This is Us season 3, episode 4 review: Wartime


“Vietnam” offers an extensive look at Jack’s past but it does so at the expense of the other beloved characters on This is Us.

Through two seasons of This is Us, Jack Pearson’s time in Vietnam has largely been treated as the elephant in the room. Of course, viewers knew that the man’s experience in combat shaped his life. But we never knew how.

Now, with the third episode of the third season, the show is finally diving into Jack’s service during the Vietnam War. October 16’s episode, named after the war, was likely the beginning of an in-depth exploration of this important chapter in Jack’s life. As a result, viewers can expect a slow burn that considers every aspect of Jack’s life during wartime.

So, it’s not surprising that the majority of “Vietnam” consists of flashbacks about Jack’s life. The settings of these flashbacks ranges from Vietnam to multiple perspectives of Jack’s past. Viewers see the evolution of Jack’s brother, Nick, who goes from being worried about getting drafted to coping with his selection for service.

There are many small things in this episode that helped the story feel like more than a collection of flashbacks. For example, the scenes that showcase Jack’s childhood are the best part of “Vietnam.”  Specifically, two vignettes come to mind. When Nick feels insecure about his glasses, Jack tells him that he’s like Clark Kent. The message hits home with Nick because he uses it as motivation to become a hero.

Later that night, when Jack’s dad is shouting at Marilyn, the boys’ mother. Nick hears it and takes off his glasses before telling his father to leave her alone. Nick’s desire to be a hero is recurring theme throughout the episode. In one of the flashbacks, he calls Jack his Superman. Nick considers himself Lois Lane, who always needs to be saved.

It’s this dynamic that allows one of the episode’s most heartfelt moments to resonate. After Nick gets drafted, Jack wants to help him escape the war by going to Canada. Subsequently, the two brothers go on a road trip and decide to stay at a motel. In between various looks at the brothers’ childhood, Nick leaves the motel in the middle of the night.

Jack’s younger brother leaves him a heartbreaking note. Nick thanks Jack for always protecting him but he also says it’s time for him to save the day. He ends the note by writing, “I love you, Superman.” If that doesn’t have you reaching for the tissues, check your pulse.

One of the episode’s intriguing themes is the devolution of Jack’s dad. We’ve always seen him as this abusive father but “Vietnam” offers us a new take on the character. In a flashback to the day Nick was born, the viewer sees a brighter version of Jack’s dad. This iteration doesn’t drink and he’s all smiles with his son. Naturally, we’re left asking, “what the heck happened to Jack’s dad?”

Next. This show is associated with "Tissue Tuesday" for a reason. dark

Hopefully, the show will continue to explore these relationships and uncertainties. “Vietnam” is packed with snippets of Jack’s past, though it lacks plot progression for the rest of the characters.

This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.