Can we please get a slow-clap for the writers on This Is Us (Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET, CTV)? We can’t think of any other show that would tackle anxiety and mental health in such a real and relevant way. Look, it’s no secret that the show has always been open about exploring the mental health of its characters; Randall has ongoing anxiety attacks, Toby suffers from serious bouts of depression, Jack and Kevin have addiction problems, Uncle Nicky has severe PTSD, and everyone has had to grieve the death of Jack. It’s a loaded show in that sense, and we truly appreciate that it never glosses over this hard stuff.
And as we all know, when it comes to the hard stuff there are rarely any easy answers, which is why we truly appreciated Tuesday night’s episode, “Storybook Love.” It took a bit of a time out from the season’s sweeping storylines and honed in on the smaller moments that make a big impact on a person’s psyche, like Nicky being unable to be in the stands at a loud hockey rink because it set off bad memories of the war, or Tess not being able to cope with so many stressors all at once as she adjusted to life in a new town.
Loving that #ThisIsUs is opening the door to conversation about anxiety, panic attacks and mental illness. We shouldn’t be ashamed to voice these realities! We need to be talking about these things! #StartTheConversation #AnxietyIsReal
— Loreita Hinzman ⚓️ (@loreitany) October 23, 2019
A wide-reaching impact
Obviously Randall felt Tess’s panic attack the most (other than Tess herself), knowing that he handed that particular “trait” down to her. It’s something he unknowingly inherited from William, and he’s been dealing with it his whole life. What made the episode so brilliant though was that it didn’t just focus on how he and Tess were impacted by the stress of it all, but how Beth has to be the strong one in these situations as well.
— Sterling K Brown (@SterlingKBrown) October 23, 2019
Thanks to a flashback we know she has also blamed herself for not seeing the signs in her husband before it was too late—signs like the extra hours clocked at the office, working out more than necessary, and trying to fix everyone else’s problems. This time around she’s seeing the signs, but Randall isn’t open to addressing them. That lack of awareness or sweeping it all under the rug can be one of the hardest things for the spouse of someone with anxiety to deal with. When Randall refused therapy at the end of the episode, rolled over and went to sleep, we felt for Beth. This story is far from over and it’s going to impact their family in a rough way in the weeks to come.
— Christina Minikon (@Songstress24) October 23, 2019
Sometimes it’s the little things
Meanwhile in the flashbacks we also saw how The Big Three was coping (or not coping) with Jack’s death roughly a year after the cataclysmic fire, and while they seemed fine enough on the surface deep down things were rough. Why else would Kevin spontaneously marry Sophie? What other way is there to describe Kate dating a guy who is much too old for her? Can we all agree that Randall keeping obsessive lists of things to fix around the house is a bit… worrisome?
These are all little storyline touches that help drive home a fairly big point: mental health affects everyone in one way or another, and it’s a lifelong journey to healing and maintenance—even for eternal optimists like Toby or Kevin. This is the first time we can remember a series tackling these issues in an ongoing and impactful way, and that makes it an important show that can help make so many people feel less alone.
After all, whether we’re crying over Jack’s death, or relating to Tess’s stress over not being able to come out, or wishing we could find a way to reconnect with a distant loved one, or struggling with infertility, addiction, depression, anxiety or something else entirely, we’re all in this together.
We feel seen, This Is Us. So, thank you.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.