We’ve always known that Randall Pearson has some pretty high expectations of himself and of those around him. That much has been clear since his very first monologue to his biological father on the premiere episode of This Is Us (Tuesdays at 9 p.m., ET on CTV).
Throughout the first season of the series we also learned that many of those expectations stem from Randall’s issues with anxiety, which manifested themselves in different ways in select episodes. Like the time he tried to perfectly plan his trip to Memphis with William, or during his complete breakdown at the office when Sanjay was hired and Randall began to question his own abilities.
In Tuesday night’s Randall-centric episode we took an even deeper dive into the character’s anxiety issues, ranging from when he was a child and continuing into his twenties, as he and Beth were expecting their first child. That would be a nervous time for anyone, let alone someone with anxiety, and we want to give some big props to the writers for nailing the inherent fear and overwhelming sense of responsibility that many new parents face when they’re about to bring life into this world. The fact that they were able to give such an honest portrayal of someone with anxiety issues to boot was pretty commendable.
Of course, having someone like Sterling K. Brown act the hell out of the storyline never hurt either.
Anyhow, the episode marked the first time we’ve seen the Big Three in their twenties and—predictably—things weren’t going so well for any of them. Kevin had sunk so low as to try and steal his friend’s part, Kate knowingly slept with a married man just to feel wanted, and Randall was still getting over his epic anxiety attack that left him temporarily blind. Which brings us to the whole anxiety storyline.
The show also flashed to when the kids were 10 years old, on Halloween night. While Kevin and Kate had plans of their own, Randall had created the perfect trick-or-treating map complete with all the homes that doled out good candy, which ones made him do silly tricks and what houses they should avoid all together. Maximizing the house-to-candy ratio, he called it. Deeper than that, the map showcased Randall’s need for control, and how his anxiety could spiral out of control when things didn’t go his way. And while a mom might be able to try and teach her son to deal with those plot twists as a child, when it’s a fully grown man we’re talking about (one who is about to become a father for the first time at that), well that’s something that not even a mother can fix with kind words.
Nor can a wife, especially when she buys the “fun-sized” candy bars instead of the full-sized treats, and shatters Hubby’s expectations of being the good candy house. And that’s what made Randall leaving the house to go and get a new ceiling fan the day before Beth’s induction so relevant.
Side note: no storylines are perfect; in fact we’re calling Hollywood on Randall baring his soul to the store employee, and the fact that Beth went into labour so damned quickly with her first baby. But those things needed to happen in order to drive home a point: you can’t just tell someone with anxiety not to worry or that things will be okay. Because they spiral, and think of the what-ifs over and over again, and simply telling them that things will work out doesn’t make a lick of difference. If anything it makes them feel worse or crazy, and sends them into a deeper spiral.
So that’s why Randall being able to talk out his feelings with the employee (and the employee NOT having all the answers) was what finally kicked Randall out of his funk. Just in time too, since Beth had to give birth on the living room floor. And so Tess—named after a ceiling fan—was born, and we all missed Jack being there to take credit for her hair.
Let the tears flow freely guys, we’re not judging.
Okay so obviously we still have a lot of ground to cover with Randall and his anxiety, but that’s the beauty of this show. He’s got things under control for now, but we know this isn’t the last time things will spiral out for the character. And that’s okay, because that’s real life, and that’s why we love this series so damned much.
We see you Randall. Thanks for shining light on those of us who sometimes just can’t get out of our own heads.