NBC’s This Is Us (finally) returns with new episodes in November. A lot has happened since the show’s 2016 premiere. If you need a re-cap or mild refresher on all things Pearson ahead of season 5, we’ve got you covered.
Season 1 of ‘This Is Us’ sets the tone for the series
Like every good show, the first season of This Is Us had a lot of background information to drop. The series began with Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and his very pregnant wife Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore) in the past.
Throughout the season, fans see how they met, Rebecca’s thoughts on having kids versus becoming the famous singer she dreamed of, and Jack’s increasing alcohol intake. We see their ups and downs, but ultimately, they’re love for each other and their triplets (aka “The Big Three”).
Season 1 soon reveals the present-day Rebecca has married Jack’s best friend, Miguel (Jon Huertas), and Jack has died.
Kate (Chrissy Metz) is working as her brother Kevin’s (Justin Hartley) assistant while trying to lose weight. To the latter, she joins a support group where she meets her future husband, Toby (Chris Sullivan). She attends a weight loss camp at one point which almost destroys her relationship with Toby — just before he has a heart attack.
We meet Randall (Sterling K. Brown)on the cusp of finding his biological father, William (Ron Cephas Jones), following William’s cancer diagnosis and journey as the father and son navigate their complicated relationship.
Through William’s stay at Randall and wife Beth’s house, it’s discovered that William is bisexual and that Randall has struggled with severe anxiety his whole life. Jack helped him breathe when he was young, but without Jack, Randall is constantly on the verge of an emotional breakdown for taking on too much and trying to be so perfect.
William dies after he stops chemo, Randall quits his job, and Kevin quits the role that made him famous — the sitcom, The Manny. He moves to New York to give theater a try but his dating life is, as always, complicated.
Toward the end of season 1, Jack’s drinking is out of control, leading to a fight at one of Rebecca’s shows. Kate and Toby are engaged, Kevin flies off to Los Angeles, and Randall decides it’s time to adopt a child just like Jack and Rebecca did with him.
‘This Is Us’ Season 2 gets viewers into the Pearson groove
By the time This Is Us season 2 rolled around, you’d think there’d be less crying. This isn’t the case, especially once the season expands further into the house fire that kills Jack.
Add to that Beth (Susan Kelichi Watson) and Randall’s journey as foster parents with Deja (Lyric Ross), Toby and Kate’s miscarriage, Kevin’s deep-rooted emotional issues that continue ruining his relationships, and a closer look at the cracks in Jack and Rebecca’s marriage.
Season 2 ended with Kevin on a plane to Vietnam to learn more about Jack’s time there, we meet Beth’s cousin, Zoe (Melanie Libard), whom Kevin dates, and plenty of teasers as to what happened to Jack’s little brother, Nicky (Griffin Dunne). All of this leads into the mega-complicated season 3.
Season 3 takes a journey to Vietnam
While a lot happened in the first two seasons of This Is Us, season 3 proves to be the biggest background filler. The past shows Jack driving Rebecca to LA where she attempts a career as a professional singer. It flops, but the relationship surges on.
Fast forward to teen versions of The Big Three just after Jack’s death and how they’re all struggling to cope. Kevin turns to alcohol, Randall chooses college close to home to be near Rebecca, and Kate chooses not to go to coolege.
Teen Toby dealt with depression and anxiety while teen Beth had dreams of becoming a ballerina, dancing on the stage. Beth’s father, who was dying, believed in her. Her mother did not.
Adult Randall and family move and he runs for city council in Philadelphia, which Beth helps with. Their marriage almost doesn’t make it through his time in politics. He wins the election and Beth opens her own dance studio. They also adopt Deja as their own, to complete their family with Tess and Annie.
Toby goes off his antidepressants to try and get pregnant with Kate. She is eventually successful and goes into preterm labor. The baby’s name is Jack, and he stays in the NICU for some time. It’s later learned that he is blind. Toby struggles to bond with his son.
Rebecca begins showing signs of declining memory as she and Miguel discuss moving to be closer to Kate, Toby, and baby Jack.
As for Kevin, he and Zoe go to Vietnam but ultimately break up when Kevin decides he wants kids and she doesn’t due to a haunting childhood. Season 3 delves deeper into Jack and Nicky’s relationship as kids, then going to Vietnam and how things changed for them there.
Though Jack always said Nicky died a long time ago, he’s still alive. Jack felt as much because during Vietnam, Nicky accidentally killed a boy while on drugs and Jack couldn’t get past it.
Adult Kate, Randall, and Kevin visit Nicky, and eventually convince him to get help for his alcohol use.
By the end of the season, viewers learn who “her” is: Rebecca. Toby, Randall, and adult Tess are on their way to see “her” at Kevin’s house years down the line. Beth and Randall are still together, and Kevin has a son. There aren’t yet answers as to where Miguel is, why Nicky is at Rebecca’s bedside, or where Kate and Toby are. Thus, here we are in season 4.
‘This Is Us’ Season 4 is leading up to big things
The first episode fo the season, “Strangers” introduced a whole new part of the cast. Deja’s boyfriend, Malik, Marine Cassidy, and a blind musician we later learn is adult baby Jack, among others.
Toby and Kate have marital issues when Toby loses a lot of weight and has the sudden attention of females at his gym. Kate stays home to care for baby Jack and befriends their neighbor, Gregory, and Kevin visits Nicky.
Adult Kevin and Cassidy have a sort-of relationship while she goes through recovery, fans get to see how Jyounger ack and Miguel’s friendship grew over the years, and teen Kate has a tumultuous, toxic relationship with her new boyfriend, Marc.
This season also shows systemic racism at its core, and how Randall struggles to belong — even with his own family. Adult Nicky gives a glimpse at time with Jack, and adult Randall has another emotional breakdown after punching a man who assaulted a woman.
Of the most pivotal in the season, it’s the tension between Randall and Kevin over Rebecca’s failing memory and health. They can’t agree on treatment and get into a huge fight that alludes to bigger problems to come. It all goes back to Jack dying in the house fire and how the two have not healed.
In the end, Kevin learns he is about to become a father. After many fan theories, the mother is Kate’s friend (and show creator Dan Fogelman’s real-life wife), Madison.
What’s ahead for ‘This Is Us’
Luckily, fans won’t have to wait much longer for season 5. NBC announced in June This Is Us will return with new episodes on Nov. 10 in the 9 p.m. ET time slot.
“We are far advanced already,” Fogelman told The Hollywood Reporter. “We’ve already written the season premiere of next year and broken, I think, five episodes of the season, and we have mapped out plans for the entire next and sixth season.”
NPR revealed on Aug. 25, real-life issues will be covered in season 5, such as the Black Lives Matter protests and the pandemic.
It’s also possible the original plans for This Is Us Season 5 may shift due to current events. In the Aug. 16 tweet, Fogelman confirmed the new season will cover the pandemic.
“Considering everything that’s going on in our country, we have an opportunity and almost a responsibility — without getting into the politics of it all — to capture what this is,” Fogelman said.
There’s so much more to the Pearson’s story than what is covered here. But, for newcomers, or those who don’t have to time to re-watch before season 5, let this be your refresher.
And don’t worry — Fogelman is sure to outdo all he’s already done so stock up on tissues now.
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