This is us: Jack and Kevin can’t escape their parents’ shadows, for better or for worse

In the most recent episode of This Is Us, both Jack and Kevin learn valuable lessons about parenting from their own parents.

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 5, Episode 7, of We are, “There,” which aired Tuesday on NBC.

The last episode of We are, “There”, is a Kevin-centric outing that focuses heavily on the topic of parenthood. Kevin’s fiancee, Madison, goes into labor in Los Angeles while he’s filming a movie in Vancouver, and spends the episode struggling to get home in time for the birth of their twins. The episode also contains flashbacks of Jack taking a young Kevin to soccer camp and of Jack’s youth as a baseball player and his father’s attendance at all of his games.

At the end of season 4, Randall and Kevin had an epic fight during which Randall told Kevin that Jack died ashamed of Kevin. Randall touched a deeply sensitive nerve as one of Kevin’s biggest insecurities is that he won’t be able to live up to his father’s memory. This is a problem that comes up repeatedly during the course of “There”, especially when Kevin is on the phone with Rebecca and tells her that he wants to be as reliable and stable on the day his twins are born as he heard Jack was. Rebecca.

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However, the episode shows that it is not just Kevin who compares himself to his father; Jack also spent his life comparing himself to his father. Jack’s father was an alcoholic and a petty man with a cruel streak that deeply impacted his family. In flashbacks throughout “There,” part of the impact of this is shown as young Jack’s father takes him to and from his baseball game. On the outside, it seems like a simple snapshot of everyday life, but it perfectly encapsulates their challenging relationship. Jack’s father cheers him on before the game, but when it’s over and Jack’s team is lost, his father, drunk as usual, berates and goads him. And when Jack expresses concern that his father is driving them home, he forces Jack to get behind the wheel.

During the journey, Jack confronts his father and, for a fleeting moment, earns his father’s grudging respect. When they get home safely, his father even compliments him on his competency as a driver. The memory of this moment leads Jack to tell Kevin that parent-child relationships are complicated and that is why parents hold such an important place in their children’s minds.

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Jack also confesses that he never wanted to be like his own father. He reveals that his father destroyed his love for baseball and that he never wanted to do that to any of the things his son loves. When Kevin admits that he is afraid of being a soccer failure, Jack takes the time to strengthen Kevin and assure him that Kevin is more than just a soccer player. Jack clarifies that he just wants to celebrate Kevin’s successes, not define him for them. In contrast to his own father’s treatment of him, Jack wants to support Kevin as a person, not exclusively an athlete, although now he fears that he has made the same mistakes as his father. Kevin assures Jack that he is nothing like his father and that he is “much better.” In response, Jack tells Kevin that he will be an even better father than Jack.

Neither Jack nor Kevin will be able to escape the shadow and influence of their parents, for better or for worse. However, while Jack tries to be the most different from his father, Kevin believes that his father was perfect and desperately wants to live up to the ideal version of Jack that he has cultivated in his mind. But this episode proves that neither Jack’s father nor Kevin’s father were good or bad parents, and once their twins are born, Kevin won’t be either.

Created by Dan Fogelman, This Is Us stars Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Justin Hartley, Chrissy Metz, Sterling K. Brown, Chris Sullivan and Susan Kelechi Watson. The new episodes air Tuesdays at 9 pm ET / PT on NBC.

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