For many fans, last night’s This Is Us was business as usual with the tears and the tissues. Perhaps it’s because I was finally doing my taxes at the same time, but for me the episode didn’t pack as much of an emotional punch. Make no mistake about it, it was still a tenderly emotional experience. Even in death, William proves that the world didn’t deserve him as his last wishes unfolded on the Pearson family. We already know that he never planned on returning from his road trip to Memphis with Randall because of his failing health. In the wake of his death, Beth finds a note he left instructing the couple to let their young daughters plan the party to celebrate his life. They have a day filled with sweet treats and toasts to William. Because eulogies aren’t “fun.”
However, the unsung hero, once again, is Beth. Sure, William lost another father, and their young daughters lost a grandfather that they had grown to love. But Beth is the person who spent the most time with William. She helped him manage his health while everyone else was at work and school. Last night, we learn that she’s rightfully angry that William didn’t leave her with any way to memorialize him or say a final goodbye. Randall, finally able to see beyond his own grief, forgoes his own eulog… ahem, toast, to William and let’s Beth have the floor. I set my W-2’s aside in order to hear Beth’s emotional speech where she called him an endearing, dancing card-game cheater and friend.
It was the Beth moment that I had been waiting for ever since she gave William the third degree in episode 2. Not only did we get great acting from Susan Kelechi Watson, but This Is Us set up a promising trajectory for her character. In the wake of William’s death, Randall’s fragile mental health and newly found unemployment, we already know that Beth will have to pick up much of the slack.
This is an opportunity for the show to get honest about the emotional and physical labor that many Black women are expected to take on for everyone else. They can also make my dreams come true by diving deeper into Beth’s story line.