Since we’re more than halfway through Season 2 of This Is Us, it’s time to reflect on all the laughs and tears (LOTS of tears) we’ve shared with the Pearsons. Here are the 15 best moments so far.
You know This Is Us. It’s television’s No. 1 drama series, if not one of the them, and the show that people can’t stop talking — and crying — about. Since it’s debut in fall 2016, the Pearson family and its generations of emotional baggage have swept away audiences in a way that has eclipsed most every family drama it followed and inspired. And perhaps one of its most remarkable feats is its indelible capacity to hold onto its viewers, gripping them with the same raw emotion that earned the series killer ratings and an onslaught of awards.
The second season of This Is Us had the daunting task of following a veritable perfect 10 of a debut season. But you would have never known This Is Us entered a new season, as the sophomore slump never became a hurtle it needed to jump. Instead, the Emmy-winning series kicked off Season 2 with an intriguing hint about Jack’s death, a deeper look into the relationships of the Pearson family, and — of course — more tears than you could gather into a clawfoot bathtub. Moral of the story: We’re still obsessed and fine with puffy eyes on Wednesday mornings.
Some of the best moments of the season (and I’d dare to say the entire series) have come out of the first half of Season 2. There have been fights, fires, and career-ending fractures. There have been extraordinary ups and devastating downs. But more than anything, there have been sometimes tender and sometimes traumatic moments to keep our hearts full. Even though I’m tempted to fill this list with Mandy Moore’s breathtaking performances (you’re dealing with an outspoken Moore-head), these are the 15 most heartwarming and heart-shattering moments of Season 2 thus far.
Click through our favorite moments of This Is Us Season 2, and let us know yours!
15. Toby’s happy dance
Episode: Season 2, Episode 5, “Brothers”
What happened: Before Kate’s miscarriage, she and Toby were over the moon at the prospect of becoming parents. Toby might have been just a tiny bit more excited than Kate, but how would we even measure that stat? Oh, maybe because he unleashed a full-on happy dance to the tune of Hootie and the Blowfish’s feel-good jam “Only Wanna Be With You.” Complete with odes to Singing in the Rain and Flashdance, Toby released his excitement in a very Toby way.
Of course, a pregnancy announcement is something couples can’t wait to share with their friends, family, and the world. But Kate tried to keep her pregnancy under wraps for as long as possible to its high-risk nature. That’s why she only lets it slip to her accidental support group BFF Madison before telling Toby. Thankfully, Kate allowed Toby to give us the performance of a lifetime in a diner where they were sure the news wouldn’t get out before they were ready.
Why we loved it: This Is Us can get super emotional (understatement of the century says the mound of tissues on floors across America on Tuesday nights), and sometimes we need a reprieve. Even though Toby’s random but delightful diner dance was tonally jarring, it was the pleasant reminder we needed that even during times of stress, it’s perfectly acceptable to celebrate the little victories as they come. Besides, This Is Us can always use some of its Toby goodness to lighten the mood, and a throwback dance party to Hootie and the Blowfish ticks that box.
14. Kevin returns to The Man-ny
Episode: Season 2, Episode 2, “A Manny-Splendored Thing”
What happened: After making a scene during his exit from The Man-ny back in the pilot, Kevin receives an invite to return for the sitcom’s 100th episode. Now, we know Kevin Pearson by now, and we know that he does nothing without dragging his chronic self-doubt into the picture. It goes without saying that Kevin does his fair share of worrying before stepping back onto the soundstage that launched his career, given that he’s gearing up to be a major movie star in a new film alongside Sylvester Stallone. What could go wrong?
Let Kevin Pearson’s mind wander and he’ll provide a list of things that could go wrong and tank his future. (The huge Pearson family fight in therapy more than brought that point home, but we’ll get to that blow up later on.) Kevin counts his abs (they’re still there!) and fears that a guest stint on television will interrupt his forward momentum. Silly, Kevin. TV won’t do that. But it takes Sophie calling him on his nonsense to get him out of his head and have some fun doing physical comedy in an itty bitty adult-sized diaper. It’s why Sophie became one of our favorite characters.
Why we loved it: I mean, there’s obvious reasons why we loved it. Justin Hartley barely clothed will never be an unwelcome sight (just ask anyone who caught his turn in A Bad Moms Christmas). Sure, it belittled Kevin’s talent as an actor to objectify himself on camera, and that’s why he left The Man-ny, but give the people what they want. On a more serious note, Kevin’s triumphant return to his old stomping grounds gave us a deeper glance into Kevin and Sophie’s relationship and the rock-solid, humbling support between them both.
