This is Us Season 2 Episode 2 Review: A Manny-Splendored Thing

When "The Manny" returns to Kevin's life, it complicates things further on This is Us.

Tonight’s This is Us review contains spoilers.

This is Us Season 2 Episode 2

“A Manny-Splendored Thing”, delves deeper into Jack’s battle with alcoholism, Kate’s issues with her do-gooder mother, Rebecca, and Randall and Beth’s ongoing fostering challenges. Kevin’s been asked to return to the show, “The Manny”, that made him a star before his on-set meltdown co-starring Alan Thicke.

Kevin’s scenes were important because viewers witnessed a side of him previously unseen. Kevin’s not as vacuous as most believe him to be. He has an admixture of love and jealousy for Randall, with the scales tipping toward love when it counts the most.

One of the show’s strengths is toggling between the past and the present, allowing us a window into crucial character-building, and in Kate’s case, personality-crushing at the hands of her mother. Jack was a nurturer. Rebecca has always seemed unfulfilled. They raised three distinct individuals who were imprinted with traits from both.

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Kate coddles and mothers Kevin in the way she once comforted and reassured her father. Randall is a self-admitted perfectionist, something he learned from Rebecca. Kevin constantly thinks he’s never good enough, a mental tape he borrowed from his father.

Jack’s alcoholism didn’t make him a bad father, just another flawed human trying to get out of his own way before it was too late. Rebecca didn’t understand his addiction. She thought by attacking him as a man, he’d suddenly wake up and become everything she always wanted, and a few things he promised in the early years of their courtship and marriage.

This Is Us makes a genetic case for Jack’s drinking because his father, too, was an alcoholic. I’m of a different thought. All children of drug addicts or alcoholics don’t abuse drugs or alcohol as teens and adults. Does one choose to have an addiction? I don’t think Kate would’ve chosen to be an obese child and adult.

Jack thought expensive jewelry would soothe Rebecca’s nagging and disappointment after one too many late, drunken returns. It didn’t. Familial and marital expectations coupled with work demands exacerbated his drinking. Two emotionally-powerful scenes between Kate and Jack felt almost incestuous for their level of intimacy. In the first, Jack visited child Kate at school after having had a bad encounter with his boss. The second took place in teen Kate’s bedroom after Jack returned from his brief stay at Miguel’s. He confided in his daughter in a way that ought to have been with his wife, but unfortunately, Rebecca’s too exacting and difficult to please.

Rebecca unleashed her scrutiny on Kate twice in tonight’s episode. She’s not a bad person, just not an ideal mother for an overweight child with singing aspirations. Jack made Kate feel like a princess, whereas Rebecca reminds her of her shortcomings. I’ve yet to witness a bond between Kevin and Rebecca. I don’t know if they like each other, which might have to do with his successful performance career. She unabashedly loves her adopted son, Randall.

Randall, Beth and their daughters flew to Los Angeles for the taping of the special episode, but the real drama took place outside because they’re still at odds on adopting a newborn versus fostering an older child or teen who might have an assortment of physical or mental challenges.

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Life imitated art during a heart-to-heart talk between Kevin and Beth. Away from the spotlight, cameras, and vindictive sitcom writers, the eldest Pearson child revealed new information about Randall that reconfirmed what they both knew and love about him. Jack would’ve been proud had he lived to see them as adults.


4 out of 5