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This Is Us Season 5 Premiere Sidestepped Gender Roles To Tell Men It’s Okay To Express Emotions

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Sometimes, when I am done watching a particularly emotional episode of shows like This Is Us or Schitt’s Creek, I sit back and think to myself how lucky we are to be alive at a time when they exist. I wonder then if the creators, writers and actors on these shows think so too. Are they glad that through their art, they’re able to tackle social themes that could affect their viewers on an atomic level? They could bring people closer, change mindsets, give hope, facilitate a catharsis, and inspire a whole generation to be better than the previous one, and the previous one to accept a change for the better. With the drama series This Is Us, creator Dan Fogelman has done exactly this. And with the This Is Us Season 5 premiere, the show has not only managed to introduce COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter into the story but also tackle mental health, ageing, parenting, and overcoming gender roles to express emotions. God bless the Pearson family!

 

 

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We’ll get through this with the Pearsons by our side. #ThisIsUs

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Yep, all that in one two-hour season premiere. And while I have big love for the entire cast and crew (big hugs to Siddharth Khosla for that theme which makes grown-ups bawl), this episode truly belongs to the men of This Is Us—Sterling K. Brown (Randall Pearson), Milo Ventimiglia (Jack Pearson), Justin Hartley (Kevin Pearson), Jon Huertas (Miguel Rivas), Jemal Nakia (young William Hill), Peter Onorati (Stanley Pearson) and Asante Black (Malik Hodges). Their stellar performances helped drive home a point that even though the gender roles we grown up adhering to tell us that men need to be strong and bridle their emotions, it is, in fact, okay to not do both.

For the past five seasons, actually, This Is Us, through the stories of Jack Pearson and his sons, Kevin and Randall Pearson, has been trying to sidestep gender roles and the whole argument about your roots defining your branches and showing us that men expressing their emotions and vulnerabilities is actually healthy and welcome. Moreover, you may not have had a pleasant childhood or beginning, but any moment that you decide you want to do better, that is what defines you.

This Is Us Season 5 Premiere reveals the Pearson men are not perfect, but they keep fighting on, especially gender roles.

I know we’ve had enough of Rebecca Pearson’s (Mandy Moore) delivery flashback from different angles. But really, have we had enough? Especially when that means we get to see more of Jack Pearson, that beautiful, beautiful man who I secretly want as my husband. But it is the Big 4-0 for the Big Three, which means a flashback to their origin story, in this case Randall’s, is what kickstarts the season.

But this time, the flashback focuses more on Jack, and what he was going through when his wife was in labour, delivering their triplets. There are complications, and as most men do in such situations, Jack feels helpless, and wants something to do. He finds himself in the hospital chapel, where he prays after a really long time to God. He’s thinking about his own childhood, and how he would watch his father, a man who wasn’t the ideal father himself, nor a good husband, pray.

After warning God to not take away the only good thing in his life, his wife, Jack hesitantly calls up his father and asks him what he would pray about when they went to church. And Stanley Pearson says, he prayed his two sons would be better men than he ever was. And Jack says he’s trying. The scene made me well up so damn hard.

Because just moments before…. A flustering Jack is angry at himself for forgetting to carry the radio when Rebecca asks for music to calm her nerves during labour. (He made a list, you guys! That man made a legit list.) Even the nurse in the maternity ward looks at him adoringly. He rushes out to find her a radio, while Rebecca asks the nurse if she sees a lot of anxious fathers in the maternity ward. Because this is one of the few places where men lose their tough exterior, don’t they? And what Rebecca says next is something that all men and women need to hear.

“Their whole lives they’re told to be men. Be in control, to act like a man, take it like a man. And then, all this happens and it must make them feel so….— “Useless?” the nurse says. And Rebecca laughs and agrees. “I think it takes a lot fo strength for them to show us this side of themselves. To let us see the scared little boy who existed before the world told him he had to be a man. A little boy, who once only needed his mommy. I wonder if we’ll have sons…. I hope they’re like their father.”

Now here is the magic of This Is Us… that this very scene is intercut with a present-day Kevin Pearson (an amazing Justin Hartley) being the man that his mother hoped he would be as he assures a pregnant Madison (Caitlin Thompson) that they and their babies are going to be okay. Towards the end of the premiere, you have Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson, I love ya!) assuring Randall how he, born of two tragedies (death of his birth mother and death of the third biological Pearson child) has still managed to create a wonderful family. And that speaks volumes about who he is. Clearly, Jack did what he promised his father and became a better man. And because of this, he and Rebecca raised two men who strive to be even better.

