I jumped on the This Is Us bandwagon pretty late. I didn’t watch the first season until this one started. After the first four episodes I had to take a break. It was just too intense for me to handle. It would grab my heart, pull it one way, and then twist it another. I liked getting to know the characters (well, except Kevin and Rebecca). As a fat girl I could understand where Kate was coming from. As a minority who spent most of her time with her white family, I empathized with Randall’s struggle to figure out where he belongs.
I loved getting to know Jack. I’m married to a a wonderful man. He’s not perfect, but he’s perfect for me. I am his world and he’s never had a problem saying it. Seeing a decent guy on TV has been refreshing.
When I finally got enough emotional armor to watch again, I wasn’t as interested. The same things were hashed over and over again. Rebecca’s lack of self-awareness makes me nuts. Kevin’s just a flat character. Randall’s family storyline kept me watching. I will always love that. Sterling K. Brown is a phenomenal actor.
Jack’s death is the core of the story. Everything that ails the characters somehow relates back to Jack leaving them. Kate’s lifelong guilt over being the reason he died. Kevin never feeling like enough. Randall losing the only father he’s known, even though it’s not his “real” dad. We spend an entire season wondering how it happened. Every episode we were hanging on, waiting to see if they would finally reveal HOW it happened. Then, we get the big hint – a FIRE.
And then Season 2 starts like a big hint hadn’t been dropped. The cliffhanger turned out to be nothing. Instead of getting any satisfaction, we’re pushed on, forced through lackluster episodes about Kevin and his “I’m a rich white man, woe is me” bullshit. Kate’s miscarriage was jarring, but she doesn’t actually seem to be progressing in how to be a good partner to Toby. That’s frustrating to watch.
The last episode I watched ended with Kevin getting pulled over for DUI while the girls are in the car with him. I could not keep watching. That’s time I could be doing something else. Watching something else.
But, my Facebook feed is filled with posts by people who haven’t given up yet. So I was aware of the CROCK-POT CONTROVERSY. My first thought was, “If he dies in a fire that started because of a Crock-Pot, so help me, I will never watch the show again.”
I loved the commercial with Jack and the Crock-Pot. I like it when a company can poke a little fun at itself. (Totally unrelated to This Is Us, check this out. I’ve never seen a company handle a situation like this so masterfully.)
So I watched it. THE BIG EPISODE.
Actually, “blah” would have been an upgrade. I *hated* how this was handled. It almost felt like Jack was supposed to die in the fire but because people were already so irritated at having to wait, they decided to throw in the last minute twist of a heart attack. Despite telling Jack that his throat didn’t look that bad, he’s taken in enough smoke to tax his lungs to the point of inducing cardiac arrest.
Then, there’s Rebecca, as usual, totally oblivious. She’s already pissed me off because she doesn’t want him to save the dog. It’s like she doesn’t get that the dog is a family member. Then, she’s in the hospital with Jack, and totally does not notice that people are scrambling. That kind of panic is palpable.
I know this because I watched my stepfather die of a heart attack. When the EMTs first got to the house they got to work efficiently, but calmly. Then they realized that he couldn’t breathe, but they couldn’t intubate him. Everything changed. A chair was in the way so it had to be moved, almost violently. They were scrambling. I felt the shift. Well before we got to the hospital, I knew he was gone. Their energy told me that.
This man. This man who IS the story is gone. And we only get to see it through Rebecca’s obliviousness.
If I wanted to be generous, I could see it the way Jack would have. He never thought he was the story. His family has always been his story. He’d want us to focus on Rebecca, the kids. But that’s just not how we’ve been watching it. Jack deserved more.
I don’t know that I’ll go back and watch the episodes in between, just to feel more complete. I doubt I’ll watch anything else. Kate’s self-centered insistence that she’s the reason Jack died is more irritating now. Jack went in for the dog, but I’m pretty sure it takes more time to gather up photo albums in a pillowcase than to grab the dog. Jack made that choice, no one else. Watching a series where characters stubbornly refuse to grow is like listening to nails screech down a chalkboard.
Do better, NBC.