This Is Us does multiple timelines better than anyone -- in fact, it's kind of their thing.
Still, though, introducing a bunch of new characters without revealing their connection to the Pearson family until the hour was almost over was a gutsy move.
This Is Us Season 4 Episode 1 could have confused viewers by introducing three new families and allowing their stories to take up so much screen time. But at the end, it all came together beautifully.
All three of the new stories were interesting in their own right.
Cassidy's PTSD was costing her her family, Malik was struggling with being a teenager who is also a father, and the anonymous-until-the-end blind man was finding love and romance that inspired his music.
I was invested in these stories even though I had no idea who these people were.
Guessing how they were related to the characters we know and love was fun, though!
I knew Malik was going to be connected to Deja somehow. I kept thinking his baby would end up in foster care and that would somehow tie into Deja having been in the foster care system.
But what the writers came up with was far better than my off-base guess. Deja and Malik are clearly smitten with each other, at least at first glance, but what's going to happen when Deja finds out Malik is a father?
Randall will certainly freak out if he learns that little tidbit about the boy who has put a smile on Deja's face.
And on top of that, Malik is desperate to earn money to put his daughter into a private preschool, and he was already trying to push his way into whatever illicit business his father's old friend is into.
Even if Malik has the sense to steer clear of shady people now that he's met Deja, that isn't going to play well with her parents.
You know, the first year of her life, she only stopped crying if I held her. Not her mom, not her sister. Me. They would say she is a Daddy's girl. I said no, she is her Daddy's world. You're a good man, Jack, but you have darkness in you, things that happened to you in Vietnam. I want more for her. And I will do everything I can to stop this. And make no mistake, I'm a more formidable enemy than an imaginary monster in the closet.Rebecca's father
Could history repeat itself, with Randall being as determined to keep Deja and Malik apart as Rebecca's father was to interfere in her relationship with Jack?
Jack's disastrous first meeting with Rebecca's parents helped ground the episode. Everything else felt like a pilot for a spin-off since we didn't yet know who these people were.
Going back to the past helped remind viewers that the core of the show hadn't changed as well as provide more dramatic backstory for Jack.
Jack's adjustment to life after Vietnam is going to be a major theme this season, most likely in tandem with Cassidy's struggle with PTSD after her return from the Middle East.
My mom's tough, I'm not gonna lie, but my dad saves all. And I told them under no circumstances are they to bring up Vietnam.Rebecca
And of course, as soon as Rebecca promised there would be no Vietnam talk, it clued viewers into the fact that there'd be nothing but!
Despite the shadow Vietnam cast over the entire dinner, the scenes weren't too heavy.
The focus was more on Jack's attempt to fit in than anything else, and it was clear his mother resented that road trip since she barely talked about anything else!
Sorry about that. To be honest, I've never had lobster. It kind of got the best of me. My family doesn't do much, to answer your question, ma'am. Mostly they fight. He hits, she cries. I had a little brother, basically raised him myself. When he was little, he had this two year phase where he was convinced there was a monster living in his closet. I couldn't convince him there was no monster so instead I'd sit in front of the closet door and tell him stories. I'd tell him bedtime stories until Nicky was convinced the monster went to sleep and wasn't going to bother him anymore. Of course the monster wasn't real, but my brother's fear was real. The sweat on his brow was real. His experience was real. I lost my brother in Vietnam.Jack
And Jack's focus on how he protected Nicky from the imaginary monsters in their childhood effectively foreshadowed Nicky's return to the part of the story set in the future as well as being a dramatic story in its own right.
Speaking of which, what exactly is Nicky's connection to Cassidy?
He broke that window and got himself arrested, but does he know Cassidy?
On TV, nothing is ever truly random, so there has to be a reason that the two crossed paths.
It remains to be seen if they are kindred spirits or related to one another somehow. They both deal with having been in a war zone by drinking, so let's hope their connection isn't a destructive one!
Cassidy is both the biggest mystery and the new story I'm most invested in. If they ever mentioned her husband's name, I missed it, but I'm still rooting for her to heal and for them to reconcile!
But since Kevin got the call to bail out Nicky, is it possible that Cassidy is the mystery woman who he will someday marry?
The most emotional storyline was the reveal that baby Jack was the blind man we'd been following around for most of the episode.
Again, it was obvious the man was going to be connected to the Pearsons, but it wasn't clear how. In retrospect, it should have been obvious who he was -- baby Jack's future is a complete blank.
But then again, since viewers didn't know who he was, they didn't know what timeline this took place in either, so he could have been connected in a myriad of other ways.
About all that was clear was that he was important since This is Us took the time to introduce his future wife and jump to them getting married and having their first child.
As soon as Toby and Kate sat down with baby Jack and the doctor, everything fell into place, though. Talk about an emotional reveal!
The new parents were thrown for a loop that their precious baby had permanent vision problems.
Juxtaposing their fears and disappointments and hopes and dreams for their child with grown-up Jack Junior getting ready to have a child of his own and singing in front of an audience brought tears to my eyes.
What about you, This is Us fanatics?
Was the influx of new characters confusing, engaging, or both?
How do you think Cassidy figures into the overall plot?
And how emotional was that reveal about Toby and Kate's baby?
Share your thoughts in the comments and don't forget you can watch This Is Us online if you missed anything!
This is Us airs on NBC on Tuesdays at 9 PM EST/PST.
Jack Ori is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.