It lives with you, eats away at you, invigorates you. It can drive you mad. It can drive you to do things you never would. Death, whether it’s the fear of it or the inevitability of it, is a part of all of us, of every moment of our lives in some way or another. And this is what This Is Us has captured about death better than any other TV show in years—possibly ever. (Warning, spoilers for the Feb. 21 episode ahead.)
In Tuesday night’s stellar episode, William (Ron Cephas Jones) did exactly what we expected him to do from the first episode of the show, when we learned he was sick: He died.
Since it premiered in September, This Is Us has been about death, in more ways than one. First, endless speculation and social media chatter centered on whether or not Jack (), TV’s new favorite patriarch, was dead or alive in the present-day storyline. Then the conversation turned to when and how Jack died, with viewers recently learning the time period in which he passed. (We see the Big Three are teenagers in a quick glimpse at his funeral.)
While we’ve yet to see Jack’s death happen, or the learn the circumstances surrounding it, it colors almost every scene. Like in real families, his death completely changed the framework for the Pearsons, as a family and as individuals. Randall, Kevin, Kate…they would not be the characters we know them as today if they hadn’t experienced the loss of their father at that specific time in their lives.
Siddhartha Khosla, who wrote the song William composed in the episode, said, “The lesson I get from the show, from the entire series, is that life doesn’t really end ever, so the idea of the refrain here at the end, ‘We can always come back to this,’ is a play on that, just saying that you might not be here now, but I’ll find you somewhere down the line.”
“We tried to make it not just this sad episode, but an episode that had a little bit of sort of hope in it and a sense that life is about transitions and death is just one of those,” Requa said, with Ficarra adding that this loss will lead Randall to “look for meaning.”
So with William’s death, comes Randall’s rebirth. Again.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)
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