This Is Us: Randall’s Ghost Realm, Explained

Randall explains the concept of ghost realms to his brother Kevin on the latest episode of NBC’s This Is Us.

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for We are Season 5, Episode 13, “Brotherly Love” which aired Tuesday on NBC.

We are Season 5, episode 13, “Brotherly Love”, is about Kevin and Randall’s complicated relationship when they finally meet to discuss their past. In doing so, Randall introduces Kevin to the concept of a ghost kingdom, something he learned from his transracial support group in the previous episode. A ghost realm is a term used to describe the imaginary family that adopted children imagine to be their real biological families and is experienced by many children who are transracially adopted. However, Randall’s ghost world is a bit more complicated than most.

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The episode begins inside Randall’s ghost world when he is about five years old. He imagines that the local meteorologist and the kind librarian are his real parents because, as he explains to Kevin, those two were the only black adults he saw constantly in his life.

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The complications begin, however, when Randall feels an almost overwhelming sense of guilt, even as a five-year-old, over having imaginary parents. He loves his adoptive family and therefore feels guilty for lusting after other parents. To make up for it, he also brings his adoptive family to his ghost realm. He tells Kevin that he found out that this is unusual – it is a unique situation among transracial adoptees to be so connected to their adoptive families that they are included in his fantasy family.

Randall then explains to Kevin how his ghost realm became more complicated and confusing after meeting William and Laurel, who are his true biological parents. He still dreams of his ghost kingdom in adulthood, but the fantasy was never adapted to include the presence of his true biological parents. Instead, he continued to dream of the meteorologist and the librarian, staying around the age of five as a result. Randall tells Kevin that he thinks this is an indication that he is stuck at that point in his life.

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The episode ends when Randall dreams of his ghost kingdom again after a great conversation with Kevin. In the dream, he is still five years old, but instead of the meteorologist and librarian, William and Laurel have rightly been replaced in the role of their biological parents. The reveal that Randall’s ghost realm has adapted indicates some sort of breakthrough for him, and it’s likely the result of opening up to his brother and the two finally having their much-needed and complicated discussion about race and their relationship.

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. New episodes air Tuesdays at 9 pm ET / PT on NBC.

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