Warning: Spoilers for the season three premiere ahead.
The third season of NBC’s mega-hit drama “This is Us” premiered Tuesday night, bringing the beloved Pearson family back into American living rooms. The show, known for its highly emotional storylines, did not return on the same gut-wrenching tone it left off with last season. Instead, the premier carried an attitude of hope.
Although the siblings are all dealing with conflicts that will likely become explosive by mid-season, they begin season three as positively as we have seen them so far. The early romance story of Jack and Rebecca holds little concern, as we already know they end up married, and Jack ends up dead.
Besides, nothing could be sadder than season two’s Jack and Rebecca treatment. The troubling future storyline, which appears to be a funeral, shows a gray-haired Randall with a grown daughter. That currently holds more intrigue than foreboding, as it seems to be in the distant future.
While the element of hope was present, the premiere surely didn’t disappoint its viewers hopeful to get their “This is Us” cry fix. There are plenty of touching moments for the audience to connect with as Kate navigates her hopes of becoming a mother, and Randall desperately tries to connect with his foster daughter, Deja.
This is a show that is in the business of generating tears, and it does that well. The writers are very adept at finding the most emotional ways people can express themselves to one another. They are also extremely good at tuning into the most vulnerable elements of human existence, and writing a TV show that relates exactly how it might feel to go through what the characters do. This makes for compelling storytelling, which very rarely stumbles into a boring gap in the plot.
Based on the emotional content of the show, and the perpetual melodramatic score, it is tempting to reject “This is Us” as overwrought cry-porn. That would be a mistake, because while it is not a great show, it is a very good one. The acting is quite strong, particularly from Krissy Metz, Sterling K. Brown, and Susan Kelechi Watson. The story, for all its emotional moments, moves at a consistent pace and generally seems intricate and well thought out.
There is not a character in the series the audience does not root for. There are few visible villains— the show sources its conflict from the personal flaws and histories of the characters themselves. This provides the viewers with a highly relatable hour of story that makes them want to spend time with the Pearsons each week.
The show doesn’t use fantasy or extreme circumstance to create drama, instead exploring the common pains many people face every day, the type of pain many people feel embarrassed by. The fictional Pearsons give their viewers a weekly reminder that it is okay to be imperfect.
This is not to say that the show only evokes tears of pain and loss—just when it seems the sadness factor has become too much, the story produces something good. Sometimes this goodness is as simple as adult siblings bonding after years of drifting apart, or a family making small improvements with their troubled foster child. But the miracles do happen, and that’s why we keep coming back.