For me, the This Is Us episode “The Car” was even more emotional than “Super Bowl Sunday.” A sad Mandy Moore tends to get me weepy no matter what, and the teenage Big Three have become such believable representations of their adult counterparts that it’s so easy to imagine them as the same people with these shared memories. While the entire Pearson quartet shined in this chapter of their grief, I’m still not over the way Randall and Kevin were portrayed during Jack’s funeral and the other flashbacks of their relationship as teenagers.
From a viewer’s perspective, we know that the greatest adult conflict between the brothers was Kevin receiving a DUI with Randall’s daughter in the car. Even after Randal’s initial angry reaction, he chose to be forgiving toward his brother, citing Kevin’s comfort of him during Randall’s huge anxiety attack as the reason why.
While their natural personalities have clashed now and then in the present-day timeline, Randall and Kevin’s relationship is infinitely better than when they were teens, and “The Car” explored the lowest lows of that time in their lives.
Kevin is first seen in “The Car” struggling with his tie, torn between the recent memory of trying on suits with Jack and his bubbling guilt over missing his family’s most traumatic moment together. A stiff and buttoned-up Randall sat in the passenger seat next to Rebecca, foreshadowing previous hints that Randall stepped up as his mother’s comforter after Jack’s death and in Kevin’s absence. When Kevin tossed the tie away in frustration and said he wouldn’t bother, Randall was astonished that he wouldn’t wear it to Jack’s funeral, flashing back to wearing ties alongside Jack as a child.
This brief moment showcased the huge difference between Randall and Kevin at this moment.
Randall always saw Jack as the ultimate, traditional provider, wearing ties to work and coming home to shower adoration on his wife and kids. I lost it when Randall told the crowd of mourners that he hoped to love someone the way Jack loved Rebecca, because he does, and Beth entered his life so soon after this.
It’s clear that the greatest thing Randall admired about Jack was his boundless love for his family, and he emulated this as an adult with his Super Dad tendencies and, yes, him relishing the wearing of a tie to work.
Kevin, on the other hand, had a clearer perspective of his dad’s flaws and his struggles with alcoholism. In the few weeks before Jack’s death, Kevin continuously feuded with his parents, making his relationship with his dad a hotwire. Decades later, Kevin faced the same addiction issues, suggesting that this dormant similarity between them added to their frequent clashes. Perhaps even as a teenager, Kevin saw himself in Jack’s old rebellious side, living on the edge.
Randall was stunned when Kevin said that Jack wouldn’t care about his tie, proving that each boy related most with vastly different sides of Jack.
Seeing Randall act the part of the family patriarch at the funeral caused Kevin to lash out, yelling at Randall for wearing Jack’s watch without asking him. Desperate to make sense of the fire he missed, Kevin accused Randall of not being man enough to stop Jack from going back into the burning house. Logan Shroyer and Niles Fitch have done an amazing job of incorporating little ticks of Justin Hartley and Sterling K. Brown into their work, and they displayed Kevin’s outrage and Randall’s calmness in ways that fit the adults’ personas perfectly.
This episode is reminding me how insanely good the actors playing the teen versions of the Pearson kids are. #ThisIsUs
— Michael Ausiello (@MichaelAusiello) February 7, 2018
In addition to their tumultuous relationship exploding at the funeral, another flashback showed a similar moment in which Kevin and Randall feuded when Jack taught them how to drive. Their tension inspired a talk from Jack about brothers needing to rely on each other, which scarily fits the family’s impending situation.
Later, after Jack’s funeral, Rebecca reminded them that neither of them had to be the man of the house, and the relief of that pressure of maturity seemed to allow for a truce between Kevin and Randall as the episode ended.
Although this funeral reconciliation definitely wasn’t the final healing point between the brothers, it shared the first glimpse of the Kevin and Randall we know today. Randall is a steady soother who speaks up when he needs to, while Kevin shuts down during conflict, often hurting those he loves most. As much as Jack and Rebecca’s stories were a highlight of the episode, this insight into Randall and Kevin’s bond was even more rewarding to see. Jack may be dead, but we haven’t even touched the surface of the rest of the family’s stories.