This Is Us Recap: After William

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Sterling K. Brown as Randall, Chrissy Metz as Kate. Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC
This Is Us

This Is Us

What Now? Season 1 Episode 17
Editor's Rating 4 stars

Should we thank NBC for allowing us an extra week to compose ourselves after the heartbreaking loss of William Hill, or are they cruel for letting us stew in our grief for so long? I don’t know about you kids, but I’ve spent the past two weeks eating my feelings and listening to “We Can Always Come Back to This” on a loop.

The latest installment of This Is Us is titled “What Now?” and I legitimately believe it came from the writers just sitting around, asking themselves that very question after killing off such a beloved character in the season’s best episode yet.

Seriously, you guys, what now?

Well, good ol’ William Hill didn’t leave us high and dry. Before he took his final road trip down to Memphis, he left a letter detailing his last wish: That Tess and Annie be the ones to plan his memorial service. Something fun, that’ll make them smile, because they had two of his favorite smiles. Okay, so I guess we’ll be crying this entire hour as well. Good to know.

So how do you honor a man like William Hill? A man who could befriend your postal worker simply by taking the time to chat with him each morning. Even the mailman is crying when he hears the news — this mailman is all of us. But William selected Tess and Annie for this very important job because he didn’t want his memorial to be a weepfest. What the girls have concocted is more of, as Randall “Dad Jokes for Days” Pearson puts it, a fun-eral. William loved breakfast, so they’ll eat breakfast food, including candy pills. There are 50 balloons (well, 49 balloons, thanks for nothing, Toby) and lots of confetti. There are Blue Hawaiians — the drink, Beth explains, not William’s favorite strain of weed. And instead of a eulogy, there is a toast.

Oh, this toast.

The toast is supposed to be Randall’s time to express his feelings, but after finding his wife upset about William not giving her a chance to say good-bye — Randall got Memphis, the girls were given this memorial — Randall hands the adorably tiny pink microphone over to Beth. Randall’s made a whole lot of great decisions in his life, but letting Beth give William his final toast might be the greatest. It is Beth’s day in the sun, you guys! She delivers the most wonderful, moving little speech about her dear friend. “Even though we only had him for a few months,” she says, trying not to burn a hole through Rebecca’s face, “He’s part of our fabric now.” She knows that their lives will forever be split into “before William” and “after William.”

See what I mean? A great decision.

As it turns out, Beth had no reason to be mad at William anyway. That evening, when she checks the mail, she finds the postcard he sent to her from Memphis. He calls her the daughter he never had. A postcard like that seems worth the wait.

Beth’s speech really gets to one Pearson in particular: Kate. A funeral for someone’s father was bound to drudge up some emotions for the whole family, but most especially Kate, who, thanks to Fat Camp and Toby, is finally starting to deal with her issues surrounding Jack’s death. She is so upset by Beth’s words, she has to walk outside. It’s Randall who rushes to her side. We haven’t gotten to see much of Randall and Kate one-on-one, but this beautiful scene begs for more of it.

Kate, in tears, apologizes profusely for making Randall be the one to comfort her on this day, of all days. She apologizes for Randall having to go through this twice. Let it be known that I was totally in the moment, being emotionally moved by this conversation, but also let it be known that part of me was just thinking about how jealous I was that Chrissy Metz got to be held by Sterling K. Brown. HELD. If you need to cry about unresolved issues regarding your father’s death, it’s best to do it directly into strong arms. I’m not a doctor, but that’s basically science.

What seems like one wonderful moment between siblings actually turns out to be a sort of nesting doll of scenes: As Kate brings up the fact that Randall has now had to deal with losing two fathers, Randall tells her he had a funny dream last night. In it, Jack and William met and laughed and shared stories and Randall got to watch it all. AND SO DO WE. Consider watching Jack and William make fun of Randall’s driving skills your gift for enduring all of the sadness.

After Randall tells Kate that she owes it to herself to share her feelings with the people — ahem, person — she cares about, it’s back to the fun-eral. Next activity: Putting on cool-ass hats and taking a stroll around the neighborhood. It really was William’s favorite thing to do. This is how Mandy Moore winds up delivering a very emotional and much anticipated monologue while wearing a plastic fedora. The girl can rock almost any piece of headwear, but this one might be a stretch.

Regardless of accessories, Rebecca needs to say a few things to Randall. The guilt she feels for robbing him of time with his biological father is suffocating. She explains her reasoning: She was scared she would lose her son. It was selfish and unforgivable, but the lie got so big, she could never bring herself to tell Randall. With William’s passing, Randall seems much more Zen. He forgives Rebecca, and assures her that he had enough time with William to know that they loved each other.

This new outlook on life carries over to other aspects of Randall’s life. He’s been trying to figure out how to really honor William, until suddenly it dawns on him: He can honor his father by living a life modeled after what he taught him. In short, he quits his job. Partially because, after ten years of dutiful service and countless overtime, Randall’s boss sends him a basket of pears and a crappy condolence card, knowing full well that Randall is allergic to pears. But also because Randall needs more time to do things like take walks and talk to his mailman. Things his father — both fathers, really — would be proud of.

This Is the Rest

• We do get one quick phone call with Jessie, in which he tells Randall that William offered “soft arm rests for weary souls to lean on.” Obviously, Beth’s speech is still tops, but that is a very nice thing for Randall to hear about his father.

• Kate takes Randall’s advice and begins to open up to Toby. The big reveal: She believes she’s at fault for Jack’s death. The flashbacks in “What Now?” are all about Kate noticing the strain between Jack and Rebecca as Rebecca leaves for her tour, and little Kate encouraging her dad to make things right. We watch as a very drunk Jack, inspired by his daughter, gets into his car and drives off to find Rebecca at her first tour stop. Are we to believe Jack dies here, while drunk driving? Seems a little too obvious for a show that enjoys a good twist or two.

• “How can I be sad when I got a kid like you?” Welp, Jack and Teen Kate’s relationship is officially emotional torture.

• Here’s hoping we never see Dumb Heather again. It wasn’t fun to watch a drunk Jack tell her off for hitting on him, but … it also wasn’t not fun.

• The reviews are in for Kevin’s second opening-night performance of Back of an Egg, in which, yes, he actually holds an egg: “Wasn’t he captivating?” asks Rebecca. “There’s now a man, where the Manny once stood,” Randall beams. “Hey, I really liked it, come ditch your ex-wife who you wooed by proclaiming you moved to New York to be with her, so that you can be in my next big movie,” says Ron Howard. Okay, so I’m paraphrasing a little, but the point is, Ron Howard made an appearance on This Is Us.

• When does Sloane get her moment to yell at Kevin for skipping out on the real opening night? #JusticeForSloane

• Give me the juicy deets on Sophie’s falling out with Kate. She seems downright terrified to be in the same room as her old friend.

• “Don’t use the word ‘nibbling’ in reference to our son.” Mandy Moore cuts to the core of parenthood.

This Is Us Recap: After William