This Is Us is a massive hit and a total tearjerker, so let’s explore how it can be both so successfully.
Now that This Is Us has returned, fans should grab their tissue boxes and buckle in for the final season. The show follows the Pearson family through various timelines, and one of the main talking points about the series is just how sad the show really can be. Tears are not uncommon while watching the series, so let’s explore some of the reasons why a show so notoriously sad is also so popular.
One of the main reasons why this tear-jerking drama is such a phenomenon is because it allows the audience to feel a certain level of catharsis while watching the various tragedies and hardships unfold. When something sad happens on the show, it’s not simply played for shock value, and instead the entire context is often well explored. For example, the reveal of Jack’s death in Season 2 had been teased and setup since the pilot episode.
However, Jack’s death was tragic because his character had been well developed and explored so the audience genuinely cared about him before they had to see him die. Therefore, the audience feels that connection to the other characters in the show because mourning Jack becomes a communal effort. In addition, the audience has seen the impact Jack’s death has had on his family and friends, which further those feelings of connection to not only Jack but those who loved him as well.
Meanwhile, Rebecca’s battle with Alzheimer’s has been ongoing for the last few seasons, and in the latest episode, it is revealed that she has plaque building up in her brain, and her condition is advancing. This tragic reveal is heartbreaking, but it is made all the more sad as a result of the connection the audience has built up with Rebecca over the years. Part of what makes this most recent revelation all the more impactful is because fans have already seen some of the consequences in earlier episodes, like in the flashforward where Rebecca didn’t remember Randall’s name.
The use of the different timelines to draw connections to what characters have been through, are going through and will have to face eventually all come together to not only create mystery and intrigue, but also a deeper understanding of the characters. Sometimes, that deeper understanding comes with a side of tears as well.
The show also does a good job of using the timelines in order to balance out the melodrama and keep the emotional levels within a realistic level as opposed to over the top and therefore straying away from a grounded emotional response. Instead of staying too long in a moment, the show is able to cut between moments to increase the emotional weight without weighing down the story with exposition or melodrama. Like in the most recent episode, Rebecca compares Randall to Holden Caulfield, and it then cuts to Randall being heartbroken by a drug addict he was unable to help.
This Is Us may be a tearjerker, but that doesn’t stop it from being a beloved phenomenon. Instead, the emotional engagement the show has been able to make with its audience is a big part of its success. The emotion comes from the fact that the audience genuinely does connect to the characters and the tragedies and heartbreak can lend a sense of catharsis to the audience. This is achieved through the timeline jumping as well as strong storytelling, so the final season of the series is likely to be an emotional journey.
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