This Is Us took a break this week, just before the finale and gave us an episode that could have been entitled "This Is Deja." It tracked her life from the day she was born, through to when the Pearsons found her and Shauna homeless sleeping in a car last week. But some of the most effective scenes were the ones where the Pearsons actually turned up, and no, I'm not talking about Randall and Beth. The show instead gave us Deja and Jack parallels, along with other references to the Pearson clan's history, that were emotional tearjerkers.
The opening scene where Deja was born was contrasted against the birth of the Pearson triplets, the birth of Randall, and the birth of Randall's children. Likewise, the first time Shauna holds Deja in the hospital was interspersed with images of the first time Beth held Tess and the first time Rebecca held Randall.
One of the hardest was the death of Deja's great-grandmother, who she called G.G., the only adult in her life. This was a woman who had raised her daughter, and then raised Shauna, and was doing her best to raise Deja, and her passing brought images not only of Jack's passing, and William's passing but also of William sitting alone in his apartment after Randall's mother died.
But the most effective was the reading of the classic children's story Goodnight Moon. The ubiquitous of the bedtime story plays out across generations. We first see Deja's G.G. reading it to her, then Randall reading it to Annie and Tess, then Rebecca reading it to him...and then Jack reading it to his little brother Nicky, way back in the 1950s. (It would have been a relatively new story then, having been published on September 3, 1947.)
It's a reminder that Jack never got to have a childhood. By the time he was in elementary school, he was already playing the adult in the family, raising his little brother while their alcoholic father neglected them. But Deja's life isn't that far off. After G.G. passes away, and Shauna wonders how they'll survive, 5-year-old Deja pulls out Goodnight Moon and begins reading it aloud to her mother, a symbol of how the tables have already turned, and Deja, like Jack, will have to be the parent in the family.
Deja also lives in a world of substance abuse, the same way Jack grew up. This is less contrasted in that Deja's main parent isn't shown to be using, at least not when she's around. (Deja even suggests to Linda that her mother's drug habit comes from having the system take Deja away.) But when Deja finds herself back home, she meets Alonzo, the man who will eventually be the cause of her mother's jail time.
Once again we have another sequence of contrasts. Alonzo drinks and fights with Shauna. We then cut to Jack's alcoholism, which comes from his own upbringing, followed by Kevin's drinking.
But there's hope for Deja that she won't go down that road, and it's not just that Randall and Beth have once again taken her under their wing. Standing in the pawn shop, Deja looks at the last thing G.G. gave her, a broach that she could perhaps pawn for rent money. The show contrasts that with Kevin's getting his father necklace, and then cuts to the night he lost it, desperate for drugs. Deja puts the broach back in her backpack. At 13, even she knows some things are worth more than money.
"Everybody goes to sleep" Deja observes at the end of the episode, commenting that no matter who you are, or what your life is like, there are some things that make us all alike. Watching her own 12 years contrasted against the decades of Pearson history shows the truth of it. They're all more alike than she knows.