After pulling us back into season with a week's weak trip, This Is Us finally comes to this great revelation from the season finale : Nicholas Pearson lives and lives in a caravan in Bradford, Pennsylvania. As I wrote in my review of this episode, it's a twist that threatens to break the fabric of the series. The Pearsons have been through so much curvy, curious drama over the years that shedding something into their past could be the straw that backs the camels. Worst of all, this could also open the river gates to a world in which This Is Us adds more and more clandestine relatives over time, such as Gray's Anatomy , Considering that This Is Us is committed to this "Nicky is alive" story, it remains to be seen just how well the show works. And when it comes to "Songbird Road: Part One," the answer is … pretty good?
This episode, at least, makes the wise decision to use the Nicky Plate as an opportunity to interrogate Jack Pearson as a character. That's something This Is Us has been doing since his first season, in which Jack was classified as something of an imperfect saint. But "Songbird Road: Part One" is the show's most open criticism of Jack Pearson. While today's Big Three are making a tour to visit Nicky, Jack does the same in 1992. And both acts give This Is Us a chance to strain the flaws under Jack's perfect facade.
This episode is also about dealing with logistics: despite his brother's semi-regular postcards, the 1992 meeting was the first time that Jack and Nicky had been together since the war and the last time You spoke at all. In fact, the Big Three must be the ones to tell Nicky that Jack is dead. And although Nicky never had a chance to tell Jack what actually happened in Vietnam, he can tell the story to Jack's children. It turned out that the boat explosion from the season finale was not malicious or suicidal. It was just a really stupid, really irresponsible accident. After Jack's attempts to cleanse him again with drugs, Nicky temporarily connects to a local child (the son of the Mystery Village Woman in Jack's photo). Then he decides to bring the child grenade to fishing, resulting in an accident in which a grenade is thrown off and Nicky can not tell that the child has to jump off the boat. In the end, Nicky survives and the kid does not do that.
Like the entire season, the Vietnam War feels like it's coming from a better, more sophisticated, cinematic version of the show. Michael Angarano is really good at conveying the reluctant affection
Nicky develops for the child and the general Nicky department
feels – both because he is tall and because he is so disillusioned
War. It's almost obvious what happens when Nicky points to the boat's grenade box, and the episode creates an impressive thrill as the inevitable builds. Jack's great heroic swimming and the heartbreaking reaction of the boy's mother are also beautifully portrayed. And the show creates a complex moral situation in which the boy's death is an accident for which Nicky is very much at fault, but which is accepted without Jack's malicious intent.
Jack never learns the full truth about the situation. however, because the boy's death becomes a permanent break in his relationship with Nicky. While this episode is being drilled home, Jack's skill in mind – often portrayed as a force – has its downsides as well. He sees the world in black and white, to the point where he can not even recognize that shades of gray exist. As Nicky says, Jack chooses a direction to move and never looks back. That Jack was ready to rescue Nicky so much – including entering the war – to take him so decisively out of his life, he talks about some pretty intense psychological issues of Jack's side. The same is true of the way Jack sustains the lifelong lie about Nicky's death rather than facing the truth of the situation.
This Is Us has been dancing around the idea of repression as Jack's biggest mistake for some time, but it has really found a central place here. And "Songbird Road: Part One" (named for the street where Nicky lives) is the most nuanced in the way Jack's bullish commitment to repression creates a situation where everyone around him is forced to follow suit consequences. Nicky and Rebecca have moments in which they briefly start a difficult conversation with Jack before he turns them off with a power that they can not refute. It is a reality in which Rebecca is just beginning to realize that she realizes how much her husband has kept away from her. As warm and caring as he could be, as Jack could be, his emotional repression had far-reaching consequences for the people around him. Much of the way Rebecca had parenting after his death (and much of the way the Big Three act as adults) seems to have been shaped by the legacy of the emotional repression Jack left behind.
In his opinion, however, Jack's mistakes are reasonably well-known. Before going to Nicky, Jack advises Kevin that there are many who he misunderstands and that sons should strive to be better than their fathers. That's why Kevin, when he came out of the same car park decades later, meets his father's opposite choice. He does not take Nicky's steadfastness at face value and instead chooses to help him, even though Nicky claims he does not want help. (This is a moment that is unlike Jack's behavior, though he's even more emulated Rebecca in the season two premiere when she refused to let Jack wallow in pity on herself alone.)
Because This This Is Us, The Big Three are in a situation where Nicky is at his absolute low. Next to him, a gun is sitting on the table. That they arrive just in time to prevent Nicky from hurting himself is a bit of a shitty choice of storytelling, but the last scene is highlighted by the fact that this nicky act may be the most emotionally difficult material. This Is Us was ever approached. For this show loves exploring the tragedy, generally offering its characters decent emotional closure as well. But Nicky's story feels different. No matter what closure Nicky gets from the Pearsons, nothing will change the fact that his beloved elder brother died because he thought he was a murderer. This is something intriguing dark material that the show can explore.
Jack and Nicky are both men coined by the Vietnam War – Nicky, because he could not leave him behind, and Jack, because he refused to acknowledge life before and during the war. I'm still not sure that the professionals in this "Nicky Lives" series will outweigh the disadvantages, but it's good to know that This Is Us has a little more to offer than just a twist.
- Griffin Dunne builds seamlessly on Michael Angarano's work to develop an older, even sadder version of Nicky. Reworking Nicky with an older actor is a decision that works really well when paired with the Big Three. However, I'm curious to see what it feels like to play alongside Mandy Moore and Jon Huertas at the age of make-up.
- In this context, I'm very, very curious about how Rebecca and Miguel will meet Nicky.
- I understand how Jack lied to Rebecca and her children about Nicky's death, but my bigger logistical issues have to do with everyone else in his life. Jack's parents must have known that Nicky survived, right? Does that mean that Rebecca never met Jack's mother (she says in "Brothers" that she never met Jack's father before he was on his deathbed)? Or did they meet and Jack told his mother to lie about Nicky?
- An extremely pleasing detail from this episode is that Randall is completely lighthearted with the whole Nicky thing because he has gained first-hand experience he has made from lost relatives and has been finding out about dealing with parents that give him great secrets had withheld.
- The elementary school in old age (I guess, now in middle school age) The Big Three look so much older! I'm curious what the show will do when its Flashback cast gets older and older. Do we get high school stories with these actors while the first high school big three have aged to college and beyond? Will we get a new children's cast if the show wants to immerse themselves in the elementary school years of the Big Three?
- This Walk Hard was all I could think of in the scene in which the Big Three tell Nicky how Jack died: