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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Kate and Toby's relationship zigzags this. Is Toby an emotionally manipulative borderline stalker who doesn't respect Kate's boundaries, or is Kate an unstable bitch who pushes away her terrific boyfriend who loves her unconditionally?
    • Is Randall truly trying to be a good person, or is he doing things for his own ego and selfish needs. Another popular theory is that Randall is Bipolar. Season 3 leans hard into this, as the residents of William's neighborhood are not appreciative at all of his attempts to swoop in and become their Daddy Warbucks without actually taking the time to understand their lives. He also seems to be willing to even risk his marriage over a campaign that he is almost flat out told is impossible to win at this rate.
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    • The AV Club review of "The Last Seven Weeks" has the writer state that he's gone full Death of the Author and is now watching the show as the tragic story of how three siblings' unrealistic idolization of their father has caused them to become extremely emotionally unhealthy in their adulthood.
  • Ass Pull:
    • Season 2 reveals out of nowhere that William followed Rebecca home after her visit in 1989 and thus knew where the family lived, and Randall himself has known this since early in the first season, which seems like it would have led to things playing out quite a bit differently.
    • Beth's past as a ballerina. It definitely seems like Deja's interest in dance would have caused this to come up.
    • Nicky having survived the war and living into the present day seems to have been made up as the show went along. Jack in shown in Season 2 to remember Nicky fondly and to express sadness that he is no longer alive. Had the brothers really had a falling out in the 1970s, it is unlikely that Jack would experience such sentimental nostalgia upon remembrance of Nicky.
  • Author's Saving Throw:
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    • After lots of griping about how the actress for teenage Kate is clearly not overweight, it's eventually revealed that during this period she actually had gotten to a healthy weight, but relapsed from it as she didn't feel any better like she was expecting.
      • Explored further with the fact that after Jack's death, she starts binge eating. In the first few months, she gains 25 pounds. The actress starts wearing padding during this period.
    • After all the controversy over Toby not being played by a real overweight actor as noted below, they made sure to hire a genuinely blind actor to play the adult Jack Damon in Season 4. The same season also features genuine stroke victim Timothy Omundson playing a character who’s disabled for the same reason, who was created specifically for him.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Beth is this, some fans hate her attutide and personality towards Randall. Others find her endearing and amusing with her sass towards Randall.
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    • Jack is this to some, some people like his actions and grand gestures, others find him annoying and find the overhype and character shilling of him beyond annoying.
    • Deja is this big time. Some people like the focus on her and the more difficult upbringing she had while others hate her , find her bitchy, annoying and ungrateful and would rather the show focus on the main characters instead.
  • Best Known for the Fanservice: Not so much anymore, but when the show was just starting it became infamous for the pilot having a brief glimpse of Milo Ventimiglia's butt. Blake Stadnik continues the tradition in the Season 4 premiere.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Beth and William getting high on marijuana in “The Best Washing Machine in the World.” It’s never mentioned before or since that episode that Beth dabbled in recreational drugs, and it’s hardly believable that the incredibly straight-laced Randall would be okay with having weed in his house.
  • Broken Base: Chris Sullivan is not actually overweight and wears prosthetics to play Toby, which angers some fans as taking a role from an actual overweight actor with limited career prospects. Chrissy Metz has stated she has no problem with it, as he really did have weight problems in the past and knows full well what it's like.
  • Catharsis Factor:
    • For anyone who'd started to grow tired of the show's endless sentimentality, Randall getting repeatedly smacked in the face with his Wrong Genre Savvy in Season 3 is a big highlight, and a welcome sign that the crew does have some self-awareness about how high-handed they can come off.
    • The whole portrayal of Jack Damon in Season 4. Rather than the endless Wangst you'd probably expect by now from this show adding a major blind character, he's portrayed as having long since come to terms with his disability and having a happy and successful life.
  • Creator's Pet: Deja is a rare subversion. She is clearly meant to be William’s replacement both in-universe and out, but she is also written to be a far less sympathetic character. This is lampshaded several times.
  • Designated Hero: While it is clear that William was written to be an old sage with a heart of gold, he has more than his fair share of selfish moments. Fighting with the neighbors, keeping Tess up until 3 AM to play chess, and interfering with Randall's career in "Three Sentences" and "Jack Pearson's Son" spring to mind. All of these instances are justified in-universe with the fact that he is dying, but he seemingly gets a pass for taking advantage of the Pearsons' hospitality on numerous occasions.
  • Designated Villain: Sanjay. While viewers are supposed to dislike him for encroaching on Randall's turf, he was only doing a job he was hired to do.
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: The Central Theme of the show is how relatable the Pearsons are to viewers and their Real Life families. That being said, all of the main characters live in lavish homes and drive expensive cars, and Kevin and Randall are heavily implied to be millionaires. Because of this, the show can come off to some as a chronicle of a rich family dealing with First World Problems rather than an accurate representation of the average American family and their issues.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Kevin's line in the season two premiere (filmed months in advance) about how the Kardashians "multiply like Gremlins" is particularly amusing considering that in the days leading up to the episode airing, both Kylie Jenner and Khloe Kardashian were announced to be pregnant. In addition, Kim Kardashian's third child is also on the way via surrogate.
