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This is Us 2×03 “Highs and Lows”

Big Three Moments of the Week

Human beings have a tendency to repress pain — pain that’s so vivid, so heart wrenching that when it’s felt, there’s no escape. And that kind of pain has only one solution, it demands to be felt. This is Us is a show that forces its characters to feel these emotions by pulling through roller coasters they’ve never wanted to be on. In “Highs and Lows” we saw just that, moments between the siblings, parents, and new family members adjusting.

Scene I: Annie’s conversation with William

Anytime William comes back into the picture, his means of reminding us of second chances is so heartbreaking, you can’t not be taken aback by whatever’s occurring, but this scene wasn’t about William and it wasn’t about Deja — this scene was about innocence, and a child’s innocence to be exact. When the Bible for instance speaks of faith the size of a mustard seed, I feel as though from what I’ve seen, only a child is capable of such greatness. A kid’s faith in a person, an idea, or whatever is in question is unmatched. The innocence in their hearts and the encompassing adoration that’s within them has powers we cannot even fathom.

That’s why Annie talking to William was so important because she’s not only happy in the home she lives in, but she truly believes in the fact that William could be happy, too. And that belief in him, the belief that he could be safe here clearly affected William tremendously. Because this little girl not only looked to him through untainted eyes, and a pure heart, but she looked to him with hope, and the absence of hope in his life has done enough damage in his life. To then parallel the moment from the past to this moment with Deja beautifully instilled hope in viewers that the Pearson family would in fact be able to save this girl. They’d find the means to make her feel safe enough to consider them family and to become the best version of herself that she could be. And that innocent, unyielding faith is something we’ve also seen tirelessly in Kate towards her father.

Scene II: Kevin lets himself grieve

First and foremost, we all need to take a moment to applaud Justin Hartley for holding his own remarkably while opposite the legendary Sylvester Stallone. What a scene. What an episode. And while this may not be my first choice, this is the episode’s heart — the showcase of how haunting emotional repression can be while allowing us to see a side of Kevin that’s not always front and center. We’ve seen Kate’s grief play a crucial role in her life and we’ve seen Randall’s, but Kevin’s has been tucked away in the dark corners of his mind in a place he’s terrified to visit. But in an episode where he’s to thank a fatherly figure for saving his life, Kevin freezes. Kevin allows the memories of his father’s death to come into play once Stallone tells him that there’s no such thing as time but rather memories. And if that’s not one of the greatest points made, then I don’t know what is.

It was chilling to hear that — to ponder this idea that time is merely an invisible notion we rely so heavily on. There are a lot of things that make This is Us genius, but it’s episodes like this that set the bar significantly high — to have Stallone stand there and reminisce about his time filming Rocky made for an unparalleled moment. It truly authenticated the fact that memories linger in ways that go beyond human understanding. (It’s in the way that the smell of sunscreen will immediately take me back to my childhood.) In the same way that we repress emotions, as human beings, without ever realizing it hold onto moments with a grip so tight, we can’t even comprehend it.

And sometimes, those scents, scenic routes, or a simple word take us back to the dark corridors of our mind where some wounds have never healed. Wounds that when touched, even for a moment, will sting like a fire burning through us. Pain so deep, so agonizing the human mind, in order to protect us, finds means of keeping them concealed in the form of emotions such as denial or anger. And that’s what Kevin’s mind had done until that battle sequence where he tapped right back into the painful memories where his dad was alive, well, and his biggest fan. The momentary grief made for such a cathartic experience that he lost grip on the presence resulting in the injury. An injury that though painful, it cannot compared to the longing and heartache that was left behind when a teenage boy lost his father — his hero.

Kevin never got to fully grieve and we can finally see that now, but as far as this moment goes, it wasn’t fleeting, tapping into such memories don’t go away with pain killers, when touched, they demand to be felt, they demand to be taken care of. And judging by the “he’s just like him” comment, it’s safe to assume that Kevin may try to fight it off longer with pain killers as a result leading to an addiction. Whatever route’s taken, we can be certain of one thing, which is that Hartley is ready to embody these emotions with everything in him. If this episode was indication of anything, it’s that we have yet to see the best of his performance.

Scene III: Jack and Rebecca talk

Conversation is incredibly vital when it comes to maintaining healthy relationships and I’ve never appreciated or rather “shipped” the Pearson parents more than I did in this episode. First of all, “Jack Pearsoning” should be added into the dictionary as an official word. Please and thank you. Second, Jack and Rebecca’s conversations were so raw, so pure, and honest that in their simplicity, it was clear to understand how the two of them fell in love. Ventimiglia and Moore have often had outstanding chemistry, but there was something different about their energy this week. Their interactions felt incredibly organic — they felt like a real married couple and while I didn’t intend to pick this scene because Randall’s memory was far more powerful if we’re speaking in terms of life altering, but because honest conversations need to be had more, this scene needed to be highlighted. We need to be able to have these moments and TV viewers along with writers shouldn’t classify them as boring or any less than any grand romantic gesture. It’s in these moments where we find ourselves and our humanity a bit more through our flaws and insecurities. Jack and Rebecca were shy, they were off, they laughed, they grew impatient, and their emotions were real.

I’ll be honest, my heart isn’t in review writing right now. It’s a weird funk that I’m hoping will pass and I debated even writing these reviews off with hopes that no one would notice or care. But this was an incredibly special episode that reminded me of why I chose to review this show in the first place. If I don’t have weekly reviews for it, they’ll just end up sweeping every weekend review without giving any other show a shot. These raw human emotions that the show forces us to explore week after week continue to be the phenomenal challenge we all need. We need to understand the pangs of heartache, the ramifications of emotional repression, the importance of persistence through patience, the wisdom in children, and the importance of honest conversations.

Further Thoughts:

  • Another scene I really wanted to discuss was Randall searching for his birth parents accompanied by his siblings. And the most gorgeous part of this scene was the fact that neither of them questioned Randall — they understood him, they sided with him. It was especially shocking to see Kevin there because we know that the two of them have had their fair share of issues as teens. It made for an extraordinary moment with the siblings, and it was sweet of Randall to tell Deja because it’s always been clear that even though he wouldn’t trade his family for the world, there have been moments in his life where he’s felt like an outsider.


  • Once again we need to mention that Randall and Beth are #GOALS.


  • Kate knowing all the lines to Rocky and reciting them back to Sylvester Stallone was epic. If I got the chance to do that with Harrison Ford and Star Wars I’d be the happiest camper.

What are your thoughts on this week’s episode? If there’s anything you’d like us to discuss, let us know in the comments below.

By: Gissane Sophia
Check us out on Twitter: @MGcircles

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