This Is Us'
winter premiere was big on Pearson family drama. Kevin's time in therapy facilitated a messy, but necessary, fight between The Big Three and their mother, Rebecca. "The Fifth Wheel" was one of This Is Us
' best episodes ever as it built on a series worth of character development and tension.
However, the highlight of the episode might've been the new bond formed by three of the supporting characters of the series. Shut out after the therapy session, Beth, Miguel and Toby formed their own Big Three and it's a group that the series needs more of in the future.
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Backdoor Character Development
The roles of supporting and lead are a bit malleable on This Is Us. Since the series can be so disparate in location and time, nearly everyone in the core Pearson family gets their moment in the spotlight. However, no matter who is the main thrust of the episode, Beth, Toby and Miguel all feel out on the fringes. Beth, Toby and Miguel's respective partners are the stars of the series. The three characters might be important cogs in their spouses' stories, but they've always felt like newcomers, or at worst outsiders, to the main family.
Therefore, it was such a brilliant move by This Is Us to embrace that fact in "The Fifth Wheel." Beth, Miguel and Toby's supporting status has been something that has existed without much acknowledgement. This is especially true in the case of Miguel, whose defining feature has been marrying his dead best friend's wife. By acknowledging and delving into how tertiary these characters feel at times, This Is Us did wonders to flesh out Beth, Toby and Miguel in an unexpected but effective way.
The interactions between the New Big Three was This Is Us at its best. It was funny, heartwarming and surprisingly deep. It was obvious that these characters aren't thinly drawn but rather rarely focused on. This Is Us only shows the three characters in very specific contexts but there's much more to the characters and the actors' performances that bring them to life.
Beth probably benefited the least from the New Big Three scenes. However, she's also the one who needed it the least. Beth has felt equal to Randall much more than Toby, Miguel or the departed (but hopefully not forever) Sophie. Regardless though, This Is Us desperately needed to show Toby and Miguel outside of Kate and Rebecca's respective shadows.
Toby always does the right thing, all the time, with Kate. It's dull and annoying but in his scenes with Beth and Miguel, Toby showed real doubt and worries, which humanized him. Toby was far more interesting and lovable with the New Big Three then he's ever been with Kate. There's still a lot of work to do with Miguel but the mere fact that he vocalized the weirdness of his marriage to Rebecca and talked about why the Pearsons are so insular made him seem more of a fleshed-out character. Miguel's quietness isn't a flaw in the writing or presentation but merely a part of who he is as a person.
The Future of the New Big Three
The scenes with the New Big Three were fantastic in "The Fifth Wheel." They were relatively short but they'll pay dividends in the future. Still This Is Us can't stop there with this new bond. The New Big Three should be revisited throughout the series. During the big family gatherings, which have been much more frequent in This Is Us season 2, there should be asides with Beth, Toby and Miguel.
It'll allow This Is Us to focus on the meat of the series, the relationship between the core Pearson family, but it'll also continue the progress made in "The Fifth Wheel," both for the original Big Three and the new one. It wouldn't hurt if some of the other underserved characters like Randall's kids made into the New Big Three bonding too.
This Is Us is a series with a very broad title and central theme. Yet things always boil down to Jack, Rebecca, Kate, Kevin and Randall. This isn't necessarily a problem but to pretend that those five are the only characters worth exploring deeply is a huge mistake. The bond formed between Toby, Beth and Miguel was the most surprising and satisfying moment of an already amazing episode. This Is Us owes it to itself and the audience to deliver more moments with this new group, connected by their outsider nature. The New Big Three just can't fade all the way to the background once again.
What do you make of The New Big Three? Would you like to see more of Beth, Toby and Miguel? Which other side character do you want to see more from in season 2 and beyond? How do you feel about Miguel, Beth and Toby after their bonding in "The Fifth Wheel?"