Why Beth and Randall’s Relationship-Long Fight on ‘This Is Us’ Is Different than Any Other Fight We’ve Seen on Network TV

Call me crazy, but as hard as last night’s episode of This Is Us was to watch, it was also more realistic than most. (ICYMI, it centered on Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth’s (Susan Kelechi Watson) relationship.)

Episode 17, titled “R&B,” depicted their meet-cute, Randall’s proposal, their wedding, new parenthood and the rift that’s grown between them over the last several years. And while it’s difficult to watch one of the show’s strongest couples falter, it was also indicative of a very real relationship truth: Hard times come and go, but in the end, couples often fight about the same thing over and over again. For Randall and Beth, that’s deciding who will bend to the needs of the other…or as Beth sees it, who gets the best nacho.

By all accounts, Randall and Beth are both intelligent, successful and driven individuals. They have been since they met their freshman year of college. But while their educational and career backgrounds are similar, the power dynamic shifted when they became parents and began taking on traditional gender roles. Beth became the one to repeatedly take one for the team; the one to bend to Randall’s and her children’s needs. Ironically, this is exactly why she was hesitant to get married in the first place.

randall and beth this is us
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

As you’ll remember from last night’s episode, she makes one request when she accepts Randall’s proposal. She asks that they don’t “Lose ourselves in each other. We’re gonna be full people. Equals. We’re a team.” And they are a team, but that team is often swayed by Randall’s needs. When it becomes his dream to buy William’s (Ron Cephas Jones) building, he assumes it’s Beth’s dream too. When he runs for office, he assumes Beth will settle effortlessly into being a politician’s wife and pick up the slack at home. Just as she finds a career that she’s passionate about, Randall asks her to push it aside. And when she doesn’t, it causes tension in their relationship.

It’s a rhythm Randall learned from his parents, Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia). So when Beth accuses him of turning her into his mother, he can’t help but think of the blow-up fight Jack and Rebecca had in the season one finale when he belittled her career aspirations.

Both of these fights show a line of discord we rarely see on TV (and never on network TV): An equally ambitious couple clashing because they both want to achieve their dreams but can’t find a situation in which both of them win. The power couple struggle doesn’t get any realer than that.

So will Randall and Beth move forward together or separately? In the season three finale preview, Randall looks far too comfortable sleeping in his office and Beth still has no interest in discussing a compromise.

For their (read: our) sake, we hope they find a solution when the This Is Us season three finale premieres on Tuesday, April 2, at 9 p.m. PT/ET on NBC.

Lex Goodman

Cat mom, yogi, brunch enthusiast

Lex is an LA native who's deeply obsessed with picnics, Slim Aarons, rosé, Hollywood history and Joan Didion. She joined PureWow in early 2017.
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