This is Us, arguably America’s favorite drama, has touched the hearts and emotions of audiences since its premiere in September 2016. The show — which follows the story of Jack and Rebecca Pearson and their three children Randall, Kate and Kevin from the 1950s through the present — has been praised for its realistic approach to life, tragedy and mental illness. But is the drama taking realism too far? Has it reached the point where audiences can no longer relate?
Season three premiered Sept. 25 and promised to answer burning questions about Jack’s experience in the Vietnam War. On Oct. 16, some questions were answered and the show devoted an entire episode titled “Vietnam” to Jack and the war. But the episode lacked development. It still left audiences confused and, frankly, frustrated.
“Vietnam” discussed some of Jack’s experiences in the war, including his decision to enlist voluntarily. Audiences also learned that Jack led a platoon of soldiers and he’s had a heart problem since at least his teens. But the episode failed to answer how his brother died.
The war has always been a second layer of Jack, invisible to the audience and even Rebecca. But when show-runners finally ripped off the Band-Aid, they left another wound.
This Is Us is heart-wrenching and captivating, but the storyline is reaching the point where audiences are frustrated by its lack of straightforwardness. There’s always an ulterior motive, a necessity to hide information for a few episodes — or in some cases, a few seasons.
Cliffhangers are admittedly a necessity in a gripping, motivational drama, but how many is too many?
Still, season three has many strong points. An episode titled “Toby” highlights the realities of depression and the side effects of not taking prescribed medications. We learn that Toby has not only struggled with mental illness since childhood, but that it’s also genetic.
In “Kamsahamnida,” viewers watch Toby struggle to re-adapt to his meds and question whether they’ll work, all while Kate copes with a new pregnancy. Visibly, it’s bittersweet. And, yes, life is unexpected. But how unexpected can life truly be? In some ways, it feels like This Is Us is over-stressing this point.
Arguably, character depth is another key aspect of season three. Viewers watch as Randall, Jack and Kate prepare for life after high school in flashback sequences and watch Kate, who has always struggled with weight, use food to cope with her father’s death. Teenage Kevin discovers acting and, in the present, he begins to question his father’s past.
Season three highlights an alternative side to many characters. Beth, Randall’s organized and put-together wife, loses her job and struggles to cope. But some pivotal and loved characters from season two, such as Deja and Sophie, seem to have disappeared.
Despite my frustration, I’ll still be watching This Is Us — at least for the remainder of the season. But who knows if it’s because I’m actually enjoying it, or because I’ve already invested two years into a series that’s over-exaggerating life.