But because it’s This Is Us, it’s not going to be that straightforward, no ma’am! This whole thing is juxtaposed with the story of Randall’s birthday parents, William and Laura, as they give up using drugs so they can be better parents to their baby. When he thinks Laura has died of overdose, William tries to keep his promise to her to make sure their son is raised as a good man. And look at Randall Pearson. He is the goodest man there ever was—a good son, brother, husband, father, and councilman. I am sorry the tears won’t stop!

The way this season integrates Randall Pearson’s mental health, his parentage, and the Black Lives Matter movement is brilliant writing.

Sterling K. Brown is my king, okay. SKB Rules. He didn’t win the Emmy and Golden Globe awards for playing Randall Pearson for nothing. Season 4 ended on a note that made every Pearson stan scream out in shock. Kevin and Randall’s fight was made of things you don’t say to family, especially not to your brother who is adopted and is already facing mental health issues and an identity crisis. Jeez, Kev! But when Season 5 rolled in, and Randall wasn’t with this family at the cabin, celebrating the Big Three birthday, I didn’t anticipate the show would integrate the Coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement so seamlessly into the show.

The scene between Randall and Malik discussing what happened to George Floyd and what it means to grow up as a young black man in America was another scene that was so well written and performed. It was both serious, due to the subject, and casual, because a 40 year-old was learning from the experiences of his teenage daughter’s boyfriend. Talk about getting wiser with age.

In any other show, these things would probably be just background plots. In Randall’s story, they take control of his narrative and will shape who he becomes. Randall Pearson has always been someone who puts everyone else’s needs before him. As he tells his sister Kate, having grown up in a White household, they never discussed racial violence as much as they should’ve. And he never brought it up, because he didn’t want his family to be worried about how to handle it, like Kate was right now. But this time, it was different.

“Normally I would hug you, and tell you you did all the right things. I would try to make it better for you. But if I did that, Kate, if I made things better for you, then where does that leave me? That has been my pattern all my life. And honestly, it is exhausting. I’m exhausted.”

That right there, is Randall, the responsible son, the accommodating husband, the understanding father, and the silent sibling, dropping down all that extra weight he had been carrying around. He’s finally admitting that it is time he focuses on himself as a separate unit. And that’s completely okay. This scene was powerful, and a reiteration that men need to admit that they cannot be the one saying they’ll make it all okay, all the time. Sometimes, they need to admit that they’re not okay and they need help. In this case, Randall seeks out his therapist and tells her he is dropping her and looking for a black therapist who he can talk more openly to about what he is feeling. And she agrees.

Luckily for Randall, he has Beth, who is possibly the most AMAZING woman and wife a man can ever have. So when he tells her he is sad, as a lone tear rolls down his cheek, she knows just what to say to him.

That’s another thing the show gets right. The women here may have made the men better human beings, but they haven’t had to give anything up to do that. They’re not treated as rehab centres but as inspirations. Beth assures Randall that despite what’s happening in the world, the bad won’t last forever. Only they will.

Can we have a shoutout for Miguel and Rebecca’s love please?

I know it is really difficult to accept Rebecca’s love for any man other than Jack. But what she and Miguel have is beautiful on so many different levels. They’re two people brought together by grief. I’d like to think what Kevin and Madison have got going is something similar. They too were not in love but brought together by fate, and have now managed to find more there. I love how that mirrors the companionship that Miguel and Rebecca have. But we need their back story!

We haven’t seen much of Miguel, but all we have tells us that he is so good for Rebecca, he would’ve made Jack proud. He is patient with her, looks after her, loves her family even though they aren’t exactly that inclusive of him. And more importantly, he has learnt from his mistakes and become a better person, devoid of any pride, or expectations from the Pearson family to accept him as Rebecca’s husband. He’s happy to be there in the background and offer them all his support, when they need.

This Is Us began Season 5 with quite a twist (won’t spoil that one for you). And knowing this show, I think what Randall Pearson wished for on his birthday, he won’t be getting.

Okay, I’mma go drink lots of water because god knows, we need to hydrate after the cry fest. Speaking of tears, one thing is for sure. This Is Us has taught a lot of men I know to express their feelings and be vocal, in fact even boast, about how much they cry while watching every episode! That’s a feat, alright.

Also Read: Chrissy Teigen Penned A Heartbreaking Note About Losing Her Baby, And It Taught Me Something About Grief

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