This Is Us is a series that you should watch if you haven’t felt intense emotions in a long time because this is all about the heart.
by Aisiri Amin
There comes a time when your past catches up with you, sits you down and a conversation begins. A conversation about loss, love, acceptance, and beyond. NBC’s family drama, This Is Us is that conversation.
To understand who we are today, it’s important to look back to how we got here. More often than not, we go through life desperately hiding the unpleasant memories and procrastinating the need to confront our feelings, until one day the tangled mess leaves you gasping for air. One way or the other you will have to face it. How and when is just a matter of time!
The series revolves around twins, Kate and Kevin and their adopted brother, Randall. It traces their life from birth to the present day, connecting the dots between past and present along the way. Their parents played by the supremely talented Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore come across as a perfect team if you look from a distance. But are they really? Does the perfect team exist or is it a romanticized illusion of an idealistic mind?
The entire series falls back on a tragic incident that shook the foundation of the family. But unlike the usual stories with an unrevealed truth using suspense as the premise, This Is Us doesn’t limit itself to just that. Every episode is more about peeling the layers of the characters than anything else.
Kevin had the high school life that dreams are made of. With charmingly good looks and as a shining member of the football team, Kevin had found the love of his life at an age when even the word love was foreign to him, life couldn’t look more perfect for him, ‘look’ being the crucial word here. Dig deeper and you will find a fractured relationship with the father and a deliberate distance between him and his adopted brother.
Lovingly called ‘Number one’ by his parents, Kevin struggles hard to fit into the perfect version while watching himself fail at it over and over. His go-with-a-flow attitude suppresses the silent screams of his defeated sense of self and his desperate need for help. He is more than a lost soul. His damage is more than what he denies it to be, more than he can comprehend.
Whereas, Kate in many ways is the opposite of Kevin. While Kevin wore the crown of popularity in high school, Kate was the one who hid from her own shadows. Her being overweight made her look at herself in an exaggeratingly critical manner. Her mother’s good looks and beautiful voice became more of a trigger than anything else. Kate’s interest in singing is overshadowed by her frictional relationship with her mother. Shunned away as a kid because of her weight, Kate never really learns to look at herself in a positive way.
Even as an adult, Kate finds it difficult to believe that someone can take a liking towards her. So, when Toby comes by with his lame jokes and infectious zeal for living, Kate finds herself in a new place, a place where she realizes she can be happy too. But, her guilt about her past creeps up on her present never letting her live her life as her own.
Randall or ‘Number Three’, as he is called, is in many ways perfect. His strong relationship with his wife and his way of dealing with his two daughters has a stark similarity to his father, Jack. While Kevin and Kate struggle with both their career and personal life, Randall seems to have it all. But, like the other two, his seemingly perfect present is eclipsed by the lingering memories of the past.
As a black kid in a white family, childhood came with its own set of battles for Randall. He was different and he knew it. Recognised as smarter than most children his age, he was put into a different school. Unlike Kate or Kevin, his relationship with both his parents was a normal one, a peaceful one. While his brother and sister struggled to find their passion, Randall pursued exactly what he wanted and ended up exactly where he wanted to. Or did he?
Randall could never make peace with his identity. Always on a lookout to find where he came from, why his biological parents rejected him, where does he fit, the questions in his mind haunted him. His inability to have any control over his past often made him vulnerable, forcing him to go into his shell.
This Is Us takes you through the flaws, vices, and emotions of human relationships. It emphasizes on the heart more than the mind and talks about issues that seem to be too real to be not true. The beauty of this series is that it focuses on the vulnerabilities of the characters and that vulnerability is not gendered, for a change.
The Season 1 and ongoing Season two are available on Amazon Prime. Watch it, feel it and let it take you in.
Aisiri Amin (she/her) is an independent journalist specializing in gender, culture, and social justice. She is a struggling optimist, trying to understand the world through cinema, books, and travel.