Don’t have time for a full hour of ugly crying? We only need two minutes to get you caught up on Randall and William’s father-son trip to Memphis in this week’s emotional episode.
Jayme Deerwester, USA TODAY
Spoiler alert: This story contains details from Tuesday’s episode of This Is Us.
In the end, there was no miracle cure for William Hill.
Randall’s biological father on This Is Us(Ron Cephas Jones), who has been battling cancer throughout the NBC drama’s first season, died at the end of Tuesday’s episode during an emotional trip to Memphis — and his past — with Randall (Sterling K. Brown). But we may not have seen the last of him.
The episode, which stands out emotionally even for a series that regularly embraces strong feelings, reveals many details about William’s early years, including his close relationship with his mother, Dorothy (Amanda Warren).
In the present day, the terminally ill man hits the road for Memphis to show his son where he started his musical career. The urgency of the trip is underlined by William’s decision in an earlier episode to end cancer treatments.
Recent episodes have been “more about him passing, and accepting the fact that they’re not going to have a cure for him,” Jones says.
While most episodes toggle between members of the Pearson family, Tuesday’s focused exclusively on William and Randall, who needed a doctor’s permission for the road trip after suffering an emotional breakdown in the previous episode.
Flashbacks reveal the father’s musical talent, including a well-crafted song, We Can Always Come Back to This (written by Us composer Siddhartha Khosla), that the younger William (Jermel Nakia) composes and performs with his cousin Ricky’s (Brian Tyree Henry) band. The older William, reuniting with his cousin, joyously plays with the band again just before his death.
The fate of William, who was tracked down by Randall in the series opener, wasn’t locked in from the start, but Jones says he learned after a few episodes that his character would die this season.
Ron Cephas Jones and Sterling K. Brown, who play biological father and son on NBC’s ‘This is Us,’ discuss what each character gains when they finally meet.
Sean Fujiwara, USA TODAY
Along with many fans of William and Us, Jones initially wasn’t thrilled with the idea. “My first feeling was, ‘That’s not good. I’m only going to be there for one season.’ ”
The popularity of William and the richness of his relationship with Randall tempted producers to extend his life, but “we felt like (this) was the right thing to do,” executive producer and director John Requa says. “It’s easy to get compromised, especially with a popular show. We went through all the stages of (grief), a lot of bargaining.”
However, death doesn’t necessarily mean goodbye on Us, which jumps around in time and features major characters, such as Milo Ventimiglia’s Jack, who aren’t alive today.
“You’ll see William again. It may not be in this incarnation, but we’re going to see him,” Jones says.
With two episodes left in Season 1, which wraps up March 14, Us will show the family’s reaction to William’s death while returning to other stories, including the aftermath of Kevin’s (Justin Hartley) decision to leave his play’s opening-night performance to care for Randall. We’ll also will learn more about Jack’s death.
Next season,Us might explore other elements of William’s life: his time in Memphis; his drug addiction and recovery; his romantic relationship with Jessie (Denis O’Hare), a man from his 12-step program; and his time living in the Pearson home, where he became close to Randall’s wife, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), and the couple’s two daughters.
“It’s been a long period of time that he’s been living with the family. There’s lots of it we haven’t seen,” Requa says. “It’s nice not to be confined by time.”
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