This Is Us should actually be called This Is Us Crying. It’s got a proven track record of getting emotional every week, and it keeps fans coming back. Viewers want to be moved, and even if it’s brutal, it means the characters and the storytelling work.
No, you’re ugly crying!
In anticipation of the season finale, Rotten Tomatoes looks back at the most heartbreaking moments in the first season of This Is Us.
William (Ron Cephas Jones)’s funeral was an emotional episode. It turns out William touched everyone, from addicts in his support group to the mailman who wasn’t in direct contact with the family so his reaction to the news was fresh. The late William Hill took one of his last moments on the road to Memphis to send thanks to a person who did the heavy lifting of taking care of him in his final months. Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) received William’s postcard after the memorial. His final note, “to the daughter I never had,” gives William the legacy of redemption he so craved at the end of his life.
Kids can be so cruel. Nine-year-old Kate (Mackenzie Hancsicsak)’s friends told her to stop playing with them because they were embarrassed by her weight. They didn’t even tell her to her face. They wrote a letter and draw a picture of a pig. Every kid has been picked on at some point so it’s painful to relive that through Kate’s suffering. It’s gotta be especially brutal for any parent to imagine their children being hurt that way.
The Pearson family keeps getting bigger but it’s not always in a good way. When money got tight, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) sucked it up and asked his dad for help. But something was very wrong because Mr. Pearson Sr. doesn’t even know Jack has a family. Jack was protecting them from his abusive father. Imagine how bad it would have to be if Jack would rather tell him he’s relapsed as a gambling addict than introduce his dad to three grandchildren.
This was scary. Right before Christmas, Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) broke up. They got back together. but make-up sex gave Toby a heart attack! (It wasn’t the holiday cheer.) After his intimate encounter with Kate, he collapsed in the living room right before the end of the episode, and then it was a month before This Is Us came back. Fortunately, Toby survived, but that was one tough Christmas. Don’t they know the holidays are already stressful enough for everyone?
It took Randall (Sterling K. Brown) nearly 40 years to work up the courage to find and confront his father, William. Just as he was getting to know him, Randall found letters from Rebecca (Mandy Moore) in William’s home. They’d corresponded his whole life. Randall forgave his mother, but the thought of all this lost time was too much. A nice postscript to this moment was when Rebecca confessed to Randall after William’s funeral. It’s one thing to admit she was scared to lose him to a new father, but Rebecca went further to apologize for depriving him of time. Randall replying that he got enough to know he loved William was sure a silver-lining way to look at a tragedy.
Even the minor characters get emotional gut punches on This Is Us. In the flashback to the day before the triplets’ birth, the fireman (Brian Oblak) who brought Randall to the hospital got a whole story. His marriage was in so much trouble, he was willing to adopt the abandoned baby to save his marriage. His wife refused and Randall’s adoption is Pearson family history. But the gesture may have still saved his marriage. Please, This Is Us, show the happy fireman in 2017!
Dr. K (Gerald McRaney) had to deliver the worst news parents could hear after he delivered the triplets, one of whom did not survive. When This Is Us showed the day before the birth, it went deep into Dr. K’s life. He was a widower himself, fighting his kids over the family house. But when he got the call to the ER, he was at his wife’s grave pouring his heart out. McRaney broke down so hard at the tombstone, getting called to the ER might’ve actually saved him.
This Is Us had been preparing Randall, and fans, for the death of his estranged father William. By the time they reconnected, William already had terminal cancer. No one expected it to come so soon though. Randall took William on a road trip to Memphis, but William didn’t make it back. They had to say their goodbyes in a hospital on the road. William left Randall with some parting wisdom (roll the windows down, let someone else make the bed…), and Randall’s solo return home was so stoic, he looked exactly like it feels every time you have to put on a brave face during a crisis.
When Kate offered to introduce Toby to her father, everyone was really hoping to see Ventimiglia in old-age makeup. Instead, in one of the show’s most emotional twists, it was Jack’s urn. That makes it a little easier to swallow that Rebecca remarried. They may not have divorced. She just became a widow. Still, losing Jack was a huge blow, compounded by the game This Is Us is playing. They haven’t exactly said when Jack dies. Maybe they’ll say in the season finale, but maybe not. The waiting is even harder. When Kate flashed back to Jack’s funeral, the kids seemed older, perhaps teenagers, so maybe there’s hope Jack can make it to the ’90s.
There’s nothing worse than losing a child. The Pearsons had to go through it twice. In the very first episode, only two of the triplets make it, inspiring Jack to adopt Randall. Then, the episode “The Big Day” culminated in the same birthing scene, but showed he more detailed conversation of Jack having to tell Rebecca they lost one.
Which moment from This Is Us’s first season made you cry the most? Did we leave one out? Tell us in the comments!
The season finale of This Is Us airs Tuesday, March 14 at 9/8 C on NBC