AMERICA, WE HAVE ISSUES (THIS IS US FINALE RECAP)
I was never the woman to dream about her wedding. Even as a little girl, I knew that the big ceremony was where the fun stopped. You never got to hear what happened in the moment besides the vague “happily ever after”, and that made me extremely suspicious of the whole endeavor. It made it sound like all adventures were over, lessons were finished, and no new discoveries were made. Weddings, in a way, represented a small death. So instead of fantasizing about a big, ball gown, I fantasized about everything that was supposed to happen before it: going on trips, embarking on a career, having lots of torrid love affairs with men that were definitely terrible for me. I figured at some point, I would get married but only because I was too tired to do anything else.
As an adult, I learned that my childhood intuition was right. Weddings are a small death. Hopefully, they’ll represent a welcome and joyful one to you, dear reader, marking it a passage between an old life you want to shed away and into some celestial plane. To me, it was pretty much the kind of harrowing death you experience during a terrible illness or a treacherous battle. It forced me to confront my deepest fears and neurotic anxieties and I did not do it gracefully. I learned compromise was anathema to me, I loathed the idea of domesticity in any of its forms, I was more of a rebel rouser iconoclast than my goody-two-shoes responsible persona gave off, and that I really fucking disliked the Catholic Church. I should have been going to therapy throughout this whole ordeal because I might have saved myself some sleepless nights and at least one appearance in divorce court.
So it was with great interest that I approached the season finale of This Is Us, wondering what kind of inner personal demons would be explored. TV shows love weddings. Love them. It provides such an easy climax with all the saccharine emotional heft. I’m pretty sure every writer’s room sighs with relief whenever a wedding is proposed. The outline more or less goes like this: characters are nervous, some chaos ensues, audience wonders if it will even happen, and it ends in either great joy or a complete meltdown. This is mostly how this episode went. But it did reveal one interesting thing.
America, we have issues. We need to learn to let go of Jack before I lose my goddamn mind.
Useless Fever Dream Timeline That Does Not Exist
Oh, I’m sure all of your aunts squealed in delight during the promos, as a picture of a senior citizen Jack was splashed all over the screens. What could it be? An angel? A ghost? A completely inconsistent injection of sci-fi alternate timelines in a family drama?
Nope, it’s Kate’s recurring dream leading up to her wedding. Basically, she keeps dreaming about Rebecca and Jack renewing their vows on their 40th wedding anniversary. Everyone is happy. There’s a dance montage, for god’s sake! The quintessential symptom of true contentment. Jack’s business was a success. Rebecca is your sweet but slightly cringe-worthy aunt who insists on singing at every reunion. The Big Three smile at random moments. According to Kate, it’s what life should have been like. Kate, girlfriend, there is no timeline you were supposed to go on. As Patton Oswalt’s much more impressive wife once said: “It’s all chaos. Be kind.”
On the other hand, I understand that it’s human nature to fall down this alternate timeline wormhole. Lord knows, half of my time in therapy is spent telling Dr. Mark how I felt I turned wrong corner after wrong corner as soon as I hit adulthood, and Dr. Mark gently telling me that’s my brain’s own bullshit. So I’ll give a pass to Kate. But, America? Did we need this? Cause I honestly felt this was the show pandering to our most hideous self, the self that genuinely likes Michael Bolton and tears up at that dumb “Love is patient, love is kind” verse from the Bible. Look, I’m the first one to admit that Milo Ventimiglia is one hot piece of eye candy. Notice how I said MILO. Cause MILO is a real person. Jack does not exist.
Repeat after me: Jack does not exist.
Again: Jack does not exist.
We did not need 20-minutes of comfort gruel of what could have been if Jack had not died because Jack never died BECAUSE JACK DOES NOT EXIST.
Ok, back to the actual narrative that matters.
The wedding is the least appropriate time to air your dirty laundry and tell everyone what your most deep-seated psychological issues are. Which is exactly why, most people end up using it as the opportunity to let out their most damaged vulnerable selves in an avalanche of hot mess emotions. It’s why I truly believe weddings are fun. The Pearsons deliver.
Kate will spend most of this episode looking far off into the horizon, to signify that she is lost in the crevices of her mind. In typical Kate fashion, she’s decided to make it extra difficult for her by having it at the cabin where she spent the summer with her adoring dad. She’s decided the urn will be the usher and her something old is Jack’s Daytona Beach t-shirt. This is her baggage.
Toby’s baggage is that he is the son of The Wonder Years dad and Nina Van Horn. I guess his super Catholic mom isn’t Catholic enough to avoid a divorce and a boyfriend named Monty. Kidding! Getting divorced but pressuring your kids into staying married is the most Catholic thing in the world. Toby is stressed out because his parents are here and he also forgot to pack the Daytona Beach t-shirt.
Rebecca’s issue is that she is terrified of her only daughter, who will accuse her of genocide at the drop of a hat. Miguel’s issue is that he is representing the entire Latino community on primetime—at least until Jane the Virgin returns—and he’s being pretty boring about it.
