by David Canfield | via Entertainment Weekly
We knew This Is Us was going to end its second season on a wedding. But where the marriage ceremony typically initiates a new beginning — a celebration of a new union — in this case the focus was on the end of a long, difficult chapter.
Kate and Toby’s impending marriage has been shadowed all year long by Jack Pearson’s death; the show has prioritized it narratively and emotionally. Of course, there’s a reason for this: Kate hasn’t been able to fully move on from it, nor has the rest of her family. While “The Wedding” doesn’t put an end to their grieving (it’s hardly so simple) it does guide them into a new phase of mourning, one where each family member has a chance to let go and take a breath.
The episode opens on a wedding — but not Kate’s. It’s an imagined version of the present where Jack and Rebecca are renewing their vows for their 40th wedding anniversary. These visions play out throughout the episode’s first half: everyone watching the two lovebirds, as entranced with each other as they ever were, listening to their stories about things like Big Three Homes and Rebecca’s encore performance of “Moonshadow.” The camera seems fixated on Kate through these sequences, and we learn, midway through the episode, that they’re from her dreams — dreams that she’s had every night over the past few weeks, of the moment that was destined yet never came to be.
It’s these visions that are compelling Kate to keep her father’s memory alive for her wedding day. She’s surrounded by memories, and rather than brush them away, she’s actualizing them: Jack’s urn is set to be placed beside the guestbook, she’s going to pin his old Daytona Beach shirt to her dress for her “something old,” and she’s having the wedding at the cabin where some of her fondest family moments took place. She’s still in it for Toby, of course — even gifting him the bow tie Leslie Nielsen wore in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult the day before the wedding — but when it becomes clear that Toby forgot to bring Jack’s shirt across the country, she’s thrown for a loop.
It’s up to Randall and Kevin — the designated wedding planners — to get things back on track. They try to get Kate to calm down while they do damage control, but Toby informs them, while picking up his separated (and bickering) parents (Dan Lauria and Wendie Malick) from the airport, that he has indeed forgotten Jack’s old shirt. And we’re only a day away: Getting it in for the wedding in time seems like a lost cause.
Randall has other things going on: He’s still reeling from the dramatic turn of events involving Deja from last week’s episode; she’s now irritable and closed off, an obvious result of her mother’s official decision to “terminate all parental rights” and leave her in Randall and Beth’s care. They’re set to begin the adoption process but are scared about what the future holds. And so they play the “worst-case scenario game” that helps them through stressful times, revealing their worst fears to one another. Among the terrible options put on the table: Deja gets Tess to resent Randall and Beth, Deja goes to jail, Deja kills Randall and Beth. (Whether or not it’s in their sleep remains to be seen.)
On wedding day, Deja is introduced to Beth’s cousin, Zoey — she grew up with Beth after her mother left her at a young age, an experience Beth hopes Deja can relate to. But Deja is belligerent and disinterested in what anyone has to say. Randall, meanwhile, is trying to do patchwork. He and Kevin have laid out some replacement options for Jack’s T-shirt, including the old family baseball bat, but Kate assures them she has a better plan, racing out on an unspecified mission right after her mother arrives. She arrives at Artisanal Scoops — the ice cream place that apparently replaced Kate’s beloved Frenchie’s, the parlor she used to frequent with her father. Those ice cream trips have been a particularly dominant memory all season for Kate, so it’s quietly devastating when she learns the place has changed hands, and that Jack’s favorite flavor, banana pudding, is no more.
Kate exits the shop, again for an unknown destination, leaving the rest of her family to wait anxiously back at the cabin. Madison unsurprisingly makes an entrance, pronouncing herself the maid of honor — Kate indicated she didn’t have one — and inserting herself into the bridal search. Rebecca keeps calling her daughter but it’s going straight to voicemail. And Randall and Kevin rush to Artisanal Scoops, where they’ve just missed Kate, and stay on her tail.
As Kevin and Randall drive on, trying to find their sister, Randall introduces the “worst-case scenario” game to his brother — this time, played in reference to a wedding that seems to be veering toward disaster. Randall’s darkest fear is, to put it mildly, upsetting for Kevin. “We never find Kate and we have to tell Toby that the wedding’s off, and he’s so shocked that he has a heart attack and dies,” Randall envisions. Kevin offers up his own nightmare: that Kate returns, goes to live with Kevin, and they never find love, left to live as “a creepy pair of twins that grows old together.” Randall compliments his gameplay; the two then suffer through the notion that they didn’t protect their sister, before mutually agreeing that playing the game wasn’t exactly helpful for either of them.
Click HERE to read the rest of the recap, “The Wedding.”