You can’t choose your family, but you can certainly choose your friends. That saying rings true for everyone, but it was particularly relevant in the latest episode of This Is Us (Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV), “The Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life.”
This was the anticipated episode that was all about Deja and how she came to be in the care of Randall and Beth Pearson. Given how many feels I’ve all had for this particular storyline so far this season I knew it was going to be a tear-jerker, but as a new mother it basically shattered me. Why? Because watching what Deja had to go through so far in her short life and seeing how her mother, Shauna, treated her went against every mothering instinct in my body.
A child’s job is to be a child, but Deja never had that experience with her mom. At birth, Shauna didn’t want to hold her kid. When Deja was three, her mom would leave her home alone to go and party with random men. At the time Deja’s saving grace was her great grandmother, who would read to her, cook and provide basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter. As much as “GG” would try and talk some sense into Shauna and explain that she had to grow up, Shauna remained a child herself. Sure she loved Deja, but she just couldn’t do what she needed to do, which was to be a responsible adult. And so from the heart-breaking moment that GG died, Deja was forced to be the adult in the Deja-Shauna relationship–a moment that effectively shattered her childhood.
To really drive the point home the writers threw in scenes with other members of the Pearson clan, contrasting Deja’s experiences with the various parental figures trying to be there for their own kids. To say it was heartbreaking would be an understatement. If you have young kids and you watched those scenes, I pretty much guarantee that you’ll be hugging your babes a little tighter the next time you read Goodnight Moon to them.
Thankfully, while the show decided to give us some scenes of Deja at her various foster homes, we didn’t have to watch some of the really tough moments that have been alluded to. Yes, we saw some abuse, but it could have been a lot worse. There was nothing gratuitous here, just a tragic story told in epic This Is Us fashion.
Towards the end of the episode things improved though, when the story returned to Beth and Randall finding Deja and her mom living in the car. Naturally the Pearsons took them both home to figure things out, and it was there that Shauna finally made the toughest realization of all: that she isn’t fit to raise her own daughter. She could have been, but she just never got there. And now it looks like she wants Beth and Randall to do it for her.
By the episode’s end that much is clear, but we have no idea whether Shauna will just walk out on Deja or if she’ll say goodbye and offer an explanation. On one hand it seems like another juvenile move in a slew of bad plays, but on the other it’s like Shauna is finally growing up and making the right choice.
However you see it, it’s obvious that this sucks for Deja. Yes, she clearly loves being with Beth and Randall and appreciates finding a “good bed,” but at the end of the day your mom is your mom. Deja is going to spend the rest of her life wishing that hers had been able to get herself together, and that’s the real tragedy here. Deja deserves more.
Nope, you can’t choose your family. But at least Deja has some really great friends with the Pearsons, and she chose to turn to them when it really mattered. That’s good news for us viewers at least, because it means more of this brilliant character in our near futures.
And so the drama continues…