The Pearsons, at the heart of This Is Us, are in a lot of ways the perfect family. Jack is the perfect husband and father, even with his alcoholism. Even if they fight, Randall and Beth have a nearly flawless marriage. Even Toby has established himself as a faultless boyfriend time and time again. It’s surprising then that two episodes into season 2, Kate has become a very bitter pill to swallow.
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In the season premiere Kate ranted at an audition when she believed (wrongfully) that another singer had been chosen for superficial reasons. In the second episode, she continued the trend by berating her mother for “existing.” Kate has not come off well in season 2 but that might not be a bad thing for This Is Us.
No Longer a Baby
Kate has always been one of the most problematic characters for This Is Us. While Chrissy Metz has always been great in the role, she’s been given very little to do. Kate’s entire story in season 1 was about her weight. Even her relationship with Toby revolved almost solely around the pair’s waistlines.
Kate became the show’s perpetual victim. She was picked on, ignored or just reduced to her weight. Kate was a character to be pitied but not necessarily someone to root for, even though the show made sure to stress the great relationship she had with Kevin. It’s because of this history that Kate’s new unlikable turn is much more interesting than it is off-putting.
It’s not completely new territory. Kate’s emotional outbursts have still been related to her weight. She was upset that a “prettier” girl got a singing gig over herself and Kate’s issues with her mother are rooted in Rebecca being skinny. It’s still a step in the right direction and it’s refreshing for This Is Us to do something with Kate that’s not just making the audience feel sorry for her.
Growth Through Anger
In fact, it’s clear from the way that Kate has been presented that This is Us knows there were problems with her character in season 1. As much as Kate has unfairly lashed out at people, she’s also commented on being a 37-year-old woman who her family (and boyfriend) still babies. This Is Us has taken an overlooked flaw in the writing from season 1 and made it a part of Kate’s character. It’s probably the best way to deal with the issue.
This approach not only acknowledges the problem but presents a way to fix it. If Kate is aware of being “babied” and pitied by other characters, there are far less excuses for the writers to do the same thing. Kate’s angry outbursts are a sign of her character becoming more unlikable but they’re also signposts of her growth.
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A Kate who lashes out at others for things they have no control over is a far more interesting character than one who cries about not being able to lose any weight. The Pearson family is pretty perfect but the characters’ most interesting moments have been when the show focuses on their flaws like Randall dealing with his crippling anxiety or Kevin with his tendency for casual selfishness.
Kate’s outbursts are also more nuanced than her just being mean-spirited. There’s a complexity to Kate’s anger and the more This Is Us explores the past it becomes clear that Kate is probably the most emotionally broken of The Big Three. Jack’s death impacted Kate way more than any of the other kids because she seems to be the one who was closest to him.
Kate telling Rebecca she was mad that she existed in “A Manny-Splendored Thing” was cruel but it was also a moment that the show has built to with Kate. Kate’s anger comes from a place of sadness, a large part of which is that Jack is dead and Rebecca is alive. This complexity and cruelty is a much more interesting basis for a character than Kate being severely overweight.
The more This Is Us explores this aspect, the more Kate will improve herself and the more interesting of a character she’ll become.
What do you think of Kate’s recent behavior? Do you even find her unlikable? Or is she justified in her actions? Where do you think her story is headed?
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC. Want more news? Like our This Is Us Facebook page.
(Image courtesy of NBC)