This Is Us Season 2 Episode 5 Review: Brothers

This is Us continues to hold up a mirror to our own flaws.

Tonight’s This is Us review contains spoilers.

This Is Us Season 2 Episode 5

Brothers fall into a hierarchy regardless of birth order, age, or education. We are a reflection of our fathers, biological or adoptive. We consciously and subconsciously measure ourselves against our parents. Who and or what we might become as adults if we dare to dream or challenge their predetermined roles and trajectories for us?

We don’t always like each other or get along, but somehow brothers manage to love each other when it counts the most. Some of us struggle to become our own man, different from our brothers and father. Others give in and seemingly follow an updated script of what our father before us lived and suffered through.

Coerced bonding between siblings rarely works. Hope is a powerful elixir and can be overpowering. Sibling rivalry is expected because parents see and treat us as individual soldiers even though they think, say, and pretend they don’t. Twins and triplets aren’t created equal. A shared home doesn’t guarantee an unbreakable familial connection and loyalty. Two or more offspring raised under the same roof will have different experiences and memories of the same events.

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Jack’s sins revisited themselves upon his children. Randall can be annoying and overwhelming one-on-one. This is a direct result of his being adopted as a newborn and constantly trying to pay forward a debt that has no dollar amount. He observed and emulated Jack’s need to please and make everyone around him happy. Randall tries too hard to fit in and to be cool, which oftentimes comes off as awkward and uncomfortable. Kevin doesn’t care who he upsets with his behavior. Unfortunately for him, he inherited Jack’s and his grandfather’s addictive genes and drunken belligerence.

What drives a child to abandon a parent at the end of their life as they lie waiting to die? I went the complete opposite of my father who had his own demons because I was afraid of becoming a jigsaw puzzle of his worst parts. I didn’t want to stick out too much from the parts of him that my mother once loved and thought it’d be respectful or even honorable to replicate. I wanted to be seen and accepted, but it came at a cost. Similar scenarios play out between Randall and Kevin.

Mothers can do a number on their sons. Brothers compete for their mother’s attention and praise differently than we do our fathers. Siblings cheat, take shortcuts, and betray each other, not realizing it’s fleeting, expecting to be swathed in mother’s magical loving and protective glow.

Did my brothers know who they wanted to be as adults? I can’t truthfully say. To different degrees, we fought against our genes, the household environment, and the broader village that raised us.  

We repeat the same or similar mistakes as adults we rallied against as impressionable and vulnerable kids. Children learn how to be both strong and weak from our parents. If we’re lucky, we also learn how to negotiate and compromise for what we want and need along the way.

I know substance abuse exists, however, it’s too easy of a character trait in the writer’s room when they’ve run out of family-friendly descriptions. My father’s alcoholism and substance abuse didn’t and hasn’t defined me because it’s always been my choice not to engage in those habits.

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I understand the ghosts from the past that continue to haunt Randall and Kevin. They’ll continue to be plagued by them until they deal with them through journaling, with counseling or in rehab. I hope Randall returns to therapy for his anxiety before it rubs off on his daughters, Tess and Annie. What a joy it’d be for Kate to lose weight over the course of her pregnancy and after childbirth. The Pearson kids grew into adults shaped by the good, bad and unsavory parts of Jack and Rebecca. It makes for an interesting show because viewers are reminded that we’re just as flawed and human as the family on our screen.

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4 out of 5