Arguably, the most highly anticipated show of the new fall season has finally started to come together after what I would call three starter episodes. I liked all three, but episode 3’s arguably the most satisfying because of the larger scope it’s clearly starting to aim for. The bigger ideas they want to tackle are emerging. And the show’s finding a way to make the various plot points come together.
The second episode ended with Mandy Moore’s character Rebecca (in not too convincing old age make-up) arriving at Randall’s house for an impromptu visit. We still don’t know why or how she ended up with her husband’s best friend (is he dead or did they divorce) but this episode smartly didn’t really call attention to that question mark either. Instead, the tension was over Moore’s character learning her son found his birth father.
Turns out, she knew this man since he was a baby, and he’s the person to give Randall his name. In one of the loveliest sequences in the show thus far, we see William as a young man who was once a promising poet but was derailed by drug use. He gave up his infant son, but returned to the hospital to see the family leaving with their new threesome. Randall was named Kyle, the third K name which would have been their third triplet. I was really concerned about that naming…it seemed extremely dark to use the name of a child that died. So the fact that Rebecca and William’s conversation, when she went to find him after struggling to bond with the baby, resulted in her deciding to rename him was a huge relief. Because one thing the show needed to do was discuss was how the death of that child effected the family.
Randall and his wife want to know more about William, not only because he’s the strange guy living in their home with their daughters, but so Randall can get what he needed too. How the “loss” of his adopted father plays into that, we still don’t know. But Randall’s confronting the real reason he needs more information and why he went through with all this, is remarkably powerful storytelling to witness on a show like this. And wow, Sterling K. Brown is so good on this show…a second Emmy nomination for him seems like a sure thing.
Then there’s Kate and Kevin, a case of having one character I LOVE, and the other I just don’t understand yet. Kate is a fantastic character, and Chrissy Metz is doing a superb job on the show. It’s so nice to see a show balancing Kate’s real-life insecurities without just playing back shameful stereotypes about obesity. Chris Sullivan as Toby offering his big romantic gesture, giving her a little spotlight to do what she loves, was exactly the romantic moment I wanted from a show by the creator of Crazy Stupid Love (Ryan Gosling would be proud of you). More of that on this show please.
But Kevin’s three episodes in has barely had anything to do…He’s just now moving to New York, which seems like something we should have seen in episode 1. I think it has plenty of potential (more opportunities to act opposite Brown). But he doesn’t seem like a major character yet, certainly not one to have earned the same affection as the other four. Justin Hartley’s fine, plenty likable, but I want more character development. Every the opportunity in this episode was squandered. He had a hook up with a crazy ex but we didn’t see any of that, just the aftermath through Kate’s eyes. Although, I was curious about his closet minibar, which screams like a “like father like son” warning sign.
And speaking of dad, because we were back to the time that they were babies, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) isn’t the hard drinker we saw in the previous episode. Ventimiglia’s gushing happiness approach to things can be overkill, but his scene with Moore at the end of the episode, talking about the baby they lost, and with their doctor (yeah, Gerald McRaney’s back!) were topnotch. So far, the show’s running on a consistent positive level, and more importantly, found a consistent flow and mix of honest emotion without overdoing it on schmaltz.