The fourth season premiere of This Is Us was titled ‘Strangers’ and aptly so, as we spend most of the hour in the company of brand new characters, seemingly unrelated to the existing storyline.
Some familiar faces do crop up quite prominently, however. As usual, This Is Us showcases its ability to play with time by having Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) meet his new flame Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) parents for the first time.
In particular, Rebecca’s father (Tim Matheson) is unimpressed with Jack and seems intent on ensuring the relationship does not go further. Sorry to break it to you, pal…
One of the new characters introduced is Cassie, played by House and Once Upon A Time alum Jennifer Morrison.
Ever since news of Morrison’s casting broke in June, there has been eager speculation as to how her character would factor into the plot.
Tonight’s episode gave us answers – some answers at least. Cassie is a soldier newly returned from active duty, suffering with alcoholism and PTSD. She hits breaking point after her husband (Nick Weschler) kicks her out following an incident with their son.
A strange turn of events leads to an encounter with wayward uncle Nicky (Griffin Dunne), a fellow struggling veteran. Since we know that Nicky called his nephew Kevin for bail and Cassie could potentially play an important role in the former sitcom star’s future, one of the season’s big stories may have started to take shape already.
We also meet teen father Malik (Asante Blackk), who is raising an infant daughter with his own parents (Omar Epps and Marsha Stephanie Blake). Having suspected that Malik and his family would be connected to Randall’s branch of the Pearsons in Philadelphia, it turns out I was correct, just not in the way I was expecting.
My assumption was that Randall (Sterling K Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) would make the acquaintance of Malik’s parents and that would be the entry point. In fact, leave it to the kids to make new friends, as sparks immediately start flying between young Malik and none other than Deja (Lyric Ross), Randall’s adopted daughter.
However, pursuing a relationship with Malik could spell trouble for Deja, as the generally well-meaning and responsible teen attempted to start drug dealing for his father’s associate (Maximiliano Hernandez), in order to make more money for his daughter.
However, one of the more shocking and sentimental moments of the episode came with the introduction of an unnamed blind musician (Blake Stadnik). Through several scenes, we see this man meet, date, marry and expect a child with a diner waitress named Lucy (Auden Thornton).
Now, I was so engrossed in this story that I had not even noticed our guy’s name had not been mentioned until it was almost too late. When his and Lucy’s story started intercutting with Kate and Toby’s, I thought they were just showing similarities.
Instead, our mystery man IS Jack, Kate and Toby’s son, all grown up! While he will never regain his eye sight, it’s incredibly touching that Jack pursued the same dream that his mother and grandmother did before him and seemed to take it to new heights, playing a packed arena.
Overall, I thought this episode was very well done. Creator Dan Fogelman had previously described the premiere as ‘ambitious’ and ‘unusual’ while also comparing it to the pilot, which I completely agree with.
Now we will all just have to wait and see how the rest of this season unfolds.