Let’s Talk About… This Is Us Season 2, Episode 17: “This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life”

The second to last episode of the second season of  “This Is Us” means this is the second to last refresher for the season.  The title refers to a quote said from Randall to Deja in a previous episode about how he has it and thinks it will happen for her too.  I’ll be honest, I first read it as “lie” instead of “life” and in a way that’s not very far off, as at first, it does seem like a lie as it seems impossible for Deja to obtain.  Obviously SPOILERS for this episode and the entire series so far follow.  To check out my review of the previous episode, click here.  If you want to see all previous articles, click here.

In a bold move for the penultimate episode of the season, this entry revolves entirely around Deja, beginning with her birth to a 16-year-old Shauna with only her grandmother present with her and, of course, the doctors and nurses.  She tells her that she was there for her mother and it feels like “déjà vu”, giving her yet-to-be-born granddaughter her name.  Grandma is extremely happy to welcome Deja into this world and hold her, but her mother is not at all.  She tries to get Shauna to hold her newborn daughter, but she is upset with whoever Dennis (probably Deja’s father) is and acting distant towards Deja because of him.  Her grandmother tells her that Deja deserves a mother who will put her first.  We see flashes of other characters giving birth and holding their child that we had seen in previous episodes coincide with Shauna and Deja’s similar moments, but I’ll get back to this editing choice that is prevalent throughout the episode later rather than document each example.  We flash-forward to a very young Deja playing with a teddy bear alone in her bed, when lights turn on in outside her door and grandma walks in to an excited “G.G.!”

Pam Grier can be in one episode and become a fan favorite

Shauna’s grandmother and therefore Deja’s great grandmother, G.G./Gigi, played by the legendary Pam Grier, has come to check in on Deja at midnight with her mother nowhere to be seen.  She climbs into bed with her granddaughter and asks if she gave away her brooch as it is pinned on to the Teddy Bear aptly named “Mr. Bear”.  She tells her that he’s just borrowing it and then G.G. asks her what book she wants her to read.  She picks the very famous children’s book “Goodnight Moon” (1947) by Margaret Wise Brown that is also a favorite across the generations of the Pearson clan.  The only flash that I’ll mention here is that we see Jack reading to his mysterious brother again, which I believe we will be finding out more about it at the end of this season and into the next.  After Deja falls asleep, we see G.G. smoking a cigarette while waiting for the now 19-year-old Shauna to get home.  When she finally returns, she is greeted with “Why was that child left alone in this house?”  She has a long list of excuses, but Grandma is not having it:

“You thought that you could just feed her some cold-ass pizza and put on a hoochie dress and go out and have some fun?”

Shauna tries to argue that she is not a child, but this just brings more berating as her house is dirty and not paying bills.  It is revealed that Shauna is living off her grandmother’s money, which means that she is not in the present for some reason…  “I can’t carry this for you… not forever” she tells her. We then see all three of them walking in from a trip to the store as G.G. begins to start breathing heavily, while trying to  hold her balance.  She collapses to the ground as apples fall and roll out of the brown paper bag she was carrying.  Despite her death taking place early on in the episode,I hope we see more of G.G. because the world can always use more Jackie Brown er Pam Grier.  Later, we see Shauna crawl into bed with the equally restless Deja.  She, n tears, has no idea what they are going to do now, but Deja quickly begin reading her “Goodnight Moon” to cheer her up.

Without G.G., Shauna is even more of a reckless mother

We flash-forward to Deja closer to the age we know her as she cooks breakfast.  The flashes to the Pearsons’ are poignant this time, as they are all cooking as a family, while Deja is cooking alone.  Her mom comes in, getting ready for work and Deja informs her that the water is off.  It is Shauna’s birthday and she tells Deja that she wants to take her to school today even though it will make her late for work.  Shauna is looking for the electricity bill, but Deja informers her that she put it in the mail yesterday.  “What would I do without you?” she tells her young daughter.  As she walks her to school, Deja tells her joyfully about school before asking when she gets off.  Shauna tells her “7:00” and Deja asks “7:00  like 7:00, or 7:00 like 10:00?”  She assures her seven and Deja tells her she’s making a surprise dinner for her birthday and she jokingly tells her not to burn it “like last time”.

