own actions. Deciding she needs help, she heads to counselling. Her life is at a stand-still and a lot of this stems from the sheer guilt she feels over the cost of civilian lives out on the front lines. That figure happens to be a measley $1200. Before she can continue talking though, a man throws a chair through the window. That man happens to be Nicky.
As our new characters begin to blend with the old, Deja meets Niles at the barbeque he’s invited to. Unable to stop smiling when she returns home, Randall shoots a knowing glance at her before we cut to Kate and Toby, who learn their child will be blind. The same child, as it happens, who’s the blind musician from earlier in the episode. As he sings his song to an adoring audience, we’re graced with a closing montage shot for all of our characters.
Acting as a throwback to the very first episode, This Is Us does well to add new characters to the fold while using the Jack and Rebecca storyline to anchor everything together. Of course, due to the extended amount of time dedicated to the trio of new faces, fans expecting more screen-time for their favourites may well be left disappointed with this.
If you can persevere and have the patience to get to know these characters, the ending is certainly rewarding enough as everything blends together in an organic way. The big reveal about Kate and Toby’s child was certainly a twist I didn’t see coming and a really well-worked moment, proving the show can still deliver the goods all these years later.
Quite what This Is Us has in store for us this year remains to be seen but after three seasons I think it’s safe to assume we’ll be crying, laughing and gasping with every plot twist and monumental moment. Can next Tuesday hurry up please?