This Is Us Recap: A Lesson In living In The Present

The cliché that “all good things must come to an end” may be trite, but it seems fitting for a show whose strengths lie in its delightfully cheesy sentiments. NBC’s This Is Us has been airing its family drama for six seasons now, and throughout that time it has offered a steady stream of life lessons that sound like Hallmark cards, but with a deeper and more intellectual twist. As we’ve witnessed these life lessons play out through the complicated but loving Pearson family, we’ve cried innumerable tears of pleasure and happiness.

We saw Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia), a handsome, hard-working man, fall in love with Rebecca (Mandy Moore), a beautiful, musical, dreamy girl from a wealthy background. We watched as the couple started a family in the most untraditional way possible: with triplets who became twins after birth and then triplets again after adoption. The audience witnessed the development of the trio known as “The Big Three,” including the challenges they faced as they navigated the complex relationships between themselves and their parents as they forged their individual paths in life. The ups and downs of their romantic, tragic, introspective, and ultimately redemptive journey were never less than beautiful, and that’s a credit to the amazing cast, crew, and creators who brought it to life.

Tonight, we reached the end of that journey. The events of the series finale, episode 18 of season 6, appropriately titled “Us,” centered on three narrative arcs: a Saturday in the Big Three pre-teen era, Rebecca’s funeral ceremonies, and Rebecca’s conversation with Jack at the end of the train ride that marked her perspective of her final moments. Let’s dissect the large end of the Big Three.

A Pre-teen Saturday

After learning she had Alzheimer’s, Rebecca worried most about losing the ability to recall minute details, such as a Saturday when her children were younger and the family spent the day playing a game together. The culminating memory sequence displays the exemplary instance in question. Jack first becomes aware of Rebecca’s scar when he sees it under her eyebrow. She recounts how her father was pushing her on a swing when his watch flew off his wrist and hit her in the face. She especially loved her swinging time with her dad. Rebecca admits that she never completely appreciated those times because she was preoccupied with thinking about how quickly they would pass.

Rebecca snaps out of it and realizes that they actually have nothing planned for that Saturday. Randall (Lonnie Chavis) and Kevin (Parker Bates) aren’t enthusiastic about spending time together as a family while they have breakfast, but Kate (Mackenzie Hancsicsak) is happy to suggest activities.

this is us recap
this is us recap

Kevin and Randall are not entertained and they walk out. Eventually, Rebecca confronts Kevin. While he did the greatest mile and the most sit-ups during the school fitness test, he was disappointed that he could not complete any pull-ups. Rebecca warns him that he will have to put in some serious effort if he wants to become the person she believes he can be, but that the payoff will be well worth it in the end. Kevin is relieved to hear that his doctor anticipates he will develop into a towering giant worthy of comparison to any professional athlete. Rebecca appears confused about Kevin’s state of mind, but Kevin compliments her on always choosing the best words to use. Meanwhile, Jack approaches Randall, who admits he was kicked out of mathletes for pulling a cruel prank on another kid to avoid being bullied over having hair above his lip.

Kevin, who is completely bald, is adamant that he, too, must acquire knowledge. Rebecca is overjoyed to see such a significant event in the lives of her sons. When Kate suggests playing a baby game like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, the boys protest that they are too mature for such things. Jack warns them not to undervalue Kate because she is aware of the value of her present experience. Jack says that while you’re young, you wish you were older, and when you’re old, you wish you could go back to the days when you were younger.

On that Saturday, when Kate was still in her preteen years, everyone in the family got around to having some fun and watching her demonstrate her tail-pinning skills.

Mourning Rebecca

We were left scratching our heads earlier in the episode when we learned that Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) brought Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Toby (Chris Sullivan) brought sidewalk chalk, and the Big Three were amazed as they watched the kids play four-square at Rebecca’s going away party. It makes reasonable to incorporate these games into Rebecca’s final days now that we know they were among the memories she treasured most.

The response of the Big Three to Rebecca‘s death is more pressing than the continued importance of the games. Toby consoles Kate before the funeral, and Nicky (Griffin Dunne) helps to calm Kevin down in his own way. Despite his obvious distress, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) assures Beth that he is emotionally stable and excited about the future with his wife and potential grandchildren.

But after the funeral, he tells his children that he feels that his life has been a waste: he spent his youth worrying about losing Rebecca, and the last decade scared of it, and now she’s gone and life will go on as normal. While Tess and Annie go to console Randall, Déjà (La Trice Harper) is left behind.

Déjà argues that it is not futile because Randall is going to be a grandfather. Back to Déjà telling Randall she’s having a boy and will name him William, whom she never met; cut to William (Ron Cephas Jones) thinking affectionately about being a grandfather to Tess and Annie and the role of a grandparent; cut back to Déjà telling Randall she’s having a boy and will name him William.

Kevin sits down with his siblings shortly after his parent’s death and wonders how they’ll manage without them. In order to fulfill their mother’s wishes, Kate urges them to take risks in life. In contrast to Kevin’s (Justin Hartley) decision to devote more time to his non-profit and less to his family, Kate’s (Chrissy Metz) plan to build a number of music schools for the visually impaired.

Randall responds that his siblings and parents always come to mind before his wife and children when he thinks of his family. The two of them agree completely. Then Kevin reassures Kate that he and his two brothers and sister will keep up with her if she ever gets lost by reciting their Big Three chant.

Rebecca’s (and our) Train Ride Ends

After Rebecca boards the train, Jack admits that he was missing her scar. She claims she is worried about abandoning the kids. Jack insists that she won’t, saying she’ll be there for all the milestones in their lives. Then, Rebecca starts thinking about how she and Jack (the “us”) met that night at the pub. Jack steals her line about Pin the Tail on the Donkey and uses it in a new context.

Cut to the Pearson family laughing and crying together as they remember the Saturday they played as children and mourned the loss of Rebecca. Finally, the ride is over, and Randall gives his dad a knowing look about living in the moment.

Surprisingly, the show did not conclude with the words “this is us,” and Randall was given the final shot alone. The series finale, on the other hand, managed to hit a number of heartwarming notes that were fitting for the show’s audience.

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