Deja returns home from school, with groceries and begins cooking while looking at a recipe for “Grandma’s Jambalaya”, which calls for diced tomatoes.  She grabs the can and then gets the can-opener, sits on the floor and begins quickly jabbing it into the top and trying to open it.  Anyone that has ever cut themselves trying to open a can (that’s everyone, right?) will wince at this scene because they know what is coming.   After badly cutting her hand, she intelligently tries to wash it off in the sink… but the water is still off.  She wraps it up with a nearby cloth and tries to call her mom.  It goes straight to voicemail and, crying, Deja leaves her a voicemail asking her where she is and that she hurt herself.  Deja takes herself to the hospital/emergency center and is quickly helped, brought to a doctor and has her hand wrapped up (where is this place!?).

Linda:  The Deja Rises

This also marks Deja’s first meeting with Linda from Child Services (I don’t think that I have mentioned how good Debra Jo Rupp is in this small role before) and she asks if she knows where her mom could be because she is not at work.  At that very moment, a somewhat frantic and worried Shauna rushes into the waiting room.  She apologizes and says that they went out for her birthday and her phone died.  There is not much time for the two to talk as Linda instantly tells her that they need to talk in private.  We hear Linda tell her that she can spell the alcohol, Shauna saying she only had one drink and Linda telling her she’s form Child Services before it fades.  Linda sets Deja up to sleep on the couch in her office, while she tries to find Deja immediate placement for one night or maybe longer.  We then see where that has gotten Deja, as she is living in a foster home with her foster sister Raven.  They have both been placed with an alcoholic foster father who Raven calls “Lame-Ass Mr. Miller”, who is both verbally and physical abusive to the young girls.

Although Raven is friendly to Deja, she is a little troublemaker and gets Deja to shoplift make-up for the school dance from a local store, run by old Mr. Baldwin, with her.  When Deja doesn’t want to at first, Raven tells Deja that she’s soft:  “You’re soft, Deja.  You’re quiet and you’re sweet and you’re soft.”  Mr. Baldwin later comes tot he house at night and tells their foster dad that they stole from him.  He then starts pushing and hitting Raven really bad, which alarms Deja.  On Linda’s check-up visit, Deja asks when she can go home, but tells her that her mom has been in and out of treatment for the last year, but Deja says that she only started using because she misses her.  Linda wants to make sure the next time Deja goes home that it’s for good, but “that’s not the cast right now.”  Linda becomes worried due to Deja’s demeanor and ask if it is okay there, but Deja is hesitant to answer.  She then tells her that he hits them and they are taken out of the Miller home.  Raven is upset with Deja because of this and explains:

“Do you know how many beds I’ve slept in?  I don’t.  ‘Cause by the year I turned nine, I lost count.  At least he only hit.  We could have stayed in those beds for years.  Now we’ll get separated.  It’s like a storm once it starts, Deja.  Bed after bed after bed.  Before, at least we had each other, at least we weren’t alone.  You’re a good person, I think, Deja, but you need to listen to me.  The next time you find a bed that feels even a little safe, don’t blow it.”

We see that Deja has been moving around foster homes, Shauna has  been doing better, so Linda takes her home.  She has a new boyfriend that she met in rehab named Lonzo.  Although he is not a abusive and seems nice in general, he is a drinker and a moocher who eventually brings a gun into the house.  It is his gun that is found in Shauna’s car and causes her to go to jail. Deja gets the news at dance class when she is up and police officers show up.  Linda explains that Shauna was arrested and that Deja has to go somewhere new- the Randall and Beth Pearson household!  We see Deja leaves to go live with her mom again, but now we see it from her perspective.  Her mom tell her that Lonzo is out of the picture and Deja shows her mom the home bank she made at school to save money with.  Everything is going good, as Shauna is using the bank, Deja is helping to keep the bills organized and this is when she realizes that they need money and goes to Randall.

