This Is Us season 3 is taking the time to explore the personal stories of all of its characters, but audiences aren't as invested on anyone else but Jack (Milo Ventimiglia). Nearing the end of its third season, the hit NBC show stayed true to its promise by revealing what exactly happened in Vietnam - something that Jack was never comfortable talking about even with Rebecca (Mandy Moore). Audiences already knew that he has a brother who also served in the military but, unlike what he told his family, it turns out that Nicky (Michael Angarano/Griffin Dune) is still alive. It's just that Jack didn't want to have anything to do with him after believing that he killed an innocent boy during the war, which wasn't what happened.
In conjunction with the exploration of Jack's time in Vietnam, This Is Us season 3 has given more focus to other characters outside the core Pearson family. There was an episode about Toby (Chris Sullivan) and his struggle with depression and even had hints of Miguel's (Jon Huertas) own story with his first family before he got together with Rebecca. The latest episode of the show was devoted to learning about Beth's (Susan Kelechi Watson) long-lost passion for dance, which she once again found by the time the hour was done. But as good as these stories are, This Is Us fans seem to be always clamoring for a Jack-centric narrative.
For the most part, This Is Us delivered on working Nicky into the current narrative since it's been revealed he's alive. His introduction is set up to open brand new opportunities as he might be pivotal to Kevin's story arc moving forward given his relapse with his alcoholism. However, fans don't appear to care much for him. In fact, after the Big Three finally found him and we hear his story in "Songbird Road: Part 1," This Is Us had its lowest viewership ratings in its three years with 7.40 million watching for "Songbird Road: Part 2". For context, the majority of the show's episodes this season had 8 million viewers and up per outing. It's important to mention, however, that in between "Part 1" and "Part 2," there was an unscheduled two-week break because of Donald Trump's delayed State of the Union. Still, even with an extended wait, you'd expect fans to be tuning in if they're particularly invested in the storyline.
The interesting part about this is that Nicky's existence is a creative way to learn of that part of Jack's life that he never wanted to talk about. However, it doesn't seem to be as engaging as knowing about the life that he lived with Rebecca and the kids. Perhaps, this is partly because despite being brothers, there's not much about their relationship outside of what's already known. The mystery of the Vietnam debacle has been resolved and This Is Us has already painted a clear picture of what their relationship was before they were torn apart by their misunderstanding during the war.
Another example is the latest Beth-centric episode, which attracted 7.55 million viewers - the second worst for This Is Us. The hour was nuanced, staying true to the core message of family ties, and Kelechi Watson was phenomenal, not to mention Phylicia Rashad as Carol, her mother. Sadly, it didn't seem like audiences were particularly interested in knowing her better, even if it might lay the seeds of what the future holds for her and Randall.
This Is Us season 3 has done a great job with its spinoff narratives. If anything, exploring these other characters is making the show more dynamic and sustainable considering that they can only tell so much of Jack's story until there's nothing left. Further, there's a better chance that it will resonate with more people considering the variation of personal arcs that the series is telling. But the show needs to find a way to balance their storytelling between pushing the envelope and giving fans what they want to see if season 4 is going to really excite.
This Is Us returns next Tuesday to NBC at 9 pm.