NBC's This Is Us exploded into an overnight sensation after viewers were blown away by the clever narrative twists and goosebump-causing promos, but we never imagined the extent of overwhelming feels this show delivers each week. We can relate to this caring and charismatic family's triumphs, heartbreaks, challenges and – most of all – their love for each other.
Now that the show has been on for a couple of years, we're going to dive right into the juicy goodness – meaning the big twist will be revealed from the start so…
The beauty of This Is Us lies in how multiple storylines are thoughtfully woven together, creating a colorful tapestry that perfectly captures the human condition at all points in life. The brilliant series premiere introduces us to triplets celebrating their 37th birthday – Kate (Chrissy Metz), Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown)–and a blissful young couple – Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) on the brink of labor. We know all of these people must be connected but have no idea how–until the heartbreaking and breathtaking reveal at the end.
Rebecca and Jack rush to the hospital in early labor with her – wait for it: triplets. Sage and comforting Dr. K (Gerald McRaney) shares good news and bad news to Jack after the delivery. He has a healthy baby boy and girl, but one of their sons was stillborn. The sympathetic doc offers a bit of advice that shapes the Pearson family:
They still end up leaving the hospital with three babies that day because, in a serendipitous moment, they adopt an abandoned baby boy. Kevin, Kate, and Kyle are named in honor of Dr. K, until a secret encounter.
Young William (Jermel Nakia) battled with drug addiction and knew he would not be able to care for a baby, so he did what he thought was best. When Rebecca shows up on his doorstep, they make a deal. He will stay out of their lives and no one will ever know about their meeting. That is the same day baby Kyle gets a new name – Randall–in honor of his birth father:
In the series premiere, adult Randall tracks down his dad (now played by the brilliant Ron Cephas Jones). Over the course of the season, they develop a touching relationship which is sadly cut short by William's death. Fortunately, father and son made the most of the little time they had together – including an exciting trip to William's adolescent stomping grounds in Memphis. In a bitter twist of fate, this was where William lost his fight with cancer.
Since you are already crying, I'm going to hit you with another punch in the feels. Just going to rip the Band-Aid off quickly…
Another twist hit us at the end of episode two when present-day Rebecca is married to Jack's BFF Miguel.
We learn that Jack died when the triplets were teenagers. How he dies remains a mystery until Season 2, so stay tuned for the next recap to find out.
Almost every flashback of Jack reveals a compassionate and dedicated family man. He isn't perfect, but he is pretty damn close. Jack establishes a special bond with each one of his children. He's always there to encourage, comfort, and guide them through their young lives. No matter what happens, they know Jack will have their backs…sometimes literally.
Occasionally, he gets a little more creative:
Makes me cry every time. Whatever the case may be, I (like many viewers) end up wishing I had a dad like Jack at the end of every episode. *Sigh* Jack's legacy is lasting because his children try to emulate him. They look for those qualities in their life partners and in themselves.
As the previous clip indicates, Kate struggles with her body image. She starts gaining more weight after her father's death. She wants to make a change and meets Toby (the incredibly endearing Chris Sullivan) at a support group. He shares some of Jack's greatest traits – doting, funny, comforting, understanding, selfless, and more. However, Kate is afraid of admitting her feelings for him–until she experiences what it would be like to lose him during a health scare. After Toby's surgery, they don't want to waste any more time:
One of the biggest highlights from Season One is Kevin's emotional breakthrough during Randall's breakdown. TV's sexy "manny" tends to be more selfish and aloof than his siblings. Kate even orchestrated her life in service of his Hollywood dream – working as his assistant and being at his beck and call.
On the other hand, Randall always had his life together. He's responsible and aware of others' circumstances and feelings. We're surprised to learn that he's suffered from anxiety attacks since childhood. Jack would help him through those moments. Now, it is Kevin's turn to be there for his brother.
Kevin's trying to shed his sitcom persona and prove his acting chops by starring in a play. On opening night, he realizes Randall is in bad shape. He thinks, "What would Jack do?"
Honestly, this is one of Kevin's best moments on the series. He's battling demons – as his father did. Like I said earlier, Jack was not perfect. His father was a mean drunk and Jack hated him for it. When times get tough, Jack starts drinking more than he should and begins to worry Rebecca. Eventually, he crosses the line.
Rebecca dreamed of being a singer and once the kids were old enough, she has an opportunity to pursue her dream again. Her former bandmate Ben (Sam Trammell) asks her to go on tour with them. Jack starts off on board but doesn't like Ben's flirty vibes – especially since he briefly dated Rebecca back in the day.
Tensions slowly rise between Jack and Rebecca, so he makes a romantic gesture that goes wrong. Kate encourages him to go see one of Rebecca's shows. Jack turns up drunk, makes a scene and spoils everything. This night is a turning point in his relationship with drinking and Rebecca.
The Season 1 finale leaves us fearing the worst – Jack and Rebecca may even split up before he mysteriously dies. But after this speech–perfectly delivered by Ventimiglia–we can't imagine a world in which these soulmates separate.
This Is Us Season 3 returns to NBC on Tuesday, January 15, at 9 p.m. EST.