‘This Is Us’ Season 5 Premiere Review: A reunion, two babies and three shocks, is Madison Kevin's fiancée?
In a matter of one hour and 30 minutes, showrunner Dan Fogelman spills magic in what could be dubbed a milestone on television
A milestone birthday celebration. Babies. Masks. A deadly virus. Deaths. Police brutality... and the Black Lives Matter movement. A lot has changed since ‘This Is Us’ last aired on our small screens. The world is a different place now. But the NBC show doesn't take even a moment's time to blend into the current scenario. In a matter of one hour and 30 minutes, showrunner Dan Fogelman spills magic in what could be dubbed a milestone on television.
The Big Three’s Big 40 party at the cabin isn't so big this time. Attended by Kevin (Justin Hartley), Kate (Chrissy Metz), Toby (Chris Sullivan), Miguel (Jon Huertas), Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and, unfortunately, a police escort — it brings a warm, fuzzy feeling to your heart. Randall (Sterling K Brown) is back at home in Philadelphia with his wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) and children as they gulp the Black Lives Matter protest on TV.
Mulling over the premiere, Fogelman says, “This is not only a birthday, it’s their 40th birthday, which obviously for people holds a lot of meaning,” and calls the two-part season premiere “difficult” and “bittersweet” as the makers try to present a version of the world that leaves “a feeling of optimism or hope.” The theme of the season has been long dubbed as “births and rebirths.”
In Fogelman's words, “there are a fair amount of babies...” but it's also about the Pearson family — especially Randall — as he grapples with his old self and experiences yet another birth that doesn't involve necessarily a hospital.”
“Thanks man, it's good to hear from you...”
The premiere begins with a good news. Kevin drops at Kate's house and announces he's having twins with Madison (Caitlin Thompson) — Oops, the two didn't see that coming, did they? Beth fills Randall in with the news saying Kevin “knocked up” Madison and they're having babies. Are the two brothers on talking terms? Well, they clearly aren't but there's no harm in sending a text, right?
“Heard the news. Congrats,” Randall writes to Kevin. Excitedly, he types the words, “Thanks man, it's good to hear from you...” but ends up sending just the word “Thanks.” There are many unresolved matters and unsaid words... and much of what they feel for each other lies in what they haven't said instead of what they may have mindlessly mumbled out. At the cabin, as all of them get together, Rebecca wishes to go out to buy cake — and quite expectedly, she loses her way — that's when Randall pops up at the cabin. The bell rings, Kevin answers the door and Randall stands is right in front.
There may be a storm brewing in their heads but they're calm at the outside. When Kevin tries to defend how their mom got lost, Randall says, “I am not questioning you Kevin. She's home and that's what matters.”
“This isn't the first Black man to be killed on camera”
Later, when Randall is about to leave, Kate first talks to him about the Black Lives Matter movement. When she says sorry, Randall snaps back, “Specifically what are you apologizing for? This isn't the first Black man to be killed on camera. It's never been different for me. We grew up in the same house and we never spoke about it — not one day. I had to keep things to myself. Because I didn't want you to feel bad... All I want to do is go back to my home and to my wife.” The moment leaves a lasting imprint in minds and a lump in the throat.
It's beautiful how Fogelman binds everything that every Black man is feeling in America into his show. Randall's issues with the protests for Blacks is universal and it will break you to feel how heartbroken an entire race feels inside. It's no surprise when Randall rings Dr Leigh (Pamela Adlon) and tells her about his urge to get a Black therapist.
In one scene, Kevin refers to Madison and says, “My fiancée has got morning sickness.” The sound of it makes Kate jump out of her chair and she says, “You’re going to need to explain your use of the word fiancée to me...” leaving Kevin with a sheepish look. So, now that we know Madison is the fiancée, is Kevin going to end up with her or is there a catch?
As Randall heads back home, Kevin walks up to him and tries to break into a conversation. He slips in something Randall would be the first to know. Kevin is going to have a girl and a boy. He then asks for some advice on babies and tells him how he feels about Madison... but Randall says he's got to go. The unresolved conflict is here to stay.
“Promise me you'll make a family”
At the very beginning of the show, Randall wonders if he was even born on the day he celebrates his birthday. As the moment dissolves into flashback from the past, a baby is lying next to William (Jermel Nakia)... he turns his wife around and she seems to be dead. In another flashback, the two share a lovable moment when she first reveals she is pregnant and says she won't take any drugs or alcohol.
Through those flashbacks, William and Laurel (Jennifer C Holmes) try to build a new life before their baby is born. “I don't like to talk about my life before you,” she tells him, adding, “Thanks for not asking.” In another scene, she tells him she wishes to take up the assistant manager job but is heartbroken when she doesn't get it.
“I wanted that apartment. He's not gonna have the window with light,” Laurel tells William. He replies, “He's gonna have us.” In another emotional moment, she asks him for a vow. “William, if I can't be the mother you want me to be... Promise me you'll make a family. Promise me.” Later, when he discovers she doesn't have a pulse, two officers come to rescue, but by then, William has already laid baby Randall at the door step.
As the two-hour episode ends, it leaves a major cliffhanger. William's lover Laurel gets her pulse back but William is out of sight. He just can't handle the pain of losing his loved one... so he runs away. Did William ever find out Laurel was alive? The two-hour premiere ends with three shocks — Madison is Kevin's fiancée, Randall's mother was alive when William left her and the effect of BLM on his life so much that he wants to get a Black therapist. Still struggling with his depression, will he ever find out William's backstory.
No matter where the story leads to, it will affect Randall's life in a huge way. As Fogelman says, “For Randall, this is a man who's defined himself by keeping the peace for this family and being the kind of man who holds his family together. And this fight, his brother has stripped him a little raw of those things, and where that finds him and where he comes out on the other side vis a vis his life.”
The two-hour episode of 'This Is Us' premiered on Tuesday, October 27, at 9 pm ET on NBC. Catch one-hour episodes starting at 9 pm from November 3, 2020.