Dads get a bad rap in entertainment. More often than not, prestige film and television is driven by characters with absent dads, neglectful dads, abusive dads, or, in the case of The Shining, axe-wielding dads. Or, as so happens in high-water marks like Mad Men, Shameless, and Breaking Bad, we’re led to cozy up and identify with some pretty shitty progenitors. NBC’s This Is Us might resonate as “cry porn” to some, but it’s got one thing few other shows do: It’s an earnest portrait of what makes a good pops.
Milo Ventimiglia’s Jack Pearson is this dad, and he’s also the focus of the above video essay from ScreenPrism. More than just a fawning portrait of a relentlessly likable character, the essay breaks down the ways in which the legacy of Jack’s parenting resonates throughout the multiple timelines of the series. Often, emotion is culled from the effects of parental neglect, so the perspective here feels fresh in how we’re watching characters struggle with the concept of whether or not they’re upholding the positive lessons on which they were raised.
Of course, creating a character like Jack only to—spoiler alert—kill off the dude is a certain kind of cruelty. But SceeenPrism’s essay shows how his death was more than mere emotional manipulation. In many ways, the essay argues, it can be viewed as a kind of call to action in terms of carrying on his legacy.
Fair warning, though: Just watching clips from this show will still probably make you cry. Gird yourself before hitting play.