Back with the Randall again

We then see her return home and put the money in the bank, but Shauna has apparently bounced the checks anyway.  Deja goes to check the bank, but all of the money is gone because her mom used it to help bail out Lonzo.  Deja has lost faith in her mom and we see her calling Randall while he is in Vegas.  She goes to pawn everything that she can but none of it was good.  She thinks about pawning G.G.’s broach, but just like Kevin’s necklace, it is a part of her and she can’t let go of it.  After lying to Randall that they’re good over the phone, they move out and go to live in the car where Beth and Randall find them.  Now that we’re all caught up, we return to the “present” timeline where Deja and Shauna have been welcomed to stay at Randall and Beth’s house.  The girls are overjoyed to see that Deja is back and during dinner, Shauna notices that Deja is happy and fits in perfectly with Randall’s loving family.  Deja opts to go sleep in her old room rather than on the couch with her mother.  Shauna talks to Beth about Deja and they both agree that she is special, but Shauna says that she has failed Deja and that she can’t keep failing her:

“You know what I always say to her?  I say, ‘What would I do without you?’ I’ve been saying that to her since she was five.  Who puts that on a kid?  Who does that?”

Randall comes in to Deja’s room to talk to her and see if she is doing okay, she tells Randall that all people have to sleep and that everyone has there stuff, so in a way they are all the same.  She tells Randall that she is tired and goes to sleep.  However, Deja’s mother tells Randall and Beth that she has decided to leave Deja with them because she’s “got to go and I can’t take her with me.”  The final image is of her standing there with a bag after stating her decision.

At least the girls are back together again

As I mentioned earlier, this episode juxtaposes flashes of events from different members of the Pearson family that coincide with Deja’s emotional state at any given moment.  Although, the show has used this technique in the past, this episode relies very heavily on it in order to tie the viewer’s emotions closer to Deja by reminding the viewer of the struggles of other character’s that they are already far more familiar with.  It is a good technique that works well, but I feel that the episode relies a little too much on it – to a fault.  Normally this can easily tie character moments in a more natural way, but the overuse of it almost seems like they are trying to force the audience to sympathize with Deja.  In the end, I don’t mind it, but it seems a bit like overkill as I feel that I and the rest of the audience was already invested in Deja as a character.  However, most of this is the very little we see of the main cast and the episode did a great job of focusing in on Deja’s story instead of the other moving parts still present going into the season’s finale as Series Creator, Dan Fogelman, said on Twitter:

“Must acknowledge what let us do last night. Our 2nd-to-last episode of season featured little of our superstar cast and instead told the important story of a little girl’s life. Anyone writing the obituary for network TV may want to put down their pen for a second.”

A very special “Ths Is SNL”

Meanwhile, Sterling K. Brown, Randall himself, hosted Saturday Night Live this past weekend.  it was an alright episode with Brown still doing very well in some of the lesser sketches.  This is not an SNO recap, so I’ll just say is that he does have a few good pokes at the show in his monologue, but they also did a light political parody show trailer as well, which you can watch below:

Are you ready and prepared for the season to end?  The trailer for the next episode and Season 2 Finale entitled “The Wedding” will finally show us Kate and Toby’s wedding, but what else does it have in store?  We know that we will be meeting new characters in the form of previously unseen family members of the main characters, as weddings usually bring relatives we rarely see elsewhere.  It teases a special guest in the form of… Old Jack!?  Must be some sort of hallucination, but in what context? I guess will find out soon!  Here is the trailer for the finale that airs this Tuesday night:

What did you think of the episode, the season and the series so far?  Sound off in the comments!