THIS IS US: SEASON 2, EPISODE 9: NUMBER TWO
We didn’t lose the baby because we got our hopes up. It just happened. – Toby
Sometimes, bad things happen in this world and in this society, and sometimes they happen within the construct of a much smaller entity, like the family. The human condition forces us to immediately search for the causes of these events, and usually moves to assessing blame. Some always play the victim, others always believe they’re at fault, and an overlap of both groups even blame their creator.
Nothing is worse than the unsolved violent crime, because not only is there no closure, there’s also no security, safety, or true support. If he or she is still out there, how can one be sure there won’t be a second occurrence? It’s why convictions are at first relieving, before we stop to consider prison, or the death penalty, or a separate destroyed life. And then we flash to the victim, the crime, and use that to make it easier to deal with the cognitive dissonance that comes with feeling good about another’s misery.
None of this is perfectly applicable to Kate’s miscarriage on tonight’s This Is Us, but if you look at the overall idea of how this hour played out, you’ll see traces of all of it. You’ll see irrational thought processes, exacerbated and fostered within the most difficult of circumstances, and you’ll see a mixture of both self-preservation and self-shame. What I can’t do is describe this situation from a position of experience, thus for me to cast aspersions on anyone’s reactions wouldn’t be intelligent or prudent.
Kate Pearson was certainly irritating at times during the episode, but it was hard not to think she had every right to be, considering the scenario she was given, which is the equivalent of a 3-8 off suit in a hand of Texas Hold-Em. You fold those cards and hope you weren’t the big blind, so you can get out with only the loss of your ante.
Incontrovertibly, this was a far stronger episode than last week’s Kevin-centric hour, and featured some excellent work from Chrissy Metz, Chris Sullivan, and Mandy Moore. It’s a tough story to tell during the week of Thanksgiving, but perhaps in some respects, it was perfect for this time of year.
Here’s the deal. It’s never going to be easy to tell a miscarriage story, and there’s never a proper occasion for that to happen in someone’s life. However, if taken from a different perspective, Kate has much to be thankful for, even in the throes of such a tragedy. Toby is a good man, even if you find him overbearing. Watching him search that distribution center for the baby bath, to ensure it didn’t get delivered and remind his fiance of the loss of her unborn child, was yet another example of the “extra mile” philosophy he lives by when it comes to his future bride.
The worst thing every character does on This Is Us is attempting to bear their respective crosses on their own. Honestly, it’s something that happens on television dramas all the time. There’s inherent intimacy to be found within the relationships of this series, yet the three children in particular often have to be dragged kicking and screaming into those moments of clarity and growth. Again, that’s easy for me to say, but it’s frustrating how much time is spent amidst a cloud, a fog, or a haze of uncertainty or misery created solely by internal isolation.
It took Rebecca knocking on Kate’s door to finally get through to her that she was decimating herself, and harming Toby in the process. Kate, who has a tendency both in the past and present to be selfish, amidst a moment of rage, declared to Toby that this “didn’t happen to him,” and that she needed all the sympathy. In the flashbacks, we see her upset that her mother happened to discover her application to a solid music school, and reject her immediate offers to help. This goes back to Kate not liking that Rebecca was both attractive and talented, plus her own inadequacies that only amplify bitterness and envy of her own mother.
We see Toby and Carl searching for the baby bath, and the former channels his soon-to-be wife as he takes out some of his frustrations on someone unrelated to the problem. This was an employee that had no idea what was going on, but as usual, he gets himself under control quickly and begins to solve his problem, rather than live in the difficulty that preceded it. Chris Sullivan was tremendous during most of the hour, and in particular here.
In the past, Rebecca tells Kate what it’s like to be a parent. Mom has to make herself feel better, and be prepared to stand with open arms for a child that needs her, and also be prepared to stand there as her child never falls into them. Either way, mom has to love that child, and does love that child. A few minutes later, when Rebecca shows up at her daughter’s door, she holds open her arms and Kate falls into them and sobs. She then tells the grocery store story, which leads her to the point.
Once she opened up to Jack about the loss of Kyle, she was able to make space in her heart for the three children she did have, and the husband that cared for her. “Talk to Toby.” And, finally, we see that happen. Unlike last week, where Kevin careened from The Manny into a strung out member of Drive Shaft, Kate and Toby’s private hell was handled well. The episode didn’t end with a twist, which is another positive. It happens too much on This Is Us, and here it simply wouldn’t have worked.
Instead, Kate tells Toby she wants to try again sometime in the future, and as they put the shower curtain back up in the bathroom, they agree that this event will not break them. They will endure through it, and they’ll stay strong. As easy as this conclusion was to write, it’s also worth mentioning that sometimes what’s predictable is also what’s proper. We didn’t need to over-complicate this, and rather than go with something convoluted and annoying, we saw why these two people are together, and we saw a mother with plenty to offer in terms of wisdom and life experience.
The season as a whole is still nowhere near as fulfilling as its predecessor, however, this was a well-constructed piece of drama. It wasn’t particularly inventive, but it gave us people to root for (unlike last week), we didn’t see Kevin’s drug habit for the week, and we also got a legitimate conclusion. The past and the present always relate on This Is Us, and we watched as some characters indirectly learned from the introduction to their book, gained knowledge from the proverbial preface, and used that to write the conclusion after the climax.
It was far less manipulative than much of the season has been, and its simplicity was its strength. Buttressed by solid performances, it was a major step in the right direction from last week. There’s something to be said for telling a story without bells and whistles, stripped down, filled with emotion, but with positivity amidst the pessimism. Next week, Randall takes center stage in his own episode, and based on history, it will probably be one of the best episodes of the second campaign. We’ll talk about it either way.
I’m @JMartOutkick. I’m a large (kind of), powerful (sort of) man.