I Never Cried Watching 'This Is Us'…Until This Character Died

Confession: I regularly cry at TV shows. Tbh, watching Parenthood just about killed me. So when I heard that This Is Us was going to reduce me to Parenthood levels of tears on a weekly basis, I was ready for the emotional cleansing to begin.

I watched week after week, waiting to really get choked up over something. It almost happened when I thought Dr. K was going to die on Christmas Eve. And when I realized Kevin’s ex-wife is Sophie—the same Sophie we witnessed him fall in love with at his Princess Bride-themed 10th birthday party. And again when Kevin cradled his brother as he suffered from a crippling anxiety attack. I’ll admit I got misty-eyed. But I never really cried.

Until “Memphis.” This week’s episode, appropriately titled for Randall and William’s road trip to the city where William grew up, had plenty of sentimental moments. William telling Tess and Annie goodbye, looking down on them. Randall taking his biological father a half day off course to “meet” his adoptive father and pay his respects. William’s journey from Memphis to Pittsburgh playing out in flashbacks.

These are the kind of perfectly sappy This Is Us moments I’ve become accustomed to. After making it through these hearty scenes, saying goodbye to William was a punch to the gut that I wasn’t expecting.

William’s death was all it took to break my cry-free spree. I didn’t just shed a single tear or let my eyes fill up with water without sacrificing a drop. I SOBBED. For a solid 10 minutes.

I, like Randall, thought William would be returning to New Jersey, to see the girls, Beth, Jessie and the others before dying. From the moment Randall stopped denying the ER doctor’s assessment of William and let the news sink in to the time the ducks waddled in front of Randall’s car on his drive back home, I was ruined.

I have become attached to William. I knew his death was coming and that it would be hard. Each week, I’ve remarked, “I really don’t want him to die.” Sixteen episodes was not enough to prepare me. A million probably wouldn’t have been either.

I guess my reaction is a testament to William’s presence on the show—his growth from stranger to part of the family—and the compassion, regret and humility Ron Cephas Jones has brought to the character. This Is Us won’t be the same without William’s present coinciding with the Pearsons’.

At least maybe his death has readied me for Jack’s inevitable demise. Though I’m sure I’ll be a puddle of tears then, too.