For the penultimate episode of the season, This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life was an untimely rare misstep for This Is Us. Especially if you’re not all that invested in Deja and her journey back to Randall and Beth.
This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life felt like a clip show trip to the dentist. Ultimately the end result will pay off, but it’s a largely torturous process. Maybe it was just because it didn’t need to be the focus of an entire episode?
Early on the writers establish that Deja’s mom Shauna (Joy Brunson) had some growing up to do. With her grandmother (Pam Grier) essentially raising both Shauna and Deja, she didn’t have to take a lot of responsibility as a teen mom. And when grandma died, Deja had to step up and be the adult as Shauna kept struggling to find her way.
This started a pattern of Shauna having some terrible luck like Deja cutting her hand when Shauna celebrated her birthday with friends. Or her fellow rehab boyfriend’s gun being found in her car leading to her getting arrested. Shauna never was all that mature, but the writers didn’t make a strong enough case that she was an unfit mother. Granted, compared to Beth and Randall, Shauna was going to come off lousy anyway.
There were some awkward attempts at drawing some deeper connection to Deja’s life with that of the Pearson clan. These came off really forced though, especially the montage of Pearson beatings. From Deja with her stepfather, Jack getting beat by his father and Jack punching Rebecca’s band mate.
It was as if the writers desperately wanted to provide this link to the rest of the family, but her journey was very different. Trying to shoehorn Deja into the larger Pearson narrative cheapens her experience. And it was a weak way to show the rest of the main cast.
I figured last week that Beth and Randall got the tenement for the entire purpose of providing Deja and Shauna an apartment. But Shauna saw Deja happy and was fine leaving her with Beth and Randall. Maybe this episode was necessary to stop having the lure of Shauna returning for Deja?
Ultimately, it gives Deja closure from a character perspective. It just plays out a little weird in Shauna never found the redemption we’ve pulled for with Kevin all season. Instead, her one constant source of happiness is taken away to expand on the happiness of an already happy family. To go deeper, Shauna’s storyline reminds me of the scripture of the 10 talents. Shauna had one and ultimately lost it.
Was Deja really that popular a character to make her part of Beth and Randall’s home for good? And does this effectively end Randall and Beth’s desire to be foster parents? I was never a fan of that season long subplot for them anyway, but it seems so TV-like for their very first experience to work out so well. Or maybe I’m still just stewing that the only young black male on the show is flashback Randall.
Conclusion: This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life was pretty much a skippable episode as the previously on segment will explain why Deja is back with Randall’s family.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Photo Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC