TV Review - This Is Us: Season 2

There was a moment in the first episode of Season 2 that reminded me of Netflix's Sense8 in terms of the editing. There are quite a few characters on this show and some of them exist in different time-periods. This opening episode did a great job of cross-cutting back and forth to the various characters, conveying story and emotion so seamlessly. It was afterward that it dawned on me that there isn't much of a story. It's mostly just emotion. The series is mainly a loosely connected string of character studies that is rather plotless. It's closely resembling a TV series written and directed by Terrence Malick, minus the voice-overs and gorgeous nature photography.

Yet, Malick comparisons suggest a free-floating aspect or meditative posturing that would be misleading. This series isn't that philosophical. Creator and head writer, Dan Fogelman does provide at most straight-forward drama, particularly drama on parenting and how issues, no matter how slight, can have an affect on one's children in their personal and professional lives.

Sterling K. Brown (American Crime Story and Army Wives) who just won his second Emmy for his lead role here continues as Randall Pearson, the black man who was adopted into a white family as a baby. Despite being married and with two beautiful daughters, Randall wants to adopt a child. There is a feeling in him that wants to do for another what was done for him.

Chrissy Metz (American Horror Story) co-stars as Kate Pearson, an aspiring singer who feels overshadowed at times by her famous, twin brother and greatly talented mother. Last season, she had body-image issues due to her being overweight, which prevented her from moving forward in a lot of areas, even in her romantic connection to a wonderful, funny man named Toby, played by Chris Sullivan, who is by far the comic relief. This season, that body-image issue will probably still be there but just not as forefront and resolving issues with her parents will most likely be more of a concern.

Justin Hartley (Smallville and Revenge) also co-stars as Kevin Pearson, a popular and good-looking actor who is on a hit sitcom. He quits the sitcom because he wants to do more serious acting but success is a fickle thing and he has to take what he can get. When it comes to his siblings, he's most connected to his twin sister, Kate. His relationship with his adopted brother, Randall has always been tenuous. Kevin has always been cool and smooth, even going back to childhood, whereas Randall has always been a little bit of a nerd.

Mandy Moore (Tangled and A Walk to Remember) stars as Rebecca Pearson, the mother to Kate, Kevin and Randall. She was an aspiring singer who gave up her career to get married and raise her children. The first season dealt with the aftermath of her losing one of her triplets, adopting a black child and learning how to raise him. This season, she has to face her husband's shocking admission to being an alcoholic.

Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes and Gilmore Girls) also stars as Jack Pearson, the father of the three siblings and the husband to Rebecca. Jack was such a hopeful character last season who held the family together through trying times. He made everyone smile and really encouraged everyone, but, as we began to see last season, he started wrestling with some demons. A lot of those demons stemmed back to his father and feelings of inadequacy that he wouldn't be able to stand on his own feet and aspire to anything. He also has some jealousies when it comes to Rebecca and all of this has pushed his alcoholism.

Seeing how this will impact the family might be an interesting path this season takes. Fogelman's writers could come up with something else. It was established last season that Jack dies, probably when his kids were teenagers. A flash forward has revealed some details of what's to come but how Jack dies remains a mystery, which will most likely remain so until 2018.

We'll be strung along until then, but, in the meantime, viewers can delight in the heart and soul that this series exudes effortlessly. Sometimes, it might get a bit maudlin and toy with the audience's emotions, but there is a genuineness to it and an earnestness that makes it standout because network television rarely does simple, family dramas any more.

Usually, it has to be a prime-time soap opera like Empire or it has to have some criminal element. Cable and streaming platforms are slightly different. Freeform has The Fosters. Otherwise, it seems the networks collectively can only handle one family drama at a time. Before This Is Us, NBC had Parenthood and before that, ABC had Brothers & Sisters. Both were good shows, but this has taken that prized place as the family drama to watch.

Rated TV-14.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Tuesdays at 9PM on NBC.


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