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NBC’s THIS IS US Winter Finale Will Hurt in a New Way

By on December 5, 2016

Pictured: (l-r) Susan Kelechi Watson as Beth, Sterling K. Brown as Randall -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Happy tears. Poignant tears. Wistful tears. Laughing through the tears. And sometimes I’m not quite sure just what to call these tears. Crying is officially in, thanks to NBC’s This is Us.

For 9 episodes we’ve watched the Pearson family struggle with relationships, identity and connection, our eyes pricking with the acknowledgement that we’re only half way through the opening scene and dammit, where are the tissues? Perhaps if the show was a little more schmaltzy, and the issues of the week a little more ‘TV land’ (Remember when Rory Gilmore had to choose between a cute boy and herself?) then we could rake up an ember of cynicism that might shame those tears into retreat. No go. This is Us is too grounded and relatable to slip into 90’s family drama territory.

But perhaps at its core, what it mostly is, is aspirational, in a healthy and wholesome way that doesn’t make its audience feel guilty for wanting a little This is Us spirit in our lives. Jack and Rebecca are the parents I want to be, and wished I had, Kevin the carefree artistic spirit, Randall, the conscientious sibling, Kate the loyal friend. It’s not lost on me that as I write this, I have fallen out with my father following his chemotherapy treatment for cancer, just as Randall is making up for lost time with his own Dad, William. This is Us really is us, the human condition, with all our flaws and our eccentricities, our hopes and our fears reflected back at us from the TV screen. Gah! Better to just surrender your emotions now.

Tuesday’s Holidays-themed episode also happens to be the show’s final one of the year, and explores two family celebrations — Hanukkah and Christmas — as seen through the eyes of the Pearsons gathered at both events. While Kevin (Justin Hartley) agrees to dine with the family of one-time bunkmate Sloane after she accidentally/deliberately brags to her judgemental parents that she is dating that handsome actor from The Manny, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) prepares for Christmas with his family, but worries that with recent developments pulling the family in different directions, nobody will show up.

Meanwhile, Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Mom Rebecca (Mandy Moore) have a heart to heart about Kate’s weight, and the caustic subjects of childhood unhappiness and blame.

In a flashback to the past, a case of appendicitis for young Kate means we get to meet Dr K. (Gerald McRaney) again, but this time as a patient facing his mortality alone and in pain on Christmas eve. (What?)

Watch too for a perfect cameo from Westworld’s Jimmi Simpson, who sweeps in to steal a scene like Charlton Heston replacing that mediocre actor in Wayne’s World.

 

“Nothing bad happens on Christmas Eve,” Rebecca tells her children, as a means to ward off their fears on that uncertain Christmas eve night, little knowing that Kevin, Kate and Randall will grow up to hold those words dear.

For one of the Pearsons, those words will bring comfort, for another hope, but for a third devastation.

Thus far, This is Us has given us a safe space to shed our tears, but the cliffhangery “Last Christmas” will hurt in a whole new way. Prepare to cry heartbroken tears.

This is Us airs Tuesday, December 6, (9-10 p.m. ET) on NBC.

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