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‘This Is Us’ returns, and we have a bunch of new characters to worry about

Chrissy Metz as Kate and Chris Sullivan as Toby in “This Is Us.” (Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

This post contains spoilers for the Season 4 premiere of “This Is Us.”

If you had difficulty so far keeping tracking of the Pearson family on “This Is Us,” it’s time to make that flow chart: the NBC weepy kicked off its fourth season Tuesday night by introducing a rack of new characters and story lines.

“This Is Us” is a show about mysteries, but it’s also engineered to generate tears and warm fuzzies, which it does by getting us to care about (most) of the show’s characters. But the more we care, the more we worry over their fates, marriages, health and happiness. Now we get to fret over at least three more protagonists, in addition to several of their relations.

NBC renewed “This Is Us” for two additional seasons, and the show is expected to wrap at Season 6. Creator Dan Fogelman has said we’re now at a midway point where the characters are “opening up” to new ventures, telling Entertainment Weekly that it’s “a very exciting period for almost all of the characters, and for some of them, maybe a very scary period in terms of how fraught their story lines are.” Scary? Fraught? Oh, goody.

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But Fogelman insists he knows where it’s all going. “I have script pages I have written and I’m writing that really are deep, deep, deep into the future,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. “Like, we have a plan for what we’re going to do and I know what the plan is.”

That plan includes some new complicated and lovable people. Let’s break down what we learned in this episode, how these additions fit into the Pearson story and the new questions we have:

Big Three check-in, please

Just as the previous season premieres, this one also falls on the Big Three’s birthday, but we see very little of them in this episode. Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) are unpacking in their new Philadelphia home. Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) have moved into a house, probably in Los Angeles, where Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Miguel (Jon Huertas) are also helping. Kevin (Justin Hartley) is also in Los Angeles, having moved back west post-break.

Instead, most the episode focuses on the new people and, according to Fogelman, feels in “some ways almost like a version of Season 1 in the middle of our series,” in which we didn’t learn how all of the characters were connected until the very end.


We are in dire need of more Miguel backstory (specifically, how did he and Rebecca go from friends to spouses?). But now we know when he first met Jack: by helping him woo Rebecca. Jack goes to a men’s clothing store to get a suit jacket for his first meeting with Rebecca’s parents, and Miguel is the salesman. Jack can’t afford the jacket, so Miguel, moved by this love story, tells him to just take it and return it in a week. Of course you did, Miguel.

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Oh, look, here comes another wonderful teen whom I want to protect from the darkness of the world. Malik (Asante Blackk) so far seems great: He’s a rising junior in high school, has a summer job and he’s the single father to a baby girl he adores who, like baby Jack, had to be in the newborn intensive-care unit. Malik lives with his parents, Kelly (Marsha Stephanie Blake) and Darnell (Omar Epps), who are exhibiting Jack-Rebecca/Randall-Beth levels of affection. Oh, and Malik loves to cook! Then just when you couldn’t be rooting for him any more, he makes Deja smile like we’ve never seen.

At a cookout before the first day of school in Philadelphia, Deja tells Malik she’s heard he makes a great burger. He then busts out the same line his dad used on his mom the day before (you know, the one Malik mocked as corny): “For you, I’ll give it everything I got.” Well done, Malik. Way to take notes from your loving dad.

It’s clear how Malik would easily become a part of the central story, but we still have many questions: Where is his baby’s mother, and what’s that backstory? Will Malik stay on the straight and narrow or get mixed up with the criminal elements around him? Will Malik realize that a $10,000 preschool is unnecessary for his baby? (I believe you when you say she’s amazing, but save that money for her college fund, son.) And how will Randall and Beth receive him when Deja brings him home for the first time? Hopefully more warmly than Rebecca’s parents welcomed Jack.

If you watched Season 1 of NBC's breakout hit "This Is Us," chances are you were also crying a lot. (Video: Nicki DeMarco/The Washington Post)


We meet Cassidy (Jennifer Morrison) as a soldier stationed in the Middle East running high-wire negotiations that have devastating consequences. Those wartime experiences have understandably taken a toll on her and, by extension, her family once she returns to Pennsylvania. Cassidy has trouble finding work, drinks a lot and is closed off from her husband. Then, to her own horror, she hits her young son.

Cassidy ends up separated from her husband and seeks help. The Pearsons enter the scene during what appears to be either a group counseling or Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at a Veterans Affairs center: As Cassidy tells a heart-wrenching story, Nicky Pearson throws a chair through the window and gets arrested.

Questions: How, exactly, will Cassidy get roped into the Pearson world going forward? Kevin is called to post bail; will he and Cassidy connect?

Jack Damon

We don’t know this guy’s name until the end of the episode, but over the course of the hour, we find out a lot: He is little Jack, offspring of Kate and Toby, and he grows up to have a great life.

He has Toby’s sense of humor and, per Toby’s wishes, not his hairline. He is blind (the actor who plays him, Blake Stadnik, has Stargardt disease and is visually impaired). He has a dismal music career, yet, like his parents before him, somehow maintains a nice apartment.

And then everything changes for him, thanks to a shattered plate. After spending a night wallowing in self-pity and alcohol when he fails to write a good song (writing is really, really hard and painful!), he wakes up hung over. So he makes breakfast, which his puppy promptly knocks out of his hand, shattering the plate. He then goes to a diner and meets a waitress, where it’s instant sparks. Inspired, he writes a song about strangers; they date, get married, then get pregnant. He goes on to play the stranger-song in arenas.

So of course the shattered plate is now framed. Must everyone on this show have an unbelievable meet-cute that forever alters the course of their entire lives? Apparently no one in the “This Is Us” television universe uses dating apps.

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