Randall and Kevin's conversation was never going to be easy.
But the brothers stuck it out, and by the end of This Is Us Season 5 Episode 13, they seemed to have come to an understanding.
What an emotional hour!
I'm not Black, so I haven't had the same experiences that Randall has had. But I could relate somewhat as a transgender person.
For very different reasons, I felt like I didn't quite belong and didn't understand how to express it.
And I was grateful to learn more about Randall's experiences. I think this is what's important right now as our country and the world grapple with so much hatred and division: people listening to one another and doing their best to understand each other's experiences and, especially, their pain.
This Is Us addressed some heavy stuff head-on in the conversation between Randall and Kevin, yet never stopped being entertaining or interesting. That isn't easy to do and is a testimony to the strength of the writing on this series.
Speaking of gratitude, I'm glad that Randall addressed this thing about how he's expected to be grateful 24/7.
I have been told my whole life that I should be grateful and if I ever for a second act like I'm not grateful, people come at me all crazy like you're doing right now.Randall
I see this a lot on various This Is Us forums. Many fans think Randall is ungrateful or that he'd rather have been left to die than be adopted by the Pearsons, and that's such a harmful oversimplification.
The issues Randall faced were far more complex than that.
It's possible to both be grateful and to feel like something is missing, that there's something your family can't give you that you don't even know how to express.
It's possible to both love your adopted family and wish you were with your birth family and feel uncomfortable because no one in your family or your school looks like you.
And so often, when people dismiss Randall as ungrateful, it's a way of dismissing those complicated feelings.
I think that's what Randall was trying to tell Kevin: that childhood was in many ways uncomfortable for him, and he can't both be real and only express the positive aspects of what life with the Pearsons was like for him.
It went beyond his immediate family, too.
Randall chose the librarian and the weatherman as his imaginary parents because they were the only Black adults he knew. Being the only Black child in his school and having no real Black role models to talk to about race and culture contributed to his angst.
And a lot of the things that happened were unintentional, like the guy checking people in on the Mr. Rogers set who assumed Jack had two white sons. That guy probably didn't think anything was wrong with Randall's skin color but jumped to a conclusion that made Randall feel weird.
And Randall's guilt about imagining he had different parents was nobody's fault. The problem wasn't that he wished he was being raised by his birth parents but that he didn't know how to talk about that and was afraid of hurting his adoptive family's feelings.
I loved the scene on Mr. Rogers' set when five-year-old Randall talked to "Daniel Striped Tiger."
That was so perfectly in character with the way Mr. Rogers talked to children, and I couldn't help wondering how it would have affected Randall if he'd had a chance to talk about his imaginary family for longer.
As a lifelong Mr. Rogers fan, I also was thrilled with this tribute to Mr. Rogers and a little jealous that Randall and Kevin got to see his show in person, too!
I was holding my breath during many of the college-aged Randall/Kevin scenes.
I'm glad those scenes went differently than I thought they would. As soon as Kevin started with fake IDs and similar nonsense, I thought that they would get caught with their fake IDs and Randall would get in trouble but Kevin wouldn't.
The direction it went in was much better.
These scenes showed better than any others how complicated Randall and Kevin's relationship was. Within the space of the hour, they went from joking around with each other to fighting and almost coming to blows and back again.
This was a perfect parallel with the way their conversation was going in the present, with one major exception: Randall dropped the race issue as soon as Kevin pushed back on it.
Randall: You were rude to the cab driver. The Black cab driver.
Kevin: I'm rude to all cab drivers. I don't care what color they are.
Randall: That's a racist thing to say.
Kevin: I don't think so.
Kevin's comment offended Randall because it was a variation of the "colorblind" attitude that denies that Black people's race impacts their lives and/or that they have their own cultural and historical background.
At the same time, I could understand Kevin's perspective about this particular issue. From his point of view, he tended to get drunk and say rude things to cab drivers, and he didn't see how the driver's race played into his behavior.
Randall was not ready at that age to explain, and Kevin wasn't ready to listen, but Randall's decision to drop it probably made him feel worse.
I was glad the brothers came to more of an understanding by the end of the hour. They both genuinely apologized for the past and the hurtful things they had said to one another more recently.
Beth and the girls returned at the perfect time, too. While it would have been interesting to hear Randall's response to Kevin's admission that he resented his successful Black brother, the guys really had said everything that needed to be said.
This Is Us doesn't return until May 11, but in the meantime, this episode gave us a lot to talk about!
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This Is Us airs on NBC on Tuesdays at 9 PM EST/PST. The next new episode will air on May 11, 2021.