    • Mandy Moore has been noted to look uncannily like Diane Keaton in her aged makeup, especially the less severe 2008 version. This gives major props to the casting director of Because I Said So, where Keaton played Moore's mother.
    • In Black Panther (2018), Sterling K. Brown is a father who dies while his son is still very young, with consequences that very much make the Pearsons look like they're whining over nothing.
      • The fact that Brown's character was killed by his brother can make Kevin's picking on Randall seem pathetic in comparison.
  • Hollywood Pudgy: Marin's daughter is actually not that fat, but she's treated as such.
  • Informed Wrongness:
    • In “Moonshadow,” it is pretty clear that the writers wanted the viewers to take Rebecca’s side in her big argument with Jack. While Jack is portrayed as a drunken, jealous asshole, Rebecca was firmly established as a put-upon housewife who sacrificed her dreams for the misery of raising a family. Rebecca (and the writers) seemed to forget that Ben was the one who ruined everything when he made a pass at her, and that she was ready to leave Cleveland before Jack even showed up.
    • Although they were pretty tactless about it and their timing was terrible, Toby’s parents raised valid points about Kate in “The Wedding.”
    • The writing pretty clearly establishes that Rebecca was in the wrong for hiding William's identity from Randall throughout his life. But as Rebecca correctly pointed out in a conversation with Jack, allowing William into Randall's life could've opened up a Pandora's box of legal issues that could have resulted in the Pearsons losing custody of him. Not to mention that he WAS a drug addict who abandoned an infant at a fire station. While he may have gotten sober since then, there was no guarantee that his home was a safe place for a child given the unsavory characters that drug addicts tend to consort with. Just because William was a sweet old man by 2016 doesn't mean it would have been wise for Randall to have been around him in the 80s and 90s.
  • Memetic Loser: Crock Pots, after it was revealed that one started the fire that killed Jack. Many fans said they were going to throw theirs out, which Dan Fogelman felt quite guilty about and quickly stated it wasn't meant as any kind of Take That!, as they made sure to emphasize that it was a very old one that Jack and Rebecca never bothered to fix.
  • Memetic Mutation: The reveal that M. Night Shyamalan would be playing a role in Season 4 caused a lot of joking speculation about which of his cameo characters he'd be playing, with his tendency to play people who make problems for his films' protagonists offering a ton of material.
  • Narm:
    • Every time Rebecca talks about "the Tom Hanks movie" in the Season 2 premiere. It's pretty clearly written this way to obfuscate the exact year the scenes take place in, and comes off like she somehow doesn't know the movie's name.
    • The kids being nicknamed after the order they were born. Especially since as adults they have exactly the complexes you'd think they would from literally being called Number 1, Number 2, and Number 3 all their lives, which the show completely ignores.
    • The entire episode "The Fifth Wheel" is quite jarringly meta on a level the show has never come close to anywhere else, with the Pearsons laying into each other about all the stuff the fans have been complaining about, while their significant others talk about what it's like to literally be supporting characters (and seriously shaft Chewbacca in their Star Wars metaphor for the situation). It finally becomes impossible to take seriously when Randall says he wishes people could see their whole childhood step by step.
    • For some, the end of "Clooney," where after Rebecca asks, "Did we forget something at the mall?" there is an ominous shot of a battery-less smoke detector.
    • The sheer amount of Chekhovs Guns involved in Jack's death, giving the impression that the universe itself just did not want him to still be breathing.
    • Alot of the grand speeches can come off as this. Instead of being serious or heartwarming, it comes off as cheesy and over the top. Jack is the most frequent offender.
    • Toby's happy dance when he found out Kate was pregnant in the coffee store comes off as cringy.
    • The part of Kevin’s toast at Kate’s wedding where the camera focused on each Pearson exhaling was very melodramatic at best.
    • "Vietnam," which is told is reverse order, has Nicky say halfway through that maybe people's life stories would make more sense in reverse. It just comes off as bizarre that the writers felt the need to spell out their own rather simple technique like no one in the audience would get it otherwise.
    • The sheer Fridge Logic involved with Randall's financial situation in Season 3. Beth is laid off after a year of being the family's sole breadwinner, so Randall hires her for his city council campaign...apparently with them just passing their last few dollars back and forth until it runs out.
    • The writers show a downright cartoonish non-understanding of the Internet when Deja's highly personal essay is posted online without her permission, and the episode acts like its being taken down after the entire school has already read it somehow solves the problem.
    • Randall and Beth have a dramatic, intense argument about how one of them needs to sacrifice their dream so the kids won't be left on their own all day...while they're both on the other side of the country with no explanation of who's watching the kids, and why this obviously very trustworthy person can't do the job more.
    • The Season 4 trailer, which attempts to sell the addition of a bunch of new characters as some huge, shocking twist on par with the biggest the show's ever had. And one of them being played by M. Night Shyamalan is so insane it kind of loops around to being genius.
  • Narm Charm:
    • All three of the child Pearsons can fall into this from time to time. They have some cheesy lines, