[The following contains spoilers from Tuesday's episode of This Is Us, "A Manny Splendored Thing." Read at your own risk]
Jack Pearson has made a strong argument for being the best dad currently on TV, but the This Is Us patriarch is far from perfect.
One of the first times we really saw Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) as a hero was in Episode 2 of the first season when Rebecca (Mandy Moore) told him to stop drinking, and he did. That didn't ring true to many people who have dealt with addiction, and in the following episodes it did feel like Jack surmounted a huge obstacle with extreme ease — like a saint.
Now Season 2 of the hit drama is looking to delve deeper into Jack's dark spaces and they are starting with that seemingly miraculous recovery from alcoholism. It turns out that Jack's first climb atop the sober mountain was not as easy as we were first led to believe.
"A Manny-Splendored Thing" journeyed back into the days immediately following Rebecca telling Jack to stop drinking. He tried AA but it didn't take. He turned to his kids who helped remind him why he needed to stop being so self-destructive. In the end, Jack turned to boxing to help exorcise his demons (can we go ahead and speculate that's why Jack idolizes Sylvester Stallone so much?).
It took every ounce of self-control and dedication Jack had to channel his energy into something that wasn't drinking and he barely made it. That's why on the second attempt at sobriety Jack isn't trying to handle his addiction on his own. Maybe he doesn't have the lunch hours to go to the gym, or maybe he's not strong enough to bury it like he did the first time. Instead, he's leaning on Rebecca and telling the kids about his problem, admitting it was the last thing he wanted to do. He had to confess to himself that he's not the perfect guy he wants them to believe he is.
This is an important step for This Is Us, not only admitting that certain things were skipped over in the first season to make Jack seem like a martyr, but to prove they're willing to show him as truly human going forward. It's natural for him to seem larger than life, especially to his kids who idolized him and then lost him at such a young age, but from a storytelling perspective it's important to see that Jack is capable of failure and that he has his shortcomings.
The full details surrounding Jack's death will be revealed in this season, but more important than that is that we understand the full scope of the TV dad we've grown to love — warts and all.
This Is Us continues Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.