In the debut season of NBC’s This Is Us, we learned a lot about the Pearson family. They are all pretty, they are all broken, and man, do they love Thanksgiving. But something else was immediately clear: The Pearsons and pretty much everyone around them love a good monologue. All of them, including their ob-gyn, give good speech. Season one was riddled with declarations of love, angry tirades, musings about life and death and magic T-shirts. In preparation for a whole new batch of moving monologues in season two, Vulture has selected the very best of these moments and ranked them for your reading pleasure. Warning: There will be tears.
This moment, in which Uncle Kevin has to do damage control after freaking out his nieces with a misguided attempt to explain death, definitely errs on the cheesy side, but it’s easy to forgive because the speech has a lot of work to do. First, it is a big character moment for Kevin: It shows a sensitive, artistic side to the typically self-indulgent actor. He paints! He feels! He is loving and sweet with his nieces! Kevin needs these types of moments. But mostly, this speech is important because it acts as a thesis statement for the entire series. Kevin stops short of literally saying “this is us,” but he gets pretty darn close. The painting represents Kevin’s thought that life doesn’t end at death or begin at birth, that we’re all in the same painting everywhere, all at once. That just because we die, it doesn’t mean we’re not still in the painting. This Is Us, with its jumps throughout one family’s history, relies on this very belief. Kevin is real meta, you guys.
Yes, it’s true: Even Miguel made this list. I don’t like it any more than you do, but you have to give props where props are due — and Miguel deserves it for his simple yet affecting speech to Kevin, after Kevin comes looking for his mother to help deal with his opening-night jitters. This speech is short, but not only does it remind Kevin that his father is a part of him, but it also reminds the audience that when Jack died, it wasn’t just the Pearsons who grieved the loss. Miguel lost his best friend — he misses his buddy! Sure, he married that buddy’s widow, but this moment is a reminder that maybe we all need to reserve judgement until we get some additional details.
These two declarations of parenting work best as a pair (just like Rebecca and Jack, aww). When Jack comes home late and drunk again, Rebecca puts her foot down: He needs to do better. She asks him how he thinks they are doing as parents on a scale from one to ten. According to Rebecca, the numbers are not in his favor. The next morning, after sleeping outside of their bedroom, Jack is finally able to answer his wife. He’s tired of not making her happy anymore. He’ll stop drinking. He’ll do better. For her, he’ll be a 12 (for the kids, an 11). Both of these speeches work so well because, first, they are in stark contrast to the pair of lovebirds we met in the pilot, and second, because the cracks they reveal in Jack and Rebecca’s marriage add layers to their relationship. It makes them feel more authentic, and not just like angel people who came down from heaven to grace us with their beauty.
The first time Randall meets his biological father, he delivers an epic tirade about his “lights out” family, how he paid $143,000 for his car because he “felt like it,” and how he simply wanted to look William in the eyes and tell him he doesn’t need anything from him, because his life turned out just fine. It is wonderful. This is one of our first looks into who Randall is, and we learn so much: what he considers “successful,” that he obviously still suffers from abandonment issues, that he loves his family. It also introduces us to the tour de force acting of Sterling K. Brown. Not only does he give us gorgeous dramatic nuances to a character in just the pilot episode, but he also shows off his comedic timing. At the end of Randall’s monologue, William asks if Randall wants to come in — and after all that yelling, Randall doesn’t hesitate. It’s perfect.
Let’s be real: Beth Pearson is the best of us. Although she spent most of season one supporting characters with bigger story lines, actress Susan Kelechi Watson made the most out of any moment. Of course, the best example of this is how Beth deals with William’s death. So much emphasis is put on William and Randall’s relationship, it’s easy to forget how William affected Beth, so it’s only fitting that Randall hands over the mic when it comes time to honor his late biological father. Honestly, she’s the best person to do it properly. Her toast to William’s life is honest (“I’m pretty mad at him for leaving”), it is loving (“God, he was my friend”), and it is heartbreaking (“We’ll remember things as before William and after William”). It’s basically perfect, as is Beth. Can we please spend more time with her? Okay, great, thanks.