The Brilliance of This Is Us

For those of you who haven’t watched This Is Us I highly recommend it for its brilliance in handling tough issues, such as loss, alcoholism, race and body image with in a family. This Is Us has won a Golden Globe along with 25 other awards and 58 nominations. The acting is phenomenal and heart breaking as the plot twists and turns, giving the audience what it wants while also keeping them guessing. Out of all the tear-jerking episodes I’ve seen and all the scenes I’ve witness, I haven’t been more flabbergasted by a shows brilliance than during episode 15 in season two, “The Car”.

This episode shows acting at its finest and handles the subject of grief with maturity, but I’m not going to look at the whole entire episode, I’m only going to critic a tiny scene where Randall and Kevin think about their dad teaching them how to tie a tie (8:41). Now bear with me as I pick this couple second scene apart. For ease sake I’ll break it into three sequences.

The first sequence starts with the family in the car heading to their father’s funeral. Kevin, the oldest triplet, is trying to put on his tie, but he can’t get it. He angrily tears it off his neck and holds it in his hands in defeat. Randall asks if he needs help. Kevin has a quick flashback to his dad helping him buy his first suit and tying his tie for him in the store. Let’s pause on this first sequence of events. Just by giving the audience Kevin’s reaction to not being able to put on a tie, then the flashback with his father, it gives the subtlest shorthand that Kevin attaches his suit and more so his tie to his father. His anger is attached to his grief, allowing for the second sequence to be set up.

The second sequence is a short sequence of dialogue. Randall, trying to open himself to his brother, and with an eager to help and fix the situation tone in his voice, says that he can help Kevin tie his tie. Kevin instantly dismisses this by stating that he isn’t going to wear a tie. “You’re not going to wear a tie to dad’s funeral?” Randall asks. “Dad wouldn’t care.” This sequence shows Randall and Kevin’s dynamic. The fact that Randall feels the need to instantly help the situation shows his need for tension to be resolved instantly- which could be because of his severe anxiety issues- and Kevin’s ability to instantly refuse help and to shut those around him out.

Third and most interesting sequence happens as Randall has a flashback after Kevin’s dismissal of the tie where Randall is little and his father’s showing him how to tie a tie. The reason this sequence is so interesting, and complex is because the show has reinforced time and time again that Kevin and Randall have always been at each other’s throats. In the first sequence where Kevin has his flashback it shows that his annoyance is directed at the ties connection to his dad and him not being able to put it on is a failure, on himself and to his dead father. The problem is Randall doesn’t know about Kevin’s thoughts. Because of his flashback, it is conveyed to us as the audience that Randall sees the tying of a tie a skill that was passed to him by his father and that Kevin having a tied tie would be honoring their childhood and the things that their dad gave to them. The tie knot is a symbol of their father and by Kevin refusing his brother’s help, it builds a wall, a barrier of emotion and empathy to one another, which has spread into their adulthood.

This scene within the episode of “The Car” captures what so many emotions, so many character flaws and dynamics within a couple of seconds that it’s amazing. It shows that each character is so fleshed out, so emotionally grounded that each one of their actions, each one of their thoughts tells a story within the story and effects all the characters around them. If this is the kind of emotion one scene contains, just imagine the rest of the episode.