For as many tender moments as This Is Us produces, it isn’t afraid to show some really honest painful ones. The show has touched on this subject before, but there was a particular poignancy with how “A Manny-Splendored Thing” dealt with the pain of disappointing your family. Anger in the heat of the moment, or even long simmering resentment, is just something that unfortunately happens. Letting that happen is easy, but having the courage to confront your failures is the first step to healing, and no one knows that more than Jack Pearson.
That brings up the question: how exactly did Jack kick the habit the first time around? When this was first brought up last season, it did seem odd that he could quit drinking just like that. It’s never that simple, but then again neither are the writers. Now we know they were saving the rest of that storyline for this moment. The short answer is that Jack never worked through it, he just shut it down. He couldn’t do that once he told the truth.
You can draw a clear line from how Kate’s relationship with both of her parents developed as a child. She was always daddy’s girl, but it wasn’t one-sided encouragement. When Jack was having a rough day, Kate could make it better. She was able to give her father unconditional love and support when he was absolutely terrified to admit his addiction. Kate’s relationship with her mother is very different. Rebecca provided nothing but encouragement, but it always grated Kate. The difference was that Kate never felt like she could measure up to her mother, and in many ways still doesn’t. That’s why Kate can’t just let go until she has no choice. When her mother is in the crowd and Kate has no choice but to perform, she lets go of fears and just lets it come from her soul. And everything Rebecca says still hurts Kate because of what she believes her mother feels. If there’s anything that can be drawn from this awful and awkward night, it’s that Toby is the greatest. Not that we didn’t already know that, but there isn’t a moment when we doubt his love and commitment to Kate. He has no doubts, no fears, and no problem telling it like it is.
I have to say this because it needs to be said: poor Kevin. I say this as a testament to all those in the entertainment industry who are under constant pressure to look and be perfect, so they are always filled with anxiety no matter how much support they have. Nothing fills Kevin with more dread than being back on the set of ‘The Manny’ with his family in the audience. He shouldn’t equate himself to Clooney for several obvious reasons, not the least of which is that there is only one George Clooney. Also, Clooney left ER of his own accord, and was never asked to make a fool of himself on set. Still, the notion of rising above applies. Jobs come and go, but family lasts forever.
Which brings us to Randall’s reservations about fostering a kid, which are valid. If you know anything about the process, it is invasive, and unpredictable, and absolutely terrifying. It is one of the biggest risks you can take towards parenthood, but is it any greater risk than having a natural born child with absolutely no guarantee that that child will live a happy, healthy life? Beth gets that, Randall doesn’t. Randall doesn’t need to be pushed, just reassured that the journey is a risk, but they’ll figure it out together.
Lastly, someone needs to correct me if I’m wrong about what I saw. When Kate was singing there were quick cuts between different moments in the present and the past, one of which centered on Jack and his memories. I need confirmation because I thought my mind was playing tricks on me. Did I, or did I not, see Jack in a combat uniform? Consider this a desperate plea from a writer and fan who needs an answer.
Take the leap, pay your dues, and move forward is what we take away from this week’s This Is Us. Hit the comments for thoughts on this week’s show.
This Is Us Season 2 Episode 2 Review: "A Manny-Splendored Thing"
This Is Us walks the fine line between paying your dues and keeping it honest in “A Manny-Splendored Thing”.