Emmy Award-winning series “This Is Us” returned Tuesday night for its second season premiere. The NBC series was a surprise hit when it premiered last year, becoming the highest rated new show of the 2016/17 season.
After falling in love with the Pearson family, many viewers found the first season finale somewhat lacking. Could the second season recapture the magic?
The short answer is yes.
The Pearsons returned in force for the premiere in an episode titled, “A Father’s Advice.” As Kate, Kevin, and Randall celebrate their 37th birthday, new details emerge about Jack and Rebecca’s rocky relationship, as well as updates on where everyone has been in the last few months.
Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) are beginning the process of adopting a baby. The anxious, frustrated, depressed Randall of last season has given way to a perpetually smiling, optimistic man. The lessons imparted by his father William (Ron Cephas Jones) have endured. He has a raging case of Baby Fever, which leads to a very funny, infinitely charming moment with the neighbors. Beth, however, has doubts. In his enthusiasm, it takes Randall awhile to catch on to her lack of enthusiasm. But they earn their “Relationship Goals” hashtag. Brown and Watson have amazing chemistry. They are so good together that even in their tense moments, you know Randall and Beth will be okay. In such a celebrated cast, Emmy-winner Brown still manages to stand out from the rest, but Watson matches him perfectly.
Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) have happily settled into their relationship back home in California. At the end of last year, Kate decided to pursue a singing career. Toby is only too happy to encourage her to follow her dreams. At least, until Kevin (Justin Hartley) shows up. Kevin is back in Los Angeles, having accepted a role in Ron Howard’s new movie. But his girlfriend Sophie (Alexandra Breckinridge) couldn’t make the trip from New York for his birthday. So, Kevin does what he always does, and visits his sister. This leads to tension for Toby, who constantly questions how he fits in with the co-dependent siblings. But that tension also leads to an important confrontation between Kevin and Toby, and gives Kate some much needed clarity. The best contribution Toby has made so far is to teach Kevin and Kate how to grow up.
All of these scenarios play out with the usual flashbacks to their childhood, and a look at their parents’ crumbling marriage. Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) decided to “catch their breath” after their huge fight. Jack goes to stay with Miguel (John Huertas), but repeatedly insists Rebecca will call. This will all be okay. And in one of the most beautiful expressions of love that will appear anywhere on television this year, it seems they will be okay. At least for awhile. Because the premiere finally answers a big question about Jack’s fate.
Of course, all the details leading up to his much-debated death are still a mystery.
The episode finally gave viewers something else they have been hoping for: a more sympathetic look at Rebecca. After a cold and sometimes vilified introduction throughout season 1, the Pearson matriarch got to show a more nurturing and heroic side. Rebecca’s expanding emotional range provided a nice showcase for Moore, who has sometimes come across as a bit one-dimensional.
“This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman wrote the episode, and Ken Olin directed. They were part of the producing team that led the series to an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Drama Series. It is clear how well they understand their characters. No scene feels out of place, and every moment serves a bigger purpose.
If the premiere is any indication, “This Is Us” is on its way to having an even better second season. The show has always been about the moments. Not the big, monumental events. But about the moments in between the big events. It is there that the series shines. The emotional beats are in full force, adding more humor to the mix. The emotional aspects always feel natural, though, which is why it works so well.
“A Father’s Advice” sets up a great start to what will surely be another outstanding season. Get used to hearing “This Is Us” announced throughout awards season, because this show isn’t going away soon.
“This Is Us” airs Tuesdays at 9PM EST on NBC.