This review of This is Us contains spoilers.
This Is Us Season 2 Episode 4
We can prepare for predicted natural disasters like a snowstorm or do our best to shorten the time we suffer from the common cold once it has struck. However, we can’t prepare for unexpected family visits like Rebecca’s throwback to a Jim Crow era mother who has something to prove.
Mothers have a way of comforting us, but Rebecca’s is the complete opposite. She ignites a flight or fight response from everyone in the same room with her except for a well-meaning Randall who has had trouble bonding with her through no fault of his own.
Elizabeth McGovern turns in a solid performance as a Connecticut housewife and mother right out of a Douglas Sirk film. Her character is all too familiar to us because we’ve seen her pursed lips and upturned nose as she passes judgment on minorities and helpless children of all hues.
Rebecca is her mother’s daughter, but don’t let her hear you say that. Rebecca’s innate competitiveness comes directly from her mother who always has to be right even when the facts prove otherwise. We want to forgive Rebecca’s infractions and lapse in parental judgment because she comes by them honestly. She’s no racist as is her mother, yet we were upset in episode two when she carelessly vocalized the same song Kate was to sing at the school talent show.
Parents, family, and friends plant seeds in us. Jack taught his kids how to fight and overcome obstacles large and small. Chickenpox didn’t stand a chance against the Pearson kids. When faced with the end of his promising football career, Kevin found his way into acting. Randall is the father ready to throw punches for his temporary foster child because it’s what Jack would’ve done. Kate never gave up on her singing, not only because she was a daddy’s girl, but because Jack instilled in her a sense of pride regardless of her age and waist size.
Deja is on the other side of the Jack Pearson school of childrearing. She’s the current result of an oft-incarcerated mother and no father. While she’s not unique as there are other kids and teens moving through foster homes, Deja has an opportunity to change her life for the better. Beth and Randall want her fit in and feel at home despite the constant chip on her shoulder.
Her life hasn’t been a crystal stair. She suffers from a hair and scalp condition, exacerbated by stress, that Beth’s familiar with because her sister suffered from the same ailment when they were growing up. Deja has the right to be angry. Her mother hasn’t been there for her. How long will Beth and Randall put up with her sullen moods and bad behavior? She wants what she wants, to be reunited with her mother, but as we learned last week she’ll be in jail longer than she thought.
It’s tough for a person like Deja to open up and trust someone. When they do, they tend to move all of their poker chips to that person’s side of the table. Retribution is swift, and not always thought out, when an emotionally vulnerable person feels betrayed. Her current foster family must feel like fantasy. There’s no spanking for misbehavior. Punishments for Tess and Annie include apologizing and being grounded. Last week Deja reflexively flinched expecting to be hit after having raised her voice and calling Beth a bitch. No fists or belts landed on her coiled upper body.
Deja will be a test for Randall who’s accustomed to achieving goals he sets for himself. Hopefully, he can pull from the same well that eventually convinced his grandma that he was worth her time and consideration.