Anyone who watches This Is Us is probably hugging their loved ones a little tighter after this episode, titled “Memphis.” In a great tribute to Randall’s biological father, the pair head to William’s old haunts in Memphis on a road trip. The trip brings up memories of William’s life from when he was a small child through his mother’s death and his downward spiral shortly afterwards.
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Growing Up in Memphis
William Hill was born in Memphis, Tennessee. His father died during the war, and he grew up with his single mother — and she raised him right. During his 20’s, his mother moves to Pittsburgh to take care of his dying grandmother, while he stays in Memphis to work on his writing and music. He teams up with his cousin Ricky and eventually shows him some of the work he’s been creating. His cousin loves the songs, and soon the band is a sensation, selling out clubs.
The fame is short-lived, though, when William’s mother gets ill. He leaves Ricky in Memphis and promises to come back soon. William’s mother is very ill, so he must stay and care for her. One day, while riding the bus, he meets Randall’s future mother. Soon, the pair is taking care of William’s mother together. However, Randall’s birth mother starts to go down a dark path of drugs and alcohol. After William’s mother passes away, William also starts to go down that dark path. And, well, we all know the rest of the story. William gets his girlfriend pregnant. She passes away, and he leaves little Randall at the fire station.
Taking a Road Trip
In the present day, Randall tries to convince both his doctor and Beth that he is well enough to take William on a road trip to Memphis. Even though he had his anxiety attack a few days earlier, he assures everyone that he is fine. The doctor eventually gives consent, so William and Randall are off.
William says goodbye to his granddaughters, and it’s obvious that it’s a forever goodbye. And then they hit the road. Randall gets all serious about maps, but William tosses them out the window and tells him to just drive.
Paying Their Respects
During the drive, William asks Randall about his anxiety attack. He tells him he was shocked that he got sick, as Randall always seems to have his stuff together. Randall explains that he has been getting anxiety attacks since he was younger and that his father, Jack, would always calm him down by placing his hands over his ears and breathing deeply with him.
William asks Randall to tell him more about Jack, which he does. And then William suggests that they pay respects to Jack’s gravesite. Randall tells him that he was cremated, but they spread his ashes at his favorite park. William tells him to drive there, as he’d like to speak with Jack. At the park, William thanks Jack for raising Randall into such a fine man.
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After the short stop to pay respects to Jack, and a quick night’s rest, they arrive in Memphis. The first stop is at William’s old home with his mother. He insists on going inside to find his treasure. So Randall asks the current owners if they can take a look around. They agree, and William heads to the fireplace and pulls out a brick to reveal his treasures: a few action figures and three quarters.
After his old home, the pair has lunch at his favorite restaurant and heads to the barbershop before ending up at his cousin’s bar. Inside, Ricky is still there, and he’s not pleased to see William. Ricky is upset that William never came home to continue making music. William explains his poor choices and how he was ashamed of what he became over the years. He apologizes and returns the money that Ricky lent him before he left Memphis. Ricky seems to accept that apology because he asks William if he still plays. They head up on stage, and Randall drinks with his extended family and has the time of his life.
The next morning at the motel, William has a hard time getting up. Randall is forced to take him to the hospital where the doctor gives him heartbreaking news: William only has hours left to live. At first, Randall doesn’t want to accept this. But eventually, he does, as he sits beside William’s bed.
When William wakes up, Randall understands that William knew all along that he wasn’t making it back home. He wanted to die in Memphis after making amends with his cousin. William gives Randall a book he wrote called Poems for My Son. He tells Randall that while he may not have made the best choices in life, he is happy that his life began and will end with the most important people in his life, his mother and his son. And just before he passes, he gets scared, so Randall puts his hands over his ears and tells him to breathe.
Well, if this episode of This Is Us didn’t bring you to tears, I’d have to say you could be emotionless. And if it didn’t bring you to tears, perhaps it at least made you think about your decisions in life and your loved ones.
Season 1 of This Is Us has been an emotional roller coaster. It’s been known from the very beginning that William didn’t have much time left. And I’m really pleased with how they dedicated an entire episode to his life and his story. You could see that he was truly sorry for some of the choices he made, but in the end of his life, he was truly happy again getting to know his son. And he was pleased with the man Randall became, even if he didn’t raise him.
Rest in peace, William Hill. Now, how does Jack pass away?
What did you think of the Randall and William standalone episode of “Memphis”? Do you think William received a good storyline? Do you think William should have stayed around at least through the end of season 1? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
This Is Us season 1 airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC. Want more news? Like our Facebook page.
(Image courtesy of NBC)