This Is Us Goes Into The Wilderness Of Family History
Trippin' balls on yo mama.
There's so much I could write about this week's This Is Us. For instance: the absolute hilarity of Randall 'shrooming out as he rages around the woods with his Reasons I Hate Mom List, talking to his dead dad and remembering the absolutely beautiful moments that Jack shone as a father. That stuff with the martial arts (no doubt a shout-out to this viral sensation) moved me to tears.
Sterling K. Brown out there seeing trails on the trails is one for his Emmy reel, for sure. I really love him, and if this show was renamed This Is Randall you would hear no complaint from me. The humanity he displays has basically put him into the hall of fame of TV characters after only nine episodes.
Or I could spend some time defending myself from what I expect would be an avalanche of "you're a crackpot" by making the controversial assertion that they should just go ahead and kill off Kevin. I mean, why not? I don't want to see him help Olivia get woke to her feelings. I did like that he ended up in bed with the cutie playwright but ultimately, who cares? Nobody. Do something with him or let me be resigned that he really is just eye candy after all. Knocking him off would open a world of emotional possibilities and storylines.
Yes, I could go deep on either of these subjects. Instead, give me a minute on Rebecca.
Say what you will about Mandy Moore's old-age makeup. (They're trying, but it's hard to forget she's under there, and Previously.TV's Wig Cop is probably really close to getting an arrest on that sensible bob.) But, in addition to the nuance the show is highlighting on adoptive parenting, I want to particularly call out and praise the shades and depth they're alluding to in Rebecca's story about the choices she has made and why she might have made them. Your average TV viewer, the one all these ads are skewed toward, is not someone who has yet done a lot of soul-searching on the fateful and fitful ways a senior person has been shaped by life experiences. The sympathy we're invited to feel for Rebecca -- who made decisions on Randall's life based on self-serving fear -- that's a unique note for TV. Seeing her run around that cabin, checking door locks and securing the windows, caused a palpable wave of sympathy in my body, even without knowing what specifically may have caused her to do it. I thought of women I've known -- mothers of friends, teachers, my mom and mother-in-law and my grandmothers -- and I broke down and cried. People have reasons for being who they are, and some of those reasons are very difficult to transcend, if that's even possible.
As I cringed through her decision-making process to keep Randall from his father -- and I hate to upset anyone by revealing this -- I was reminded that there's a not-small group of people in the world who are fully anti-adoption. It is mostly comprised of adult adoptees who feel they were robbed of the family relationships they deserved, and who believe that adoptive parents "steal" children from (financially, emotionally) impoverished mothers (and fathers) who would parent if only given a chance to do so. If you are considering adoption, I encourage you to acknowledge this perspective, not because I think it is always correct (though I don't doubt that it has been in many cases), but because it is an important layer to the enormous onion that is adoption. Should it discourage you from pursuing what can be a beautiful way to expand your family? I don't believe that it should. Still, you absolutely must consider Randall and William and Rebecca and the way that time can change a situation, and how openness -- not just between the adoptee and the birth family, but between the entire adoptive family unit -- can be a healing force. (Kate and Kevin's "get over it" reactions to Randall's pain are evidence that for all of Jack and Rebecca's attempts to do right by Randall at home, they could have gone a little farther on the subject of adoption with his siblings.)
William believed he was unable to care for his son when he was born and made the decision to abandon him, for better or worse. Rebecca, for all her faults, went beyond what was required of her (since nothing was legally required of her) to connect to the father of this child to whom she was instantly bonded (her fears at the beginning notwithstanding -- the fact that she was so worried about it proves the depth of love she felt for Baby Randall). She sought William out again when it became clear that Randall was struggling to find an identity, but she was overwhelmed by the irrational terror of losing her son. These are base human emotions and you're basically doing a cannonball into a minefield by recognizing them, and accepting the gamble of your life when becoming a parent of any kind.
What I appreciate here is that, though there are questions still unanswered, we're allowed to see Rebecca as a whole person. She's not The Perfect Mother or even the Adoptive Saint. She's not the Overbearing Shrew or the Nagging Wife or the Super Woman. She's all of those things, and she got that way through the twisting, turning roots that go back generations. She's us.