Sunday, March 29, 2020

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 4, Episode 17 “After the Fire” (B+)

What was most interesting about this episode is that, had it come at a different point, it would have felt emotionally manipulative and unnecessary. Yet now it’s actually extremely poignant, not because it offers viewers an opportunity to imagine what could have been, but more due to the way in which it completely gets into Randall’s head, playing out the thoughts he has on such a regular basis. That’s also why the casting of Pamela Adlon as his therapist makes so much sense now, since she was able to interrupt his idyllic fantasy of Rebecca and Jack telling him about William right after his imagined survival, giving him three parents to enjoy for most of his life instead of just one. She was on-point to object to that fairytale re-envisioning, especially since Rebecca didn’t tell him about William when she did lose her husband, and pretending that she would have done so if he had survived isn’t logical. Prompting him by asking what he was most afraid would have happened presented a much more harrowing picture of how it could have gone, with Randall sleeping with random women and totally disconnected from his family. This show is uniquely able to channel emotions on screen with many actors to portray its characters over the course of time, and this episode was extremely effective as a result. The conclusion that Randall came to that he needed his mother to do what was important to him is evidently one that doesn’t take her and his siblings into account, and now, just in time for the season finale, that choice is going to push him further away from the family he so desperately needs.

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