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‘This is Us’ closes the circle of life with its series finale

Review by Brian Lowry, CNN

“This is Us” took the idea of a “final season” to heart, which made its series finale somewhat less significant, given all that had happened in the multi-episode run-up to formally saying goodbye. Yet the show delivered on its core values and formula, playing with time while depicting the “circle of life” that makes it worth living.

The death of Rebecca (Mandy Moore, capping a season worthy of the Emmy recognition that, other than a nomination in 2019, has mostly eluded her) exhausted one big emotional flourish during the penultimate episode, but there was the matter of laying her to rest, while turning to what came next for her children.

Written by series creator Dan Fogelman, the finale let Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) essentially summarize the six seasons in a single line, telling his teenage boys that life is about “collecting these little moments,” the kind of things whose importance is often lost on us at the time.

That exchange captured the interconnectedness of it all, and the show’s Scrooge-like ability (after his ghost-given epiphany) to operate in the past, present and future. And the underlying truth of it was illustrated by one of those quiet Saturdays that Rebecca had spoken about not wanting to forget, a day that echoed not just through the lives of her immediate family but into the next generation.

With Rebecca’s death, “This is Us” embraced an overtly spiritual quality by advancing the idea that the people we love and lose live on through us. For Randall (Sterling K. Brown), that became clear when he learned that he would be having a grandson who his daughter intended to name after his biological father, William (Ron Cephas Jones), flashing back to a moment between them.

Having had their lives so fundamentally altered by losing their dad as teens, the series perhaps inevitably chose to conclude with Jack and Rebecca’s kids, “the Big Three,” reaffirming their commitment to each other, while hinting at the fearless lives that await them — including, in Randall’s case, the possibility of a run for the White House.

There were, admittedly, a few questionable decisions, such as skipping over Randall’s eulogy, primarily to illustrate that however the speech went over in the room, delivering it was simply a blur to him.

Still, Fogelman used that time to emphasize smaller exchanges and give more characters a stake in the finale. Those interludes included an early exchange between exes Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan), underscoring that getting divorced didn’t obliterate the warmth between them; and Kevin (Justin Hartley) being reminded by his uncle Nicky (Griffin Dunne) how bringing him into the family had changed his life for the better.

In the penultimate episode, the kindly doctor that delivered the Big Three, played by Gerald McRaney, employed baseball terminology in reassuring Rebecca, “No perfect games in parenting. Not even close.”

There are no perfect games in series finales either. But in terms of reflecting what the show had been all about over the course of its tear-filled run, “This is Us” came pretty close to touching all the bases.

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