This Is Us Remembers William As He Lived
And brings us ever closer to the truth of Jack's death.
See, I wasn't ready to see William smiling in Annie's room. No. It's been two weeks since we, as nation, mourned his elegantly-written passing as he stared into the eyes of his son. I had only just now gotten to the point where I could think of it without tearing up, so I steeled myself for the "previously on" section, and then there he was alive in the first scene? Alive and smiling in that pink light, bopping around his granddaughter's room? I had a physical reaction in my chest like I was seeing a beloved ghost. What is this show doing to me? I'm not strong.
This Is Us gets grief so right, and where they could easily get away with forty-five minutes of scene after scene of: Randall, devastated by a lake; Randall, crying in the garage; Randall, sobbing in an all-night grocery store. In "What Now?" they instead allow us to see everyone else's losses (even the mailman's!) through Randall's eyes, making the combined poignancy of the William Grief Tsunami ALL THE MORE CRUSHING.
First, that's because it allows us to see Randall getting to know his dad on yet another level after his death, and secondly because we're reassured that Randall, though he has been on an emotional roller coaster, is going to be okay. (ENJOY THOSE PEARS, SANJAY.) Will Randall still experience waves from the tsunami, though? Yes, of course, and for a long time. My father died fifteen years ago and I cried about it yesterday. I was very stupidly practicing what I refer to as "grief math," where I think about how long he lived (age 55), how old I was when he died (28), and how old my child will be when I turn 55 (19). NEVER DO THIS. It will make you cry at stoplights and people will honk at you.
What a beautiful touch that letter was from William to the girls, asking them to plan his memorial. Good Lord, I'm crying about it now, again, because of the opportunity William had to be a grandfather at the end of his life, and how he chose to rise to the occasion. It was a great idea, and so well-executed. I was going to give a slight knock to the Beth "toast" at the service, because, as I watched it, her "he was endearing as hell" felt a little too on-the-nose, but the chance to take that quick flash over to Rebecca to really grind in the bittersweetness of William's reunion/death was too good to pass up; I get that.
Speaking of the perfection of the memorial: before we address Kate's major revelation about Jack's death, let us pause and appreciate her balloon fascism. When her nieces give her a job, she will see it done, by God. I've said it before, but Chrissy Metz can do no wrong with me. She and Sterling K. Brown are in a constant arm-wrestle for dominance of the shredded remains of my heart over here. Their little scene together in the driveway sharing the dad sadness is lovely, and I am on board with any future plans to have Randall and Kate intertwined in each other's lives. I don't know how they plan to organize the upcoming seasons -- can we agree that this one will go down as the Randall Season? -- but when it's Metz's turn to take over the spotlight, I am confident she will slay us all.
Now we're left to wait with agonizing trepidation to find out how Jack actually died. If you haven't heard already, we actually have to wait beyond this season, but the push to have us assume that he died in a drunk-driving incident on the way to make things right with Rebecca (or the way back?) fills me with many intense, conflicting emotions. If it plays out like that...I mean, is there anything that is not Rebecca's fault? I know it wouldn't be her fault anyway, but I fear that such a scenario would come across as "well, if she had only chosen to abandon her own fulfillment, Jack would be alive today!" This would cause me such rage that I just feel that surely that's not the angle. The show is too smart. Putting it on the table that Jack, the sweet, hardworking dad everyone admires and loves is a nuanced human being capable of making really terrible decisions -- perhaps even decisions with tragic consequences -- would be an admirable storytelling challenge, and one This Is Us has, even in this short timespan, proven itself capable of pursuing.