This Is Us...breathing a sigh of relief.
It happens all the time: A show becomes a massive hit and a pop culture phenomenon in its first season. Everyone you know is talking about it. Twitter is losing its mind over it. The stars are everywhere.
But then season two comes around and the show you used to love just isn't the same, that magic has mysteriously vanished during its hiatus. It's what we call the sophomore season slump. Some of the SSS' past victims include Revenge, True Detective, and Sleepy Hollow, to name a few.
So, of course, heading into This Is Us' second season, we were a little nervous. Could the family drama with a penchant for making our eyes rain be able to maintain the huge success and heartwarming (and heartbreaking) storylines? Fortunately, the power of the Pearsons proved stronger than the sophomore season slump.
Here's how the NBC hit series managed to avoid the curse:
More Beth: While she had a few standout moments in season one, Beth became a force to be reckoned with this season and it's about damn time. To quote Randall in last night's episode, she is a black queen, and demands to be treated as such. And while Jack and Rebecca may have been the standout pair initially, Randall and Beth seem to have been passed the long-abandoned torch from Friday Night Light's Coach and Tami for TV's best marriage. They are equals in all aspects, an imperfectly perfect balance of strengths and weaknesses. Can they adopt us too?
(Also, let us just note here that Sterling K. Brown is probably the best actor currently on TV. So. Damn. Good.)
Slow and Steady: Speaking of adoption, we admit we were a little nervous when we learned the couple would be adopting an older child. But the show has managed to walk the fine line between sweet and salty, and you never know how their interactions with Deja (Lyric Ross) are going to go. Every time it seems like they've gained an inch, something happens to knock them back a few millimeters. Last night's intense sit down between Randall and Deja's incarcerated birth mother teed up a really great (and potentially heartbreaking) arc for the storyline, and we're nervously awaiting how the situation will play out.
Perfect Dose of William: William's death was one of the devastating highlights of season one, and This Is Us has found the perfect way to continue giving us the reassuring brilliance that is Ron Cephas Jones without chipping away at the huge impact his loss had. Using him sparingly but effectively in flashbacks (and in that amazing scene with Beth in the season opener) has kept him alive in the best way.
We Need to Talk About Kevin: In season two, the show has played to Justin Hartley's comedic timing, while giving him surprising emotional layers. By starting out with the comedy, Kevin's downward spiral after taking painkillers (clearly, addiction runs in the family) for his knee has packed even more of a punch. While Kevin felt a little aimless in season one, Hartley is slowly becoming the heart of season two, and you can't help but root for him to get out of his own way.
Nobody's Perfect: Let's face it, every viewer wanted to marry, hang out with or BE Jack Pearson last year. He became America's dad, who always knew the right thing to say or do. In a smart move, This Is Us knocked Jack off his pedestal this year, showing us he was far from perfect, thanks to his drinking problem, which didn't just go away in one episode.
Mandy's Monologues: Is it just us or is Mama Pearson (Mandy Moore ) straight-up killin' the monologues this season, especially her dual-decades-spanning ones in episode six, delivered to baby Randall and baby Tess. Our chills had chills.
Mystery Takes a Backseat: If there's one thing the fans love to talk about, it's Jack's death. And the creative team is aware of that, but they've smartly not let it take over the story. The final moments of the season two opener offered up major clues as to how it happened to satisfy viewers craving answers, but used the scene as a tool to also drive other characters' stories forward. If This Is Us is a quilt, each patch represents a different period of time in the Pearson family history. The thread that runs through all of them is Jack's death, while it's not always visible, it's a vital component and essential to the story.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.
(NBC and E! are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)