Darnell can be the mentor that Randall has been looking for all his life on This Is Us. The NBC series continues this week with a nuanced look at race and class in America with two dinners set in different time periods. In both gatherings, the Pearsons' adopted child plays a pivotal role.
This Is Us has made it a point to explore Randall's unique position in the Pearson family, not only being the adopted child of Jack and Rebecca but also as a black child in a white family. While his family has loved and accepted him, he has always craved for a mentor who looks like him. This was especially highlighted in last week's episode as a young Randall explained to Jack the importance of having like Mr. Lawrence in his life - his black grade school teacher whom he develops a close relationship with. The conversation surrounding this specific idea is further elevated in the show's latest episode titled "The Dinner and the Date."
As things between Malik and Deja heats up, both their parents came together for a dinner to talk about the kids' romance. While the primary focus at this point was Deja and Malik's relationship, the whole situation can also play a big role in Randall’s political career, as well as his personal life. Randall is a newbie politician, and while his goal is to genuinely help his people, he has yet to realize how complicated that world works. The color of his skin doesn’t automatically mean that he fully understands the struggle of black communities in his district. because frankly, although he looks the same his socio-economic status somehow shielded him from the inherent racism that other black people who aren't as well-off are experiencing.
Before a fight broke out between their wives, Randall and Darnell were having polite conversation, but while they seemingly got along at first, it didn't take long to notice their differing views rooted in being from different socio-economic classes. The latter told the former that despite being a black man, he didn’t vote for him in as a matter-of-fact manner, highlighting the idea that having the same skin color doesn’t automatically earn Randall a spot in the community. It didn’t help that the Councilman eyed Darnell's tattoos with judgment, something that didn’t go unnoticed by Malik's dad.
This brings Randall's "Oreo" problem back - a term used to describe him because he's not attuned with rap (and black culture in general) like most black kids his age were despite sharing the same skin color. It emphasized how he's essentially an outsider to a community he supposedly belong in. This led to his eagerness to have a mentor/mentee relationship with Mr. Lawrence, who not only looks like him, but also seemingly has the same penchants. While Mr. Lawrence filled that void in young Randall's life, Councilman Randall needs a different type of mentor - this time to be able to effectively carry out his role as a politician for his constituents. And despite their rocky meeting, Darnell is the perfect person to play that role.
Darnell is an everyman - he works in a car repair shop and mingles with different people. He's a great person to offer Randall a different perspectives on how to carry out his role as their representative on This Is Us. Despite winning, Randall hasn't proven himself worthy of his position - and it doesn't help that he and Jae-Won are winging it. Darnell can open Randall’s eyes to the real struggle of black communities in his district since he's a part of it. He knows how it feels to be judged because of how he looks like - a common struggle by POC in the country. Randall has been dubbed out-of-touch, and while his idealism usually works for his benefit, it can pose problems when dealing with complicated problems as a politician. Darnell can be the mentor Randall needs to fully understand the struggles of black communities. And only then, he can truly make a positive difference on their lives.