A review of the first 5 seasons of the popular show, with only a few minor spoilers
This Is Us is a family-centered TV show from NBC. Its current season, which has half-aired, is its 6th, and it is going to be the last. While it focuses on families, parenthood, children raising, siblings and familial bonds it can very pleasantly be viewed by loners like me who are a bit past their… “best before nuptial age”. Although I am an anime, fantasy and sci-fi geek for 5+ years I have ceremoniously watched this show and I just started watching its final season, which cast and crew claim it’s going to be the best one yet. They said they want to go with a bang, not a whimper. We’ll see about that when the show is over.
So, let’s start breaking down the show into parts. I’m sure those of you who write are quite familiar with ‘non-linear narration’, but for the rest who aren’t I will briefly explain what that means. Linear narration is a story with a clear start, middle and ending. While there might be some flashbacks from some characters these tend to be kept to a minimum, and the story starts from Day 1 and ends in Day 5, 50, or whenever, with very little back and forth, if at all.
Non-linear narration, as the name implies, is quite a different beast. It has no clear start, middle and end part; it rather likes to … temporally misbehave. It might start at the end and end at the beginning, for instance; or it might constantly go back and forth in a complex interconnected narrative, like the sublime (and expertly written) anime Baccano! Or, in extreme cases, it might show multiple periods at the same time.
This Is Us is one of these extreme cases. However, its beauty is that, unlike many non-linearly narrated stories that I’ve watched or read, everything remains consistent and coherent, everything makes sense. Dan Fogelman, the creator, showrunner and head writer of the show, is a man who knows his craft. Except for very few (roughly one per season) special linear episodes that focus on a particular character or event all episodes of all 5 seasons depict two, three, or rarely even four time periods. I think the mean is 2.5 to 3 periods per episode. Yet despite this seeming complexity, the plot itself is simple and easy to understand.