Susan Kelechi Watson (NBC)

Editor’s note: Season 1 spoilers throughout!

This Is Us has wrecked me. I hopped aboard the hype train later than most, but when I did … I bought a season (or series?) pass immediately.


There‚Äôs an uncanny moment in life when you‚Äôre introduced to something that you never knew you needed until you experience it. In this show, that ‚Äúsomething‚ÄĚ is Beth Pearson (Susan Kelechi Watson). Yes, the breakout star is unanimously Sterling K. Brown and his Emmy-winning portrayal of Randall Pearson, but I must set aside a special reverence for one of my favorite black female characters on television right now.

Now, I say ‚Äúblack female character‚ÄĚ with firm intention. Beth is ‚ÄĒ without a doubt‚ÄĒa fascinating and well-written character, period,¬†but her unapologetic blackness is not lost on me. And to specify the significance of her image cannot and will not escape me. The word ‚Äúdiversity‚ÄĚ is thrown around a lot in this industry, but there is something to be said about the authenticity behind the back-patting term.

The layers of Beth enrapture me. Beth is not the neck-rolling caricature of yore, but she also doesn‚Äôt suffer fools. She is so black, y‚Äôall. The blackness is what I call ‚Äúsubtly loud,‚ÄĚ which I appreciate. Her honesty is cutting in such an endearing way, I couldn‚Äôt help loving her. Beth is so remarkably real, I feel as if I can touch her. There‚Äôs a tangibility to her character in a medium that is wholly intangible‚ÄĒI can feel the fire behind her cutting eyes; I can feel the bubbling of her gut as she wars with decisions for her family; I can feel the rumbling of her laugh as she makes a snarky joke.

Black women traipse this bumpy road called life with an Atlas-sized burden on our shoulders. We have to be this and not that; we have to be strong for the good of our culture. However, Beth has been provided the grace to just be her. Yes, she can throw out a great side eye when the moment calls for her biting truth, but she can also succumb to the unraveling of her own vulnerable character arc.


Then there‚Äôs the aspect of what ‚Äúblack love‚ÄĚ is. Though it is easy for us to hold it atop the highest pedestal as something larger than life, it is crucial to allow the authenticity‚ÄĒwhich includes very real and uncomfortable flaws‚ÄĒas well. There is something beautiful in showing the good and the bad, the pretty and the ugly, because it is navigating those turbulent waters and remaining a unit that makes the love so laudable. Not to mention Brown and Watson‚Äôs chemistry is fucking flawlessly piercing, from the way they look at each other to the way they argue.

There‚Äôs one particular scene where Beth was late and suspected that she was pregnant. This revelation came the very moment she and Randall were trying to get away from the rigamarole known as parenting. Randall‚Äôs body was ready for burgers and bumping guts, but Beth hit him with the hee via ‚Äúmaybe baby‚ÄĚ news. The scene played out with a great balance of humor and tension that felt so genuine. The very moment they were counting down until the little birds left the nest so that they could retire, they were possibly faced with another ‚Äúsetback.‚ÄĚ Of course, as we now know, the test ended up being negative, but I really valued the fact that they got to explore the battling of emotions they had to contend with on that fancy hotel bathroom floor.


I love every aspect of Beth, but my favorite plotline thus far is her relationship with Randall‚Äôs newly found biological father, William (Ron Cephas Jones). From the moment she hesitantly took William into her home as an initial sacrifice that undoubtedly proved her love for her husband, I was fascinated by the trajectory of their relationship. What I loved most about her storyline with William is that her character was given her just due‚ÄĒan introduction that was not defined by being Randall‚Äôs wife or Tess (Eris Baker) and Annie‚Äôs (Faithe Herman) mother, but a woman who can evolve in a way that surprises herself. She had found not only her father-in-law but her friend. A friend who unmasked many layers that I hope to see more of.


In Beth‚Äôs posthumous dedication to William‚ÄĒmasterfully portrayed by the treasure that is Watson, who can convey a thousand emotions with just a look‚ÄĒthe significance of their relationship and the emotional tattoo that William left on her heart was readily apparent.


In the season 2 premiere, we get to explore a bit of Beth‚Äôs adoption hesitation that contrasts Randall‚Äôs hyperexcitement to continue his story. We learn in the premiere that despite Randall‚Äôs ideal that his adopted parents, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore), wanted him the moment they saw him, Rebecca had some reservations and eventually warmed up to him. This dynamic definitely brings a complexity to Beth and Randall‚Äôs relationship and their identity as parents. And I can‚Äôt forget the subtle yet poignant moment where we see that Beth still hangs out at the special ‚Äúmeeting spot‚ÄĚ reserved for her and William. This yet another peek into how her relationship with him has been etched into her spirit.

Beth may not be a member of the ‚ÄúBig Three,‚ÄĚ but she certainly steals the screen in her own way, and I can‚Äôt wait to see how the second season gives us a little more of her. As Beth so eloquently said in her homage to William, she is a ‚Äúfabric of our lives now.‚ÄĚ Just as the Pearsons will ‚Äúremember things as ‚Äúbefore William‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúafter William,‚ÄĚ so will we about Beth.


Beth is us. Beth is me. Beth is love.