‘This Is Us’
“The 20’s” is perhaps the biggest tear-jerker of all the Season 2 episodes that have premiered so far. Every storyline and every piece of dialogue is crafted with a care and delicacy that appeared to be missing in the more recent episodes.
We start off in Jack’s (Milo Ventimiglia) “Dad Mustache” period. It’s Halloween, and the kids are arguing about how they should go trick-or-treating. Little Randall (Lonnie Chavis), the budding economist of the family, wants to maximize the amount of candy he can get and makes a map of all the houses he wants to visit. Little Kate (Mackenzie Hancsicsak) and Kevin (Parker Bates), on the other hand, want to visit the haunted house first.
Ultimately, the Pearson family reaches a compromise: Rebecca (Mandy Moore) will accompany Randall, and Jack will take the other two kids to the haunted house. Jack is clearly not happy with this decision, mainly because he thinks that Rebecca coddles Randall a little too much. He is worried that Randall will become so used to getting his own way that he won’t be able to handle when things do not go according to his plan.
Jack’s prediction turns out to be crazily accurate. We are soon taken to another time period in the past — when the Pearson kids were in their 20s.
In this time plane, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) are already married and expecting their first child. Randall had a nervous breakdown a couple of months before due to stress about the pregnancy, causing a strain on his and Beth’s marriage. Beth, needing all the help she can get, invites Rebecca over, thinking that she can smooth over some of Randall’s anxieties. Rebecca reassures Beth that Randall is stronger than she realizes and will come through soon enough.
And that is exactly what happens — after a lengthy and emotional conversation with Garuda Singh (Ronobir Lahiri), a fan salesman, Randall realizes that he needs to stop worrying and that his anxieties are misplaced. This moment of self-introspection couldn’t have come at a better time — Beth has gone into labor and needs Randall more than ever. After frantically rushing to his wife, Randall reassures her that they will be fine and, with Rebecca’s help, delivers his first baby. Nope, don’t grab the Kleenex yet.
Rebecca breaks down upon seeing the baby, because Jack isn’t there with her. We transition back to Rebecca in the “Dad Mustache” period, when she is trick-or-treating with Randall. She forces Randall to break away from his map so that they can go visit the Larsens instead. Afterward, because of something the Larsens mentioned, Rebecca has to tell Randall about the exact timeline of his adoption and about the death of her third child, Kyle. When Jack comes back, she tearfully tells him about her confession to Randall and insists that Jack be there by her side for every big moment in her life. Nope, still not time to grab the Kleenex yet.
This closes Rebecca’s arc in the “Dad Mustache” period. We then see a montage that cuts back and forth across time between Rebecca welcoming Randall’s baby Tess into the world and Rebecca welcoming Randall into the world. For Rebecca, baby Tess has become a sign that perhaps, somehow, she can have a new beginning as well.
The final scene of the episode shows Rebecca joining a little site called Facebook, and receiving a message from none other than Miguel (Jon Huertas), from whom she hasn’t heard in a long time. So yes, Rebecca waited for more than a decade after Jack’s death to move on. And yes, now you can officially grab that Kleenex and turn into a slobbering mess! Also, please start a campaign to give Mandy Moore every award possible.
But what about Kevin and Kate? What are they like in their 20s? Well, Kevin (Justin Hartley) is a struggling actor behind on his rent. He is also jealous of his roommate’s burgeoning actor career and tries to steal his roommate’s part in a movie. Kevin does get his comeuppance though and is promptly thrown out of his apartment.
Kate (Chrissy Metz) isn’t any better in the “being a jerk department” either. She has a quick fling with a guy who frequents her café, knowing full well that the guy is married.
There is one thing Kevin and Kate are still good at: communicating with one another. After finding out about Randall’s baby, both of them rush to New York and end up deciding to help each other figure their respective lives out. The episode develops their arc by jumping back to what Kevin and Kate were doing during Halloween in the “Dad Mustache” period. Kevin still looked out for Kate way back then too, and he made sure that the person she wanted to hold hands with during the haunted house visit held her hand too.
Maybe some things never change — and never should change.
“Ten Years Later” is framed around Gloria (Sofía Vergara) and Jay’s (Ed O’Neill) 10th wedding anniversary.
Phil (Ty Burrell) is preparing a magic trick for the event that involves Gloria travelling back in time to the day of her wedding. Before you ask, no, she’s not actually going back in time. She’s just going to step into a box, wear her wedding dress and come out the other side.
Apparently, though, Gloria finds her wedding dress a little uncomfortable, and she starts to get stressed about aging. To combat her anxieties, Gloria begins working out like there is no tomorrow to make sure she can fit into her dress.
Phil, meanwhile, is excited for the chance to be a magician again. But when he finds out that he missed an opportunity years earlier that would have been a major boon to his magic career, he starts wistfully wondering what might have been.
Elsewhere, Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) are preparing a song for the anniversary. Mitchell is reluctant about performing in front of everybody, but after a few words of encouragement from Cam, he is ready to take the stage.
When the characters all come together for the anniversary, their story arcs begin to take shape too. Phil learns that he missed his chance all those years ago because Claire (Julie Bowen) didn’t want him to become a magician, Gloria (with Jay’s help) begins to accept that her beauty is not merely dependent on her physical appearance and Mitchell overcomes his stage fright at the expense of Cam’s drum solo.
Don’t fret — Phil doesn’t get a sad ending to his story. To make it up to Phil, Claire buys the local magic shop for him as a gift and encourages him to pursue his dreams.
“Modern Family” may still stumble here and there in some of its plots and character arcs, but it almost never goes wrong in its depiction of Phil and Claire’s healthy, goals-worthy marriage.
Also, credit where credit is due — Mitch and Cam were at their idiosyncratic best this time. Maybe the writers should consider having the two just start a band together.
“Young Sheldon” is finally back on television screens with its new episode “Rockets, Communists, and the Dewey Decimal System.” We pick up where we left off in the premiere, with Sheldon (Iain Armitage) still adjusting to his newfound life in high school. Mary (Zoe Perry) is worried that her son won’t be able to make a new friend, and she starts pestering her children and husband for help. Missy (Raegan Revord), exasperated by Mary’s worries, tells Sheldon that he should start socializing with other people.
In order to make his mom happy, Sheldon tries to learn the art of making friends. How? By going to the library, of course. Being the naive kid that he is, Sheldon thinks that “How to Make Friends and Influence People” is going to be his best bet for a social life. He uses the book’s teachings to strike up a conversation with his fellow classmates and, subsequently, teachers. That goes about as well as you might think. But just when he is on the cusp of giving up, Sheldon meets Tam (Ryan Phuong), an immigrant from Vietnam who is also struggling to make friends. The two start getting along, much to the delight of Sheldon’s mother.
When Tam, on Mary’s insistence, comes over for dinner, an awkward conversation ensues, peppered by sly racial digs on Mary’s and George’s (Lance Barber) part. When Tam, however, starts telling the family about the harrowing times his family has undergone, a subtle look of empathy and regret comes over Mary and George, who were earlier relying on ingrained stereotypes to inform their understanding of other cultures.
“Young Sheldon” plays this moment for quiet drama instead of going down the overwrought and overdone sermonizing route. The still very nascent season seems to be opting for a heftier tone than its sister series, which is very much appreciated.
If only the show would stop relying on the clumsily edited voiceovers from the older Sheldon (Jim Parsons). A narration explaining every thought and action of the younger Sheldon is just unneeded at this point.
Here’s hoping that “Young Sheldon” figures out how to utilize Parsons’s penchant for comedy soon.
Contact Arjun Sarup at [email protected].