This Is Us has been dancing around teenage Kate's relationship ever since her boyfriend was introduced in Season 4. At 19, Kate started dating Marc, a 26-year-old record store clerk. From the outset, the show hinted it was not a healthy relationship. When Kate's mother, Rebecca, finds an old photo of Kate and Marc, she says she's sorry she didn't see what was going on. So what exactly is happening in Kate and Marc's relationship on This Is Us? Warning: Spoilers for This Is Us Season 4 follow.
At this point, it can be explicitly said: Kate is in an abusive relationship. But this is not your stereotypical After-School-Special type abusive relationship. It doesn't include physical violence, from what we've seen so far. But psychological and emotional abuse is just as damaging, even if they don't leave outward scars.
Marc's relationship with Kate highlights some of the more significant red flags of an emotional abuser. He controls what she eats and body-shames her. He manipulates her into appeasing him and gaslights her into questioning her own judgment. He's also a fabulist, as viewers see in that scene in the coffee shop with Rebecca, where he's basically fantasizing he and Kate will become famous musicians.
And then, of course, there are his temper tantrums, from the more subtle sulking when Kate knows more about music than he does to that car ride of terror to the cabin.
But even though there are some genuinely terrible moments in this week's episode, what's remarkable is the series doesn't show anything that would obviously be labeled "triggering" on screen. (Other than the scene in the car, which is genuinely terrifying.)
But as Kate finds herself further and further under Marc's thumb, the chances of her family halting this slide get worse. One can hope Rebecca, Kevin, and Randall riding to the rescue would be a fairytale ending where Kate comes home safe. But all it does is set up a situation where Kate has to choose between Marc and her family. Chances are, all this will do is set up the blow out where Kate and Rebecca stop speaking to each other for many years to come.