Maybe you started watching This Is Us because you craved a new drama. Maybe you missed Parenthood or couldn’t resist
Milo Ventimiglia Sterling K. Brown. Whatever the reason, millions of viewers tuned in for NBC’s breakout drama of the 2016-2017 season, and the Pearsons became the most adored family on American television.
Season 2 returns in a few days, so here are the best episodes to watch (and rewatch) before we dive back in.
1. Episode 1, “Pilot”
Meet the Big Three: Kate (Chrissy Metz), Kevin (Justin Hartley), and Randall Pearson (Sterling K. Brown). They’re all turning 36, and so is Jack (Milo Ventimglia) back in 1980 while wife Rebecca (Mandy Moore) goes into labor. Back in the quaint fall of 2016, Hillary Clinton was running for President and we didn’t know that this was the story of one family over the years.
2. Episode 3: “Kyle”
It was around this time that we learned This Is Us would emotionally wreck us on the reg, in this case by introducing a young William trying to reconnect with his son after abandoning him at the fire station. Rebecca agrees to allow this, but experiences a change of heart at the last second. She leaves William without any way of reaching the family, but she changes baby Kyle’s name to Randall — for William’s favorite poet, Dudley Randall.
3. Episode 9, “The Trip”
Horrified that Rebecca kept him from his biological father, Randall flees to the family’s cabin with his siblings, along with Kevin’s costar Olivia and two of her friends. Kate is furious by the unwanted visitors; Randall accidentally takes their drugs and hallucinates Jack at the cabin, giving us a rare scene between Brown and Ventimiglia — one of the only scenes between Ventimiglia and the actors who play his adult children, period.
4. Episode 12, “The Big Day”
As her due date approaches, Rebecca panics and completely forget’s Jack’s birthday. We catch up with Dr. K on the same day (note: a Dr. K episode always means extra tissues) and learn that he’s still struggling with his wife’s death. That’s not even the saddest part of the episode; the fireman who finds Randall at the station couldn’t have children with his wife, so he finds Randall and thinks it’s a miracle. Dr. K delivers the triplets again, and loses one, again. We are sobbing, again.
5. Episode 16, “Memphis”
Randall and William drive to Memphis, an unknowing last hurrah for the newly reunited father-son duo. The flashbacks are all William, and we know well before the episode ends that his time has come. Extra masochism points if you autoplay right into the funeral episode “What Now?”
This Is Us returns Sept. 26 on NBC.