Last week’s This Is Us entitled “After the Fire” delved deeper into Randall Pearson’s (Sterling K. Brown) psyche through his second therapy session. It revealed an unfortunate wound from past trauma. And marked a new path for the Pearson sibling no one was expecting.
In the previous episdoe “New York, New York, New York,” we learn Randall harbors self-guilt over his father Jack’s death. Compounding his already strong anxiety, he constantly replays what life would be like if he had done something to prevent the Pearson patriarch’s demise. This essentially molds Randall’s moral compass, and he self identifies as the fixer of the family. Unfortunately his tenure as a hero has now evolved into villain.
For the past three seasons, we have witnessed Randall exert these almost superhuman abilities. From taking William in after their first meeting; to becoming councilman in neighboring Philadelphia — he places the weight of his world’s orbit on his shoulders.
This selflessness is extremely admirable and one of the reasons why viewers champion him. (For many, Randall is the non-defacto protagonist of this ensemble cast.) But now, his need to remedy all without any assistance or alternate vantage points, has become toxic. It began with his overzealous approach to protecting his family after a break-in; and, it’s driven a wedge between the Big Three, when their matriarch needs them the most.
Rebecca’s recent diagnosis has put Randall in Save-a-Mom mode. The fear of losing another parent, when previous efforts failed both of his fathers, has placed the Pearson’s caped crusader on a vigilante mission. Flying across country on a whim for her doctor’s appointments; deeming Kevin incapable of handling the situation, Randall’s self-righteousness born from fear is crippling his familial relationships. After the family objects to his treatment option, Randall’s next decision marks a point of no return.
The latest episdoe closed with his therapist (Pamela Adlon) guiding Randall to a revelation: he hasn’t fully healed from Rebecca’s betrayal about his birth father. Instead of accepting this realization as a step forward, he takes a giant leap back, using the very hurt he won’t acknowledge to guilt his mother into participating in the clinical trials.
Randall is not perfect, by any means. We’ve seen him stumble and make mistakes at others’ expense. But this level of manipulation is a new low. One I’m sure is fueled by an unbearable fear of losing the only mother he’s ever known. He wasn’t technically abandoned by his birth mother, but life stole her away from him. He isn’t going to let Rebecca go without a fight. We just hope he doesn’t lose more in the process.
Catch the season four finale of NBC’s This Is Us tonight at 9 PM ET.