Beth is worried about two things: keeping her biological daughters and her foster daughter off the pole. Ever since Shauna relinquished her parental rights, Deja has been surly, argumentative, and moody. My guess is that she’s about to get her menses for the first time but the show assures us that it’s because of her family trauma. Fair. I’m just saying, she’s not acting any weirder than I did once my 34-DD boobs appeared out of nowhere in 7th grade.
Randall and Kevin aren’t worried about anything just yet because it takes men a little longer to catch up. But when they see Kate freaking out over the missing Daytona t-shirt, they decide to problem-solve. The brothers try to calm Kate down by saying they’ll find another of Jack’s objects to replace the t-shirt. Kate does not act like a petulant child about it because she has been indoctrinated to believe that a wedding is what finally gets you into adulthood and she’s determined to act like one.
The following day, Randall’s family arrives. Deja calls the cabin a dump. Thankfully, the Solange to Beth’s Beyoncé is there to help Beth through this whole wedding. Beth’s cool cousin, who she grew up with, has been hired to take the wedding pics. She also knows a thing or two about being an angry tween.
The brothers have accumulated everything Jack has ever touched as alternatives. All the options are deemed terrible, even though I kind of like the idea of Kate dragging a bat down the aisle. It’s how I would have done it, had I had any say in my wedding at all. That’s a story for another date. Kate, however, has a better idea that she won’t tell people about. She simply says she’s running an errand. That errand is going to the ice cream store where she and Jack used to go to eat their feelings. I say this without judgment cause eating my feelings is one of my favorite father-daughter activities. The shoppe though has now been gentrified. In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a big sign for Artisanal Scoops to really bring the point home. Kate’s plan was to get Jack’s favorite ice cream, but the only flavors they sell are bullshit ones like honeyed goat cheese. Oh my god, someone bring me honeyed goat cheese ice cream, stat. Off to Plan C!
While Kate runs around town trying to find a suitable projection for all her daddy issues, the Pearson clan frets. Kevin and Randall are themselves driving around town trying to find her. Randall tells Kevin that him and Beth like to play him about worst-case scenario as a stress reliever. They voice out loud what is the absolute worst thing that can come from any situation so they realize how ridiculous it sounds. I do the same thing, which makes me think that Beth is a Gemini Sun with a Virgo Moon rising, just like me. DO NOT BURST THIS BUBBLE. Not even Chani Nicholas can convince me of the contrary. Randall begins. His worst-case scenario is Toby dying from a heart attack induced by Kate’s disappearance. I don’t understand why this isn’t considered the best-case scenario, but I’ve long stopped trying to make any sense of this show. Kevin’s worst-case scenario is typical Kevin because he centers it all on his own suffering: Kate moves in with him and neither of them find love. Randall then goes quiet and voices the real worst-case scenario that came true. Randall got too wrapped up in his own life after Jack died and failed to take care of Kate. Kevin, finding comfort in the idea that a black man has paved the path for him, also admits to the worst-case scenario of his own making: accepting Kate’s help even though she needed to help herself instead. They are now bummed.
Back in the Cabin, Beth is telling Solange-Lite about Deja’s legal situation. Shauna has requested to relinquish her parental right. The judge still has to rule on her decision. Once he does, they can adopt Deja, which should be a cause for great joy but Deja is doing her best reinterpretation of The Bad Seed. Solange-Lite decides to talk to her. Her big opening is trying to bond over how terrible weddings are, which would work fine if she were talking to a 30-something woman who has spent over $25,000 in the past decade to get some rubbery shrimp and awkwardly dance to the Electric Slide simply because a friends of hers liked someone’s D a little too much. Deja is just a child though and she isn’t buying it. So Solange-Lite tries another tactic and tells her how angry she was when her own mother dumped her with Beth’s family. She took it out on everyone, as a way to be loyal to her mother. She tried to drink it away, she tried to put one in the air, she tried to dance it away, she tried to change it with her hair, she ran her credit card up, thought a new dress make it better, she tried to work it away, but that just made her even sadder. Finally, one morning, she forgot to hate them. Beth was obsessing over D’Angelo, as one does, and it made Solange-Lite laugh. It was a good day because she stopped hating the people who loved her. With the lyrics to her next album hanging thick in the air, Solange-Lite goes off to take pictures as Deja holds back the tears.
As for what issues plague Toby’s parents? Oh we find out real quick. The day of his wedding, they sit him down to tell him that they have concerns about Kate. He always bends over backwards to calm her. He tiptoes around her moodiness to make sure she doesn’t go off. They call her unstable. Where’s the lie? I think I’m not supposed to be siding with them, but I am. Plus, they’ve already been through this drama already with Toby’s previous marriage. They held their tongue then, even though neither of them thought his ex-wife was a good match. When his marriage failed, it nearly destroyed Toby.
Quick question: HOW DID TOBY GET TWO WOMEN TO MARRY HIM WHEN I HAVE ABOUT 345 LADY FRIENDS WHO ARE FAR SUPERIOR TO THIS MONSTER AND THEY CAN’T EVEN GET A DATE?
Back to Toby. This is the perfect set up for one of those This Is Us sermons that are supposed to make us feel warm and fuzzy but actually come off as the delirious ramblings of the Unabomber. Toby makes a whole speech about how much he loves her and will marry her, no matter what. Actual quote: “I’m unstable in love with Kate Pearson.” In case you were wondering because I fear for the children: THIS IS NOT HEALTHY OR OK. Want to know if your relationship is worth it? It’s pretty simple. Do you feel an inner sense of peace with who you are or do you spend every single waking moment figuring out how to make your partner happy via an intricate plan that takes up most of your resources, time, and mental energy? If it’s the latter, girl you in danger. Run, run as fast as you can. Toby isn’t as smart as I am, so he doesn’t know this distinction just yet. Instead, he gives his parents an ultimatum. They can either support this marriage or head to the airport.
Rebecca finally gets a call from Kate. Kate tells her all about her useless fever dream timelines, which she fervently believes is the way life is supposed to be. Rebecca tells her that weddings bring shit up and Toby is probably in those dreams making her laugh. Kate tells her that Toby is not in them. So what does she do whenever she has an epiphany? She heads into the woods to talk to a log. Ok, fine she talks to an urn, but tell me does that make it any better? I didn’t think so. Kate tells the air that says she has no doubts Toby is the man for her. She knows this because Toby makes her feel the way Jack made her feel…..? Lord, even Freud is throwing up a little in his mouth. Your husband is not meant to be a substitution for your dad. Kate needs to get herself a therapist and settle this quasi-erotic fixation she has with her father, for everyone’s sake. For now, though, she’ll settle with making room for Toby. She finally releases Jack’s ashes.
Walking back, to the car, she finds her brothers. They all know she let go and is ready to get married. Like the men they are, they decide that rare moment of introspection was a fluke and there was totally nothing worth critiquing about the way they treated Kate in the past.
Beth looks stunning! Solange-Lite has give Deja a makeover! Rebecca finds Kate in her wedding dress and goes overboard with complimenting her! She apologizes for upsetting her and Kate is like, chill, I’m cool. Rebecca promises to stay out of her way on these of all days. This is the moment Kate stops being a total nightmare and tells her mom that she’s only been a raging bitch to her because she wanted to be like her. “You are not in my way, you are my way,” she says, as if that makes up for the 20 years of distance. Maybe it does.
Finally, it’s wedding time! And as we see a quick montage of the ceremony, we also see a memory of Little Kate asking Jack if she can marry him when she grows up. I do believe this is the definition of “problematic.” Even Electra is shaking her head and asking what is wrong with this woman. Thankfully, Jack rejects her advances and gives her the only break up speech men should ever give to a woman: You’ll meet someone better than me and that’s who you should marry.
At the reception, Toby’s mom confuses Deja, Tessa, and the Little One Whose Name I Can Never Remember as all of Randall’s biological children. She tells Deja that she looks just like her father, which doesn’t sit well with Deja even though Sterling is quite the handsome man. She Lemonades Randall’s car with Jack’s old baseball bat.
Time for the part I hate the most about American weddings: toasts. Why can’t you people just get to the part where everyone gets sloppy drunk? Ugh. Kevin tries to channel Jack by saying what he thinks Jack would have said which, in the end, reduces Kate to her beauty. Then he keeps talking about his father because why not treat a wedding like a group therapy session? In this case, he goes on a little too long about his addiction and the need to release Jack into the ether.
Randall decides to also bear his problem and mentions his need for control. He does point out one very true thing: you can’t control what will happen to you but you can control who you choose to have in your life. As he says this, we jump forward. What’s up with the Pearson a year from now? Well, Kevin and Solange-Lite are seen heading to Vietnam together. Do. Not. Settle, Solange-Lite! Kate is dealing with what looks like a very depressed Toby, which was just too real a depiction of marriage, coming from This Is Us. We also jump to decades in the future, where Future Randall tells Future Tess that they need to go see her though neither of them is ready. Who are they referring to? Beth, my guiding light, or Deja, my troubled child?
We’ll have to wait for Season 3 to see.
Reasons to Lust after Milo
Ooooooh, him enjoying that scoop of ice cream, amiright? Those lips! That suction! The 90s stache!
Attempts at Emotional Manipulation
- That useless timeline
- Kate finally treating her mom with love and respect
- The absence of the ice cream flavor you were craving hit a little too close to home
Deep Quote of the Week
“Choosing our people is the closest we come to choosing our destiny. While everything else may change, if we choose right, your people will stay the same.”- Randall, knowing what’s up. Always choose Beth, never choose a Kevin.