Warning, there are spoilers ahead from the February 21st Episode of This Is Us.
Episode 16 of This Is Us entitled Memphis was the perfect mix of past and present following the story line of William throughout his life. It was a more linear story than what we are used to, focusing on 2 of the main characters instead of The Big Three and Jack and Rebecca. As Randall and William take a road-trip for William to visit his hometown of Memphis, we get to learn where he came from and some of the reasons why he ended up as a junkie leaving his baby at the fire station.
This has to be one of the most genuine episodes of the show so far, and the writers couldn’t have had a better send off for William.
We have known for a while that it is only a matter of time before William passes. This episode was the perfect end to his very imperfect life. Even though we knew it was coming, nothing could prepare us for these ugly cry moments.
1. Saying goodbye to his grandchildren. You didn’t want to admit to yourself that this could be the last time he sees the girls as William and Randall embark on the road trip to Memphis.
Later in the hospital when Randall wants to have them come say goodbye, he declines saying he said goodbye when they were laying down and that he wants them to remember looking up at him, not down.
2. William paying respects to Jack’s dad at the tree where his ashes were scattered.
From one father to another, William said, “I would have liked to have met my father’s son.” He kept it simple and was full of gratitude for the life he couldn’t give his son. In that moment, you wish the two dads could have met.
3. William and His Mother
We learn that William lost his father in the war before he was born. His mother raised him alone and it was always just the 2 of them. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me,” she tells him at the train station before she leaves to take care of her mother, William’s grandmother.
They were really close for his entire life. Later when his mother got sick, William cared for her and gave up his band and potential music career.
4. You Are My Sunshine leads into the most heart-wrenching parts of the show. This song plays in the beginning of the episode with William’s father singing to his unborn son, and while his mom finds out he killed in the war. It later plays when his mother is singing it to baby William which fades into Randall finding his father shaking in bed.
5. William Turns to Drugs After Losing His Mom. We knew from the beginning that William struggled with drugs. We didn’t know why exactly, but after his mother’s illness and eventual death he finally stopped saying no to the drug culture that was surrounding him and started using with his girlfriend (and Randall’s mother), Laura.
6. William’s last night. He goes back to visit his cousin that he left behind years ago to apologize for not returning to him and the band after his mother passed. “I was ashamed at what I had become,” William admits, apologizing for not coming back. He turns to leave, but the cousin stops him by asking him if he’s too sick to play. “I’m never too sick to play,” William says. From here, they have an incredible night playing while Randall meets some extended family.
7. Poems for My Son We saw him writing these poems in a flashback of an earlier episode, so it’s nice to see that he was able to give them to Randall, even if it was on his deathbed.
“Waiting for the right moment,” he said.
8. William’s goodbye to his son, really made you reach for the tissues. “Roll down the windows, Randall. Crank up that music. Grow out that ‘fro. … You’ve deserved the beautiful life you’ve made. You deserve everything, Randall. My beautiful boy. My son. I haven’t had a happy life. I had breaks. I had choices. A life of almosts and could-haves. Some would call it sad, but I don’t. ‘Cause the two best things in my life were the person in the very beginning, and the person at the very end. And that’s a pretty good thing to be able to say, I think.”
With the amount of focus on William’s mom, this is the perfect way to bring the episode full circle.
9. William’s final moments really made you struggle for a breath.
As a boy Randall would struggle with anxiety and his dad helped pass the attack by them breathing together, so it seemed fitting that when William was scared, Randall helped him breathe through it, until he passed.
10. On Randall’s drive home, a family of ducks crossed the road in front of his car. This was a beautiful metaphor for the day they never got to spend together, but also a reminder that his dad may be still watching over him. With that Randall cranked up the music, rolled down the window and kept on driving.
Did you miss the episode? Stream the episode on CTV now.