This Is Us Is Losing Its Magic On Season 3: Opinion
When This Is Us premiered back in 2016, it was clear NBC had struck gold. From the beginning, viewers fell in love with the relatable and likable Pearson family, their family dynamics that captivated us each week, and the actors who portrayed the characters. Whether it was Kevin’s drug problem, Kate’s weight issues, or Randall’s adoption, viewers found that they could relate to at least one of the many characters. They felt like real people and helped us understand that all families are far from perfect. The first two seasons of the show were nothing short of perfection. Not only were the characters relatable, but the twist of time jumps in every episode allowed us to see how the past and present become so entwined, especially as it related to the death of family patriarch Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia). Two seasons in, and This Is Us was frequently referred to as the best show on TV. (Just check out this Buzzfeed article, this one from The Daily Beast, or this E! Online gallery). However, halfway through season three, the show isn’t moving full steam ahead. Rather, its steam is all but gone and it just might be falling from the top.
Most TV shows have a problem after several seasons when it comes to finding new material. You could just call it the Dexter effect or the Gossip Girl effect. In the case of This Is Us, the storylines are just coming off as stale. Moments that leave our jaws dropped and our tears flowing are far too rare now. The show has lost its magic, and it has happened for three different, yet crucial reasons.
Problem #1: Kate Is Really, Really Annoying
During the first two seasons, Kate Pearson was without question one of the more likable characters. Her journey of weight loss and finding love in now-husband Toby was remarkable. Through flashbacks, we slowly got to see how her strained relationship with her mother and her despair after her father’s death led to her weight gain. We watched, we understood, and we felt for Kate. Now, Kate has become repetitive and annoying on the show, and her character is shifting from an underdog to an agitator.
Without question, Kate deserves a lot of sympathy for her fertility issues. It’s clearly been a tough road for her, and the reveal of her finally being pregnant was certainly an exciting one. However, her attitude is largely negative and whiny. She is almost always a Debbie Downer, and her negativity is felt immediately during any scene she’s in. Even when she’s with other members of the Pearson family, she tends to suck the positive energy away. Now that she and her husband Toby are dealing with the return of his clinical depression, the balance between those two’s energies are no longer there. Toby acted as the silver lining to Kate’s rain clouds, and now that Toby also struggling, their relationship is kind of just depressing. And not in a makes-for-good-TV way. They were and still are a great match, but the excitement and freshness of the Kate and Toby scenes on TV are all but gone. The hope for the second half of season three is for Kate and Toby’s relationship to be rejuvenated as it gets closer to the birth of their baby, and that with the child will bring the return of the humorous and happy Kate Pearson we are longing for.
Problem #2: The Vietnam Storyline
Heading into season three, we knew that Jack’s flashback Vietnam storyline was going to play a large role. Then, flashforwards showed us that his son Kevin would be heading to Vietnam to learn more about his father’s past. The stage was set for Vietnam to be an important piece of this season’s mystery. However, the ending result showed very little to come out of the past Vietnam storyline, and a questionable reveal regarding its present storyline.
Jack’s time at Vietnam was an unknown part of his life during the first two seasons, but season three managed to fill in the gaps and quench the mystery. But it appears it wasn’t an all-too-important gap to fill. Sure, his time there had an effect on his life, but all the scenes that we watched truly did not have an impact on the present-day happenings. Considering we know Jack dies, the flashbacks at Vietnam become less intriguing, and the mystery of his brother became rather drawn out and uninteresting.
In the present, the big Vietnam reveal came during the mid-season finale, when Kevin discovered Jack’s brother, Nicky is actually alive. Presumed dead after all these years, according to Jack, this came as a shocker to the viewers and to Kevin himself. But how much does this really affect the show? Sure, Nicky being alive will come as a shock to the whole present-day Pearson family, but they don’t even know him. Plus, knowing that there’s no hope for a brother reunion is pretty brutal. The show is clearly setting up Nicky for a major present-day storyline on the second half of season three, the intrigue isn’t there. The producers can milk it for all they want, and odds are they will, but there’s not much of a reason for the viewers to care.
Problem #3: Jack and Rebecca’s Story Is Extranneous
Listen, Rebecca and Jack are for sure the true love story of this show. You can’t help but fall in love with them anytime they’re on screen. But let’s face it, their love story already met its end. When Jack’s death finally came in season two (we say “finally” because of the show’s many, many psyche-outs), the book closed on the Rebecca and Jack story. The present shows her life with her new husband Miguel, and Rebecca is pretty happy. We’re not saying getting remarried after the loss of a loved one downgrades the love you felt for your original partner, but from a narrative perspective, it gives the viewers a little bit of a “so what?” effect.
The big mystery of the show was answered: how does Jack die? Leading to season three is a bit of a reboot of the narrative. While it may be sweet to swoon over the love these two shared, it’s slightly hard to enjoy when you know how it all ends: tragically. Enough of Jack and Rebecca’s story has been shown to where we understand how it all plays out. The beginning and the end are clear, and so the holes in between are no longer as intriguing. Jack and Rebecca, you are the true definition of love, but it’s safe to say its a love story we’ve seen fully play out.
This Is Us season 3 has been far from perfect. However, the shining star in this whole story is Randall Pearson. Randall brings his A-game to every episode, and wife Beth Pearson only enhances our pleasure of watching them. His storylines move the show forward, don’t involve complaining, and prove to be impactful. Halfway through season three, the show has been far from stellar. However, with some tweaking, hope should be kept alive that This Is Us can recapture the magic that drew so many fans in.