— This Is Us (@NBCThisisUs) October 16, 2016
With three episodes under its belt, the series has quickly proven itself a puppet master of heartstrings, dealing out beautiful performances and some big cliffhangers. But in “The Pool,” Dan Fogelman and his team prove that they don’t need huge twists to pack an emotional wallop.
In the episode, we discover what each of The Big Three struggled with as a kid, and how those struggles present within their personalities today. Exploring topics like racial profiling and bullying, the storytelling of the episode relies less on shock value and more on real human experiences. Amidst the conflict, Milo Ventimiglia brings welcome comic relief in his hunt for chairs at the pool. (Jack may be a super-dad, but finding five chairs is no small task.)
This comes just in time, as some viewers and critics were beginning to worry that “This Is Us” was running on fumes.
THIS IS US feels like PARENTHOOD without the confidence that human drama is compelling enough. I’m already burned out on twists…BUT…
— Joanna Robinson (@jowrotethis) October 16, 2016
Viewers will also get to know some of the secondary characters a bit more. Arguably the most timely storyline, William (Randall’s biological, recovering addict father) will reveal he was more than just an eccentric “Shakespeare” riding a bus all day long. His views and experiences will challenge Randall, bringing the two closer together.
Also explored in the episode is Toby’s background. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Chris Sullivan, the actor playing Kate’s romantic interest, teased that there is more than meets the eye with Toby. “Everyone has different roads into dealing with things, and his is comedy,” Sullivan said. “It’s rare that you meet a person that doesn’t have a shield of some kind, whether they’re coping mechanisms or defense mechanisms that help us relate to people.” The show pokes fun at its own writing, addressing the cycle of Toby and Kate’s relationship head on.
With no big reveals at the last second, “This Is Us” has created an episode that will still have viewers coming back for more. Having already been picked up for a full season, this is a good sign that there is plenty of story to tell.