13. Jack has a brother?!
Episode: Season 2, Episode 5, “Brothers”
What happened: In an episode surrounding the theme of brotherhood and the strained relationship between young Kevin and Randall, we should have known This Is Us would have another twist up its sleeve. Come to think of it, those sleeves must be especially stuffed with all of the shocking twists that spill out in each episode. Season 2 continues to add pieces to the puzzle of Jack’s life and death, but continues to feel more and more like a precarious game of Jenga. With each secret removed, we’re get closer to the tower’s fall.
In “Brothers,” Jack takes 10-year-old Kevin and Randall on a camping trip in an effort to teach them how to treat each other. But what does Jack know about having a brother? As it turns out, everything. Although he has never mentioned and we have never met his brother, Jack definitely had a companion growing up. Flashbacks to young Jack reveal his partner in crime through his dad’s bad days and their time serving the country in Vietnam. Clearly, Jack not wanting to visit his dying father and never speaking of a brother has something to do with his death.
Why we loved it: Only This Is Us could drop a low-key bomb like Jack having a never-before-mentioned brother and not divulge any further information. Since the news came out in the fifth episode of the season, Jack’s brother hasn’t been introduced or even explained. Still, we loved learning that small detail about Jack because if you think about it, This Is Us has told us very little about Jack Pearson. He’s kept his past super private, and these inside looks will ultimately help us crack the code of not only Jack’s death but Jack himself.
12. Kate and Rebecca reconcile
Episode: Season 2, Episode 9, “Number Two”
What happened: In the wake of Kate’s miscarriage, she coped by pushing away the people in her life that matter most to her, including Toby and especially her mother. But This Is Us fans are well aware by now how tense and strained the relationship between the Pearson women can be. Since they don’t necessarily understand each other but haven’t quite taught each other how to treat each other, they bicker like most mothers and daughters. The heights of their tension had never been more apparent than in the second episode of Season 2.
When Kate’s worst fear came true and she miscarried her baby, she needed to let people in rather than push them away, and it took actually listening to Rebecca to put her guards down. Like we haven’t seen before, Kate opens up to her mother about her grief, something to which Rebecca can unfortunately relate. Even though Kate never met the baby, she mourns its loss, just as Rebecca mourned the loss of her third triplet. In this shared grief, Kate and Rebecca lay down their past and have the heart to heart they have needed since, well, forever.
Why we loved it: To call it a reconciliation might be considered somewhat generous as they haven’t miraculously transformed into Lorelai and Rory Gilmore overnight. But it was a monumental step forward for the Pearson women, and it deserves celebration. Finally, Kate and Rebecca stand on common ground and can begin from there to start learning how to exist around each other. Prior to Season 2, Mandy Moore hinted at triggering mother-daughter issues coming into play, and they thankfully found a beautiful albeit tragic resolution.
11. Clooney the cat inspires Randall
Episode: Season 2, Episode 12, “Clooney”
What happened: In one of the most low key episodes of This Is Us to date (show of hands: who walked away from an episode without crying for the first time ever?), the story centers on a character that we have known since the pilot but haven’t yet met. That character would be Clooney, William’s spunky survivor of a cat. Randall visits William’s old apartment to collect a box of his belongings that were left behind, but instead he finds a mystery that continues to pull focus from his casual job hunt. Breathe in, breathe out, Beth!
When Randall finds a notebook inside of the box, he reads a love poem about a woman accompanied by a sketch of a woman’s profile. Randall’s interests are piqued, not because William’s potential secret lover was a woman but because there might be someone else out there who can share memories of William’s life. He knocks on doors looking for the female neighbor, but the landlord shows Randall the subject of the poem: The Billie Holiday poster across the block from William’s window. It’s all thanks to Clooney the cat.
Why we loved it: For a number of reasons, This Is Us digging deeper into William’s past made our hearts swell. First of all, it highlighted his bisexuality. Also, it introduced us to the coolest fictional cat of all time. Clooney has seen some things and wears his experiences on his fur. But circling back to William’s life before Randall once again inspired Randall’s life after William. With career woes weighing heavily on Beth and Randall’s marriage, Randall presents Beth with a joint venture: Buying an urban apartment building and providing a better life for its residents.
10. The new Big Three
Episode: Season 2, Episode 11, “The Fifth Wheel”
What happened: If you are part of a large family, then you can relate with the necessary luxury of quiet time away from the chaos. We’ll give you three guesses which characters need to cash in on that necessary luxury. That’s right: Beth, Toby, and Miguel. Being attached to the Pearsons and weathering all of their worst storms comes at a price, and it’s usual their sanity. Hey, no one said loving a Pearson was easy, but it sure is worth it at the end of the day. I mean, who throws a better Thanksgiving than the Pearsons?
During one of Season 2’s standout episodes, a new Big Three was born, and we’re kind of obsessed. While Kevin led his immediate family in the most intense fake therapy session ever scripted for television, the “others” headed to the bar to escape the drama. Beth crowned herself, Toby, and Miguel the New Big Three, and it couldn’t be more fitting. Although they resent being curbed to the sidelines, they revel in the distance from the heat of the sun. And if anything, they bonded over their complicated relationship to the untouchable hero: Jack.
Why we loved it: Look, there’s no denying that we all love the Big Three as if they were our own sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters. In every season of their lives, Kevin, Kate, and Randall are just too lovable to loathe. But sometimes we need a fresh trio in which to champion. Individually, Beth, Toby, and Miguel are three of the best supporting characters in This Is Us, and it’s high time this new Big Three got their time in the sun. Let’s dive into their backstories a bit and share some laughs with the underrated “others.” We need more of this group!
9. Randall keeps William from using
Episode: Season 2, Episode 7, “The Most Disappointed Man”
What happened: Prior to the beginning of Season 2, it remained a mystery how This Is Us would incorporate William into the plot. His death in the final third of the first season cast a large shadow over not only the narrative but the future of the series. How could the show go on without one of the most important and fan-favorite characters? Sure, Ron Cephas Jones would return as William in Season 2, but it wouldn’t be the same.
Although we were right about it not being the same, we should have known that a show that can do flashbacks as well as This Is Us would have an artful and beautiful plan ahead for William. In the seventh episode of Season 2, the series digs deeper into William’s struggle with dug addiction, starting with pleading guilty to a drug charge and staying sober for 30 years and ending with his terminal cancer diagnosis that nearly led him to relapse. But just before he reverts back to his old patterns of using, Randall knocks on his door.
Why we loved it: Obviously, we loved spending more time getting to know William and the humanity behind his vices. He felt guilty for and ashamed of his addictions for what they cost him in his life. Coincidentally, the moment that he’s about to throw in the towel and surrender to the addictions that cost him his relationship with his son, Randall appears on his doorstep. More than anything, it was a treat to witness this moment from a different perspective, on the other side of Randall’s steely resolve.
8. Team Kate for life!
Episode: Season 2, Episode 2, “A Manny-Splendored Thing”
What happened: What didn’t happen is the true question surrounding Kate’s storyline in the second episode of Season 2. Early on in the season, This Is Us tackled a major double whammy for Kate. She landed her first official singing gig at the same time that her issues with her mother came to a head. Talk about a dramatic day for Kate. While she should have been celebrating her achievement, she instead wound up arguing with Rebecca once and for all.
Say what you want about Rebecca, but you could never say that she isn’t a supportive mother. She’s basically supportive to a fault. Rebecca’s brand of support can at times come off as smothering overcompensation, something Kate has had about enough with. When Rebecca invites herself to Kate’s first gig, her congratulations feature an inadvertent criticism anchored in her own experience as a singer. Kate calls this out, which puts Toby in the middle. And guess what? He’s Team Kate for life.
Why we loved it: One of the things that has hurt quite a bit in Season 2 (but has been necessary character development) is Rebecca getting put in her place. In fact, all of the Pearsons have been put in their place, and it’s exactly what they need. It’s especially hard to see Rebecca put in her place because she has dealt with and sacrificed so much as a wife and mother. But in this particular episode, Kate’s rebellion was vital to the progression and healing of their relationship. For the first time, Rebecca listens and hears her daughter’s pain.
7. Kevin’s powerhouse breakdown
Episode: Season 2, Episode 8, “Number One”
What happened: Looking back at the very beginning of the series, Kevin’s all-out emotional breakdown had always been on a low boil on the back burner. Right? All of the signs were there: His explosive on-set outbursts, his multiple impulsive romantic gestures, and everything in between. Each of these moments were born of his inferiority complex, which wasn’t entirely explicit until later in Season 2. But before getting to the bottom of Kevin’s emotions, This Is Us tore him all the way down in order to build him back up.
In the first part of the Big Three trilogy in the middle of Season 2, Kevin falls apart in spectacular rapidity as his film career has been stalled by the same knee injury that hindered his teenage football stardom. However, this time, he’s dousing the pain in pills and poison (alcohol) to a dangerous point of no return. While receiving an alumni award at his high school, Kevin runs head first into his deep problems on the football field and later when he realizes he’s lost Jack’s necklace, the last item of his father’s that he owns.
Why we loved it: For what felt like the first time since This Is Us premiered, viewers understood Kevin more than ever. Most of the time, his complaints can garner eye rolls (counting your abs… really?) simply because his issues don’t register quite like those of Kate and Randall. And that’s precisely what wears him down. But Justin Hartley, who turns in the performance of his career in “Number One,” lays Kevin’s hurt on the line for all to see. In turn, our hearts broke for Kevin, and we empathize with his struggle. Save for that DUI, though.
6. Flashback to the twenties
Episode: Season 2, Episode 6, “The 20’s”
What happened: No, This Is Us didn’t flashback to the 1920s (though I’m sure Dan Fogelman and co. are more than prepared to rewind the clock that far with further stories of Pearsons past). But it did, however, throw the Big Three back to their twenties. There might not be photo evidence of this very poignant #tbt readily available (enjoy the Big Three on Halloween instead), but the series gave our tear ducts a workout in a whole new time period that we hadn’t yet visited with the Pearsons. What were the Pearsons like as 20-somethings? A mess, obviously.
Randall and Beth were preparing to become new parents to their first child while Kate sought validation from a married man and Kevin fought ruthlessly to make his acting dreams in Hollywood a reality. Unsurprisingly, their 20-something struggles directly resembled those of their 10-year-old woes on Halloween. Kate wanted attention from the popular boy in school as Kevin wanted to be anywhere else and Randall contended with heady emotions. Just a normal day for the Big Three on their path to eventual self actualization.
Why we loved it: Who doesn’t want to gain firsthand knowledge of the Big Three’s life in every decade? We’ve been with them from conception (weirdly true) to birth to their first steps to their first crushes to their college tours. We’ve seen them stumble through adulthood, but we hadn’t seen them stumble through the markedly hardest time period of life: The twenties. This Is Us welcomed director Regina King to helm the landmark episode that could have been a spinoff all its own for informing who Kevin, Kate, and Randall become.
5. Rebecca confronts her mother
Episode: Season 2, Episode 4, “Still There”
What happened: Jack and Rebecca’s parents get a very bad rap. For Jack’s dad’s part, his awful reputation is justified as he was a violent addict who hurt and neglected his family. On the other hand, Rebecca’s mother was simply a tough cookie to crack and an unbelievable piece of work. When we first meet Janet Malone (Elizabeth Perkins) in Season 1, she presses for Rebecca not to marry Jack and suggests that having triplets isn’t a good idea. Yeah, she’s a lot and the polar opposite of Rebecca on the supportive mother front.
Janet returns in Season 2 after last season’s foiled Thanksgiving trip (the birth of the Pilgrim Rick tradition!), and it’s not the visit anyone had anticipated. The kids and Jack each contract chicken pox, forcing Rebecca to extend herself in double time. Her mother drops in to help, and of course does anything but help. She’s overbearing and calls Kevin and Kate “the twins,” excluding Randall at every turn. Finally, Rebecca calls her mother racist, which Randall overhears, prompting a redemptive heart-to-heart for good ol’ grandma.
Why we loved it: This Is Us stands up for many causes concurrently: Alcoholism, sexual fluidity, interracial adoption, weight loss, and race. In little and big ways, each episode touches on each of these topics, especially race. Randall often comments on racism and the social divide he feels because of his race. In one of the most overt instances of racism discussed in the series since “The Pool,” This Is Us explores the social climate within the Pearson household and walks away having made a powerful and affecting statement.
4. Deja’s tearful goodbye
Episode: Season 2, Episode 10, “Number Three”
What happened: When Randall first proposed to Beth that they adopt a child in his parents’ honor in the first season finale, we could have never guessed the emotional turns the story would take. First of all, Randall putting adoption on the table wasn’t met with the warmest regards from Beth, and their marriage took a briefly tense hit. Let’s not focus too much on the mildly traumatic experience of watching Beth and Randall in turmoil, thanks. But they did end up landing on fostering a teenager as a viable option for their family.
This Is Us makes us fall in love with every character we meet. (Well, most characters. There’s a select few, and we won’t name names, that can take a walk.) It was no different when we met Beth and Randall’s foster daughter, Deja. Having come from an unstable home with a mother who tries her best but resides in jail, Deja must adjust to the excess of material belongings and parental care under the Pearsons’ roof. It took some time, but once Randall and Beth bonded with Deja, letting her go was all the more hard. We’re crying just thinking about it.
Why we loved it: Even though we were probably just as distraught as Beth and Randall while saying goodbye to Deja, her farewell scene will definitely live on in the Top 10 most touching moments in This Is Us history. The way they helped make Deja’s life better, the way she helped makes theirs richer… It’s the stuff family dramas are made of, folks. Although it was hard, Deja’s tearful goodbye was one of the best moments of Season 2. Here’s hoping she returns in the future!
3. The therapy fight
Episode: Season 2, Episode 11, “The Fifth Wheel”
What happened: You knew it was coming. And by that I mean you knew the therapy fight would be featured on this list and you knew it was an inevitable event in the deeper second season of This Is Us. For not only decades but generations, the Pearson family has kept many a major problem bottled up and stashed away for a rainy day. Sure, those rainy days came and went (see: Jack’s death) with their bottled up emotions sealed tighter and tighter. Finally, Kevin’s downward spiral, as I’m sure E! News has reported on it in his reality, inspires a beautiful reckoning.
As Kevin sees it, his childhood was marred by the precedence of Kate and Randall’s issues. Kate has struggled with overeating since childhood, and Randall required extra attention due to his race and adoption. As young Kevin says after a minor drowning incident at the pool in Season 1, where does that leave Kevin? Well, it leaves him unloading his feelings on his family at 37. Kevin expresses his true battles with Jack’s passing, including what he deems Rebecca’s preferential treatment of her other two children. It’s a moment not to be missed.
Why we loved it: The therapy fight was much more than a simple moment. It was an episode’s worth of complex storytelling and acting. Anyone who’s grown up in a large family, or even just in a complicated dynamic, could recognize their own emotional baggage in the Pearsons. From parents playing favorites to light sibling rivalry and the much darker traumas, we’ve all felt these things that This Is Us communicates brilliantly. The cast is at their best in this scene as an opposing but collective unit, punctuated by Mandy Moore’s heartbreaking performance as a mother in distress.
2. Sylvester Stallone’s pearls of wisdom
Episode: Season 2, Episode 3, “Déjà Vu“
What happened: What happened? A major movie star guest starred on This Is Us as himself, that’s what happened. Look, the Screen Actors Guild Award winning series has welcomed its fair share of awesome guest stars, but none have ever played themselves and none have ever been as legendary as Sylvester Stallone. Kevin’s Ron Howard-directed war movie happens to also star Sly, which would have starstruck the crap out of Pap Jack. As we quickly learn, Jack loved Rocky, and it’s something of a sore subject with Kevin.
Kate visits set and meets Sylvester Stallone, mentioning that their father loved his work along the way. However, Kevin would rather not mine his past for inspiration on the film. He’s already placing enough pressure on his shoulder, so bolstering that weight with an added dose of trauma upheaval? That’s not on the menu. Still, Sylvester Stallone offers Kevin a few pearls of wisdom, some of which made their way off screen and into real life, as Chrissy Metz later revealed on the promotional circuit.
Why we loved it: Sylvester Stallone’s guest appearance at the top of This Is Us Season 2 remains one of the best moments for a pair of reasons. Firstly, he kicked off what would become Kevin’s necessary downfall. Kevin needed to have this bad experience as the star of a film in order to better himself and slay a couple demons, too. Secondly, it raised the real-life profile of the series even more by firmly grounding it in our reality in a “Hey! He’s actually famous!” kind of way. Few shows can boast that commitment to realism.
1. The fire
Episode: Season 2, Episode 1, “A Father’s Advice”
What happened: There’s no way around it… The tease of the fire in the final moments of the Season 2 premiere stand as one of the best moments of the season (and perhaps one of the best cliffhangers in television history). Inadvertently, Jack’s death wound up the mystery and driving force of This Is Us, even with so much else happening in the narrative. Everyone wants — neigh, needs — to know how Jack passed away in order to fully understand what the Pearsons have gone through. And we need to know now.
We’re getting closer to the big reveal (keep your eyes peeled on those post-Super Bowl episodes), but the series has been dishing out small hints here and there since the heartbreaking fire twist, the biggest being the missing batteries in the smoke detector. But what we do know about that fire is that Rebecca pulls up to their burned-to-a-crisp home wearing a Steelers jersey and carrying a bag of Jack’s belongings in the passenger’s seat of their car. The who, what, when, why, and how of the fire remains to be seen, but it’s sure to bring the tears.
Why we loved it: I warned you from the get that this could have culminated in a celebration of Mandy Moore’s best performances of the season, and I kept my cool. Until now. Moore’s one-take delivery of a stoic wife in pain leading into Rebecca’s angry breakdown at the scene of the fire will break your heart into a thousand little pieces. It’s easily some of her strongest work of the series and season so far. But more than anything, the fire, while ultimately tragic, offers a ton of promise for where the Pearsons have been and will go.
What have been your favorite moments of This Is Us Season 2 so far? Let us know in the comments, and keep the conversation going on Twitter at @thisisuscrying!