Last night’s season premiere of This Is Us felt secure enough in its ability to hang on to viewers in its fourth season that it introduced several new and unfamiliar characters without giving us any context as to who they are or in what timeline they exist until the final minutes of the episode. It meant we barely got to see the biggest draws on the series, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley, Susan Kelechi Watson, and Chris Sullivan. The three new character arcs, however, were interspersed with another storyline concerning Jack trying to win over Rebecca’s father back in the beginnings of their courtship.
Jack and Becca’s storyline picks up after their cross-country trip, where Rebecca’s music career flamed out in Los Angeles. Back in Pittsburgh, the two decide to continue seeing each other, which means their first date upon their return is a dinner at a country club with Rebecca’s parents. They’re wealthy. Jack is not. Jack also needs a sport coat, which is when he meets Miguel, who has always been a saint, dating back to when he was a salesman in a suit shop and told Jack to take a sport coat, keep the tag on it, and return it after the dinner.
It’s a rocky dinner, where Jack mostly sits quietly as Rebecca’s father naysays the Vietnam War. However, after Jack returns from the restroom, he delivers one of those Jack Pearson speeches and wins over everyone at the table, except Rebecca’s father, who tells Jack after the dinner that he seems like a good, solid dude, but that he’s got too much baggage and he’s not suitable for his daughter. Rebecca’s father tells Jack that he’s going to do everything in his power to derail their relationship, which I suspect will encompass much of this season’s storyline (Spoiler Alert: He loses).
In the cold open, however, Rebecca makes one of those This Is Us speeches marveling about the importance of strangers, how they can so suddenly come into your life and change your world, as the episode introduces us to three characters. We meet Cassidy Sharp (Jennifer Morrison), an Army officer stationed in the Middle East who comes home after the war with PTSD and an alcohol problem. After her husband kicks her out of their home for hitting their child, Cassidy joins an AA meeting, which is interrupted when a drunk man throws a brick through the window. That drunk man we learn is Uncle Nicky, who calls Kevin to come bail him out, which will undoubtedly mean that Cassidy and Kevin will cross paths and that “the stranger” will alter the course of Kevin’s life.
Another stranger we meet is Malik Hodges (Asante Blackk from When They See Us!), a teenager with a child of his own. His father, Darnell, is played by Omar Epps, who is somehow old enough to be a grandfather in this show. Malik is missing school and working as a mechanic to make a better life for his daughter and tries to convince his boss to let him make a lot more money doing some illegal work. Darnell puts the kibosh on that and basically tells his son that the best thing he can do for his infant daughter is to be a good role model. At the end of the episode, Malik is manning the grill at a backyard party when he meets Déjà, Randall and Beth’s adopted daughter. She is smitten. Oh, that’s gonna be a thing. How good a man are you, Randall? Good enough to let your daughter date a kid who has his own kid?
The final stranger we meet is an unnamed blind guy played by Blake Stadnik (who is also legally blind). He breaks a plate while eating his breakfast and decides to walk to the local diner. There, he meets a waitress, and the two fall in love and get engaged (the broken plate that brought them together is framed above their bed in the background because This Is Us)). In the final scenes of this episode, we see this blind guy go out on stage and sing for a crowd of thousands. Meanwhile, we also see Toby and Kate with their new baby in the office of their doctor, who tells them that their son is … blind. His name is Jack Damon, he grows up, meets a waitress, and fulfills Rebecca’s dreams of being a professional singer. Whoa.
Damnit! You got me again. Well done, This Is Us.
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