When an episode starts with a young husband leaving his pregnant wife for war, then dying in battle, you know you’ve got a rough hour of TV ahead of you. Rough, but also really incredible (This is Us’s specialty).
You could tell right away that this would be the hour in which we say goodbye to William. The predictability was welcome–to me at least–I needed the full hour to prepare for the sadness to come. But, it still didn’t make it any easier.
Randall, recovered from his latest anxiety attack, decided (against Beth’s wishes) to take William on a road trip down to Memphis (where William grew up). Both men were in great spirits–happier and more carefree than we’ve seen in a long time. They had barbecue, got their haircut, and played some blues. They stayed in motels and they bonded. Randall met some distant cousins and got drunk! Then, quicker than any of us imagined, William deteriorated. His organs began to fail and he and Randall rushed to the hospital. Why couldn’t he have just died peacefully in his sleep??
William was scared, but he was ready. He knew this trip would be his last. His calm demeanor does so much to comfort Randall, and in return, Randall was able to comfort him. And that line about William beginning and ending his life with the best people? Oh, I lost it there. Really lost it. So William passed away while looking into his son’s eyes, and Randall was able to head back home with William’s lessons in mind. Hopefully, being touched by William will help Randall be able to control his anxiety more effectively. Hopefully, Randall will learn to live a little more, now that he’s lost another person so dear to him.
We got plenty of flashbacks into William’s life, too (another reason we could guess he’d be dying soon). He loved his sweet widowed mother more than anything; he was in a band on the verge of success with his wild cousin, and his relationship with Laurel and the death of his mother is what sent him down a path of self-destruction. His life was a series of could-haves. He was capable of so much more than he accomplished, yet, as mentioned earlier, he didn’t regret anything because he began and ended his life with the best people.
R.I.P. William. Your wisdom and kindness will be greatly missed on our TV screens every week.