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The final season of ‘This Is Us’ premiered on Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo provided via @thisisusnbc on Instagram)

TV Review: Watch the ‘This Is Us’ final birthday episode for the Big Three

Though we never thought we’d see the day, This Is Us has reached its final season. 

The premiere wasn’t as action-packed as we might’ve hoped, but it kicked off what is sure to be an emotional season. 

Last season, we all gasped as Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Madison (Caitlin Thompson) called off their wedding, and Kate (Chrissy Metz) prepared for her wedding day again – but instead of the lovable Toby (Chris Sullivan), we see it’s to her colleague from school, Phillip (Chris Geere). Though we’re unsure of what’ll happen that removes Toby from the picture, we aren’t eager to find out. 

In the premiere, just as every other season premiere, the triplets are celebrating their birthday. It’s year 41 for the Big Three, but this year is met with little fanfare and extreme disappointment. 

Toby is working and isn’t there, so he arranges for Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Miguel (Jon Huertas) to take the kids with Uncle Nicky (Griffin Dunne) for the day and sends a massage therapist over to the house to treat Kate. Though he’s trying his best, Kate is frustrated that he isn’t there to share in the moment. However, at the end of the episode, Toby ends up surprising Kate by coming home to spend the tail end of her birthday with her. So the beginning of what we thought would be the rift in their marriage was shut down. 

Rebecca, Miguel, Nicky and Kate’s kids are all hanging out in the park, taking a ride on the train. They talk about Nicky’s obsession with finding Sally and whether or not he should reconnect with her in person. The audience sees how Rebecca is struggling with her memory, as she can’t remember what the back of the train is called. Throughout the entire episode she struggles to remember, until finally at the end she remembers it’s called the caboose. 

Meanwhile, Kevin is grappling with Madison’s new friends and their new living situation after calling off the wedding. He’s living in the garage so they can both be there 24/7 for the twins, but after seeing Madison on a date at the house, he realizes that living situation isn’t the right thing for him. He also gets called into a meeting where he’s offered a role in the reboot of his hit TV show, The Manny, where he can work one day a week and spend the rest of the time raising his kids in Los Angeles. He is unsure how to proceed with it.

At the same time, across the country in Philadelphia, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) is trying to celebrate his birthday with his family, but he’s too caught up on the fact that the police caught the man who robbed their house and caused Randall such fits of anxiety. He decides to go to the arraignment, where he realizes this man is extremely mentally ill and didn’t mean to cause them any harm. 

Upon realizing this, Randall posts his bail and tells him to meet him at the homeless shelter later that night, where he’d arranged a bed for him. However, the man doesn’t show up. Randall is devastated, and he realizes he needs to do more as a councilman to serve those in the community who really need him. 

The whole family comes together, both in person and virtually for Randall’s family, for the birthday dinner. Though it’s meant to be a happy occasion, Rebecca finally tells them the truth about her PET scans, which were positive for plaques building in her brain, which is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Though it’s still early, it’s a reality the family isn’t ready to face.

Kevin, in his despair of the news, moves out of Madison’s house and moves into Kate’s guest room for the time being. He’s reeling over the news and once again leaning on Kate, who reminds him of everything they’ve been through and how they’ve always made it through. 

“We have found the light, big brother,” Kate said. “And we’ll find it again.”

Throughout the episode, the new struggles of the family are, in true This Is Us fashion, juxtaposed with when the Big Three were kids. In this episode, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca are dealing with how to explain to the kids what happened with the 1986 Challenger explosion. The kids are all distraught, and as parents they’re trying to figure out how to let them know everything is going to be OK. 

Overall, the episode is a good setup for the rest of the season. It’ll be interesting to see where the writers take us for the end.

This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.

@rileyr44

rr855317@ohio.edu

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