Let's be real for a moment, NBC's critically acclaimed drama This is Us can be pretty hit or miss. Yes, Dan Fogelman and co. have the ability to make you cry like a baby, but they also have recently (cough season three, cough) showed their ability to bore viewers to tears. There's only so many times we can watch Kevin (Justin Hartley) struggle with his acting career and alcoholism, have absolutely nothing go Kate's (Chrissy Metz) way, or watch Randall (Sterling K. Brown) seemingly fall from grace only to be lifted back up onto his perfect pedestal. Even the story of Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) gets tiring at times, especially once viewers saw Jack's fate play out in front of us.
I went into Season Four with low expectations. I love the show and care about the characters, but I wasn't expecting anything Season One-era groundbreaking. I also hate when things are overhyped, so I steered clear of the tweets about how much it made viewers (and the actors on the show) cry and didn't read any articles (like this one, ha) about the episode until I was finished watching. Turns out, that was the way to go.
SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED SEASON FOUR, EPISODE ONE "Strangers" DO NOT KEEP READING. UNLESS YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO WATCH THE SHOW OR JUST WANT TO KEEP READING MY WRITING, SERIOUSLY STOP, GO WATCH IT, AND THEN COME BACK TO THIS PAGE. THANK YOU.
New characters are all the rage in Season Four, and we're introduced to them literally minutes in. Of course we start our journey with Jack and Rebecca, returning from their cross-country road trip and falling for each other instantly. They're so smitten, it's adorable. Jack gives a Jack-esque speech and all of a sudden a bunch of randoms grace our television screens! A man, he's blind and has a really cute dog! A woman, she's in the military and looks like she's battling some internal demons! A young boy, he's cute and young and full of life! Who are these people?
I applaud for This is Us's never-ending ability to make me care about people I know nothing about and have never met. From the second the tall and handsome (later to be revealed blind) man dropped his plate while feeding his pup bacon I knew I was a goner. I wanted to know more about this guy. I didn't face the same problems that seemed to plague viewers, questions like "How does this have anything to do with the show I know and love?" but instead figured it would all connect in the end, and decided to sit back and enjoy the ride.
The woman in the military gets her own little subplot in which we learn that her name is Cassidy Sharp (played by Jennifer Morrison) and she has a husband a kid at home. She's struggling by not being with them, we as viewers can tell, and when she finally does return home, her demons get the best of her and she succumbs to alcoholism and marriage struggles. She hits her child, and her husband has enough. He orders her out of the house and into AA, where she meets (dramatic music and/or drum roll please) the infamous Nicky Pearson (Griffin Dune). He slams a chair through the window and gets arrested. He calls Kevin to bail him out. Is she about to be Kevin's new lady? Abs-so-freaking-lutely.
The adorable little kid turns out to be a boy named Malik (Asante Blackk) who happens to be a teenage father living with his parents. He works with his father, goes to high school, and is just working his damn hardest to make the world a better place for his daughter! At a barbecue, he locks eyes with Deja (Lyric Ross), Randall and Beth's (Susan Kelechi Watson) adoptive daughter and the rest seems to be history. Randall and Beth 2.0, anyone?
Back in well-known Pearson world, Rebecca and Jack's dinner with her parents goes to hell when they bring up his time in Vietnam, something she specifically asked them not to ask about. Kevin gets the call that Nicky needs to be bailed out of jail and heads to Philly on his 39th birthday, while Kate and Toby (Chris Sullivan) learn that their son Jack will be permanently blind after suffering some health issues following his premature birth before celebrating her birthday with old Rebecca and Miguel (Jon Huertas).
As for the blind man who broke the plate, that's grown up little Jack (Blake Stadnik). His story is told concurrently throughout the episode as he ventures into a diner, meets a young woman named Lucy (Auden Thornton), falls in love, asks her to marry him, and pursues his dream of creating music (in the footsteps of Kate and Rebecca!) by taking the stage for thousands minutes after learning that he and Lucy are expecting their first child. Can this whole show be about them?
And so just like that, I'm sucked back in. The parallels between young Jack and Rebecca and future Jack and Lucy are breathtaking. The fact that a Pearson (well, technically Jack is now a Damon) finally achieves a successful music career is heartwarming. But my favorite part of it all is that we know that this baby, Kate and Toby's precious premature baby boy, is going to grow up to live a very happy, beautiful life,.
I'm so interested to see what happens between Deja and Malik. He seems to have a good heart, but it also willing to stop at nothing to give his daughter the best life possible, which could lead to Deja getting into more than she bargained for. And as for Cass well, I just hope that Kevin finally gets his happy ending.
I love that This is Us is expanding and going forward, backward, and basically anywhere in time. It's truly at its best when it doesn't try to outdo itself and is just honest, raw, and real. Little big Jack and Lucy's love story is so simple and yet is the thing that brought tears to my eyes. As viewers we love to watch love and heartache that feels real unfold in front of us, and that's exactly what "Strangers" did. If I've learned anything these past three years, it's to trust Dan Fogelman and his Fogel-plans (that was the worst pun ever and I'm so sorry).
What did you think of the season premiere of This is Us? Let me know in the comments!