“This Is Us” changed up their format in Tuesday’s (Jan. 17) episode, choosing to focus entirely on the storyline in the past; specifically, the day leading up to the events we saw in the pilot and the birth of the Big Three.
Too preoccupied with her uncomfortable pregnancy and mood swings, Rebecca (Mandy Moore) forgets Jack’s (Milo Ventimiglia) birthday and admits that she’s been kind of a monster of late. Meanwhile, Dr. K (Gerald McRaney) goes through the motions of his life without his dearly departed wife, and the fireman who found Randall (Sterling K. Brown) at his fire station struggles to make his failing marriage work.
If that sounds like the plot of a sappy rom-com… You’d be right.
Without the future storyline of the kids and their struggles, “This Is Us” lost an incredibly special element of its success. The diversity of its storylines is due in large part to the assortment of different stories happening in the modern day, as opposed to back in the 1980s.
We’re not saying it’s a bad thing, or hating on rom-coms — in fact, we cried harder at this episode than any other since the pilot because of how deeply it dug into each character’s emotional state! That’s what happens when you aren’t sharing half of your episode time with an entire cast of other characters.
But part of the allure of the modern storylines is that they branch out in many directions — Toby’s (Chris Sullivan) arrhythmia, Kevin’s (Justin Hartley) play, William’s (Ron Cephas Jones) new boyfriend — while past storylines keep us preoccupied mainly with Rebecca and Jack’s marriage, or their young children’s coming of age tales. It’s not that we don’t love those stories, we just like to sink our teeth into a variety of different characters, which we’re more likely to find in the flash forwards.
That being said, this episode was a nice recharge to get us geared up for what’s to come in 2017, and we certainly wouldn’t mind if “This Is Us” had one or two of these self-contained episodes every season — just to change it up.
“This Is Us” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.