Season 5, Episode 12, “Both Things Can Be True”

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Illustration from the article titled This Is Us Queer Story Dances Between Honest and Old-Fashioned

photo: NBC

The most compelling guideline of “Both things can be true” takes the least amount of screen time. In what is unlike anything I’ve seen on network television before, Randall attends a group therapy session for transracial adoptees where a diverse group of people speak openly and honestly about the truths. uncomfortable with their lives. The way that several things can be true at the same time. While many of them love their adoptive families, they also resent having grown up like others in their own homes and communities. It’s hard to let go of their “phantom realms” – dreams of what their lives might have been like had they grown up with their birth parents. A woman shares that she wishes she had never been adopted at all.

Much of what they say clearly rings true to Randall, although how much and in what way remains to be seen. For, in a gesture unusual for him, Randall decides to deal with things by listening rather than speaking for once. Randall the great “speaker” has long mastered the art of selling his adoption story as something that gives him a special outlook on life. But in group therapy, he is shocked to realize that other people share the feelings and fears he thought were his. The ones he has bottled for most of his life, lest he appear ungrateful, lest he turn out to be a disappointment, lest some part of his carefully managed life slip out of hand. its control.

Randall’s choice to remain silent, coupled with Sterling K. Brown’s stellar internal performance, shows how much of an impact this group therapy session is having on Randall. And this is definitely the scenario that I look forward to the most It’s us continue to explore. I feared that the decision to embrace our pandemic reality and make history Randall’s biological mother meant the show was dropping Randall wildly self-reflecting arc starting at the end of season four. But, as is often the case, it turns out It’s us is more committed to his long-term character arcs than I attribute to him.

That’s why I’m inclined to take a somewhat careful approach to the part of this episode that I’m still analyzing: Beth and Tess ‘complex conflict over Tess’ nascent teenage relationship with her non-binary other. meaningful, Alex. To their credit, the writers make some solid choices in this scenario, like using Carol’s ease with pronouns and non-binary identities as a foil for Beth’s struggle to adjust. Or soften Beth and Carol’s relationship before adding tension to Beth / Tess’s, which at least somehow unifies the frequency scale. It’s us by default, it describes conflicting mother / daughter relationships.

Illustration from the article titled The Last Queer Story of This Is Us Dances Between Honest and Old-fashioned

photo: NBC

Still, there are other elements of Beth / Tess’ storyline that are quite strange. For one thing, Beth’s struggle to come to terms with her daughter’s sexuality seems quite out of character for the otherwise progressive and hip person that she is – especially since it’s been over two years since Tess started. out of. And while this internal conflict might be awesome Fodder for an unexpected Beth storyline, at the moment there aren’t enough layers in play for it to fully function as such. Instead of presenting the issue as one in which Beth is shocked and embarrassed to have more internalized biases around queerness than she thought she was, we instead get a more retro framing in which Beth has first and foremost. all still struggling to understand the idea that her daughter will not marry a man. That’s a subtle difference, but part of the reason Beth’s arc looks more like something you’d see on a late ’90s or early 2000s series, rather than a contemporary series.

While Randall’s group therapy scenes skyrocket because they are filled with specificity, the Beth / Tess / Alex guideline is more muddled. The show combines Beth’s struggle to come to terms with Tess’ sexuality with her general confusion over non-binary identities in a way that makes it seem like it’s doing both problems a disservice and harder to understand. exactly where Beth is from. Plus, it seems really weird that Randall is so detached from it all, both because he knows firsthand what it’s like to feel like a stranger in his own family, and because he and Beth generally manage their large parenting movements together. Does he have similar issues with the identity of Tess and her significant other? If not, why doesn’t he help Beth deal with hers?

Illustration from the article titled The Last Queer Story of This Is Us Dances Between Honest and Old-fashioned

photo: NBC

These might be the questions we’re supposed to ask, however. “Both Things Can Be True” elevates the somewhat messy Beth / Tess passage by giving Tess her own moment that sums up the episode title: Tess explains that while she appreciates her mom trying, so is crappy enough to watch your parent actively trying to accept you and your identity like they don’t with your siblings. There is a brutal but deserved honesty to this statement, and I love that the episode leaves the tension unresolved rather than rushing to put a perfectly sentimental arc on things.

The rest of “Both Things Can Be True” offers some useful current storylines and a disappointing flashback. In the 1970s, Miguel helps Jack prepare for his big proposal to Rebecca and eventually becomes his best friend’s shining armor knight when Rebecca’s dad (hi ​​Tim Matheson!) Shows up with the most half-assed apologies. . While it’s always nice to see Miguel having a great hero moment, the whole flashback storyline feels pretty lacking. Shade the fact that Miguel and Jack’s engagement ring antics came straight out of a I love lucy The episode doesn’t make this subplot any less bland. And Rebecca’s absence in her own proposal script feels more like a result of Mandy Moore’s maternity leave than a deliberate choice of storytelling, in which case why even include that script?

Illustration from the article titled This Is Us Queer Story Dances Between Honest and Old-Fashioned

photo: NBC

Miguel’s current content is more compelling. You wouldn’t expect Nicky, from everyone, to be territorial about Miguel marrying Rebecca, but her obnoxious personality works well to shake up the sunny supporting role Miguel has fallen into lately. While It’s us did a great job selling Miguel and Rebecca as one of the cutest couples on the show, there’s always that inherent level of quirk in their relationship. (Again, both things may be true.) And it makes sense that Nicky, with her odd insider / outsider status with the Pearsons, would take it back.

Ultimately, however, Nicky’s concerns about Miguel and Rebecca’s marriage come from a deeper place: the fear that Jack will replace him with Miguel after their falling out. In another beautiful hero moment, the always gracious Miguel helps Nicky understand that even though Jack took his little brother out of his life after the Vietnam War, he never completely forgot him either. Miguel suggests that part of the reason Jack asked him to be his best man in action, but no name, is because deep down he was keeping that title for Nicky. As the “So long, Marianne” scene from last season’s midseason finale, it’s another great step towards healing the Nicky / Jack division and integrating Nicky more firmly into the bosom of the Pearson family.

While there are some beautiful things about “Both Things Can Be True” – especially this therapy scene – the episode’s most exciting moments are what it hints at for the future. This hour looms large in the plot as we head into what will hopefully be the final six episodes of the season, thematically meaty. With a pandemic marriage on the horizon and an even closer fraternal toll in sight, there is sure to be no shortage of places for It’s us to bring his characters to more complicated gray areas.


Erroneous observations

  • Just when you thought it was safe to get out of the love triangle water: this episode ends with Zoe, Cassidy, and Sophie all reacts to the news that Kevin is engaged to Madison. Let the Hunger Games Meetings Begin!
  • We also have confirmation that Kevin is famous enough for his engagement to cover the cover of Us weekly, but not famous enough to usurp the main story of Meghan Markle. Fair enough.
  • After making the absolutely crazy decision to get to teach a class a minute before they start (???), Kate ends up excelling as a music teacher. Toby, meanwhile, struggles to be a stay-at-home parent. However, he doesn’t tell Kate about his concerns, which seems like a red flag. Much like Kate’s tense new British colleague, Phillip (You are the worstChris Geere).
  • We also learn a bit more about Madison’s emotionally held father and how her parents’ divorce has shaped her current struggles to ask for what she wants.
  • Hope we see more of Alex moving forward. Even with barely any screen time, actor Presley Alexander makes a truly warm impression.
  • I’m not sure how the weather goes this season. How long ago were the New Big Three born? Days? Weeks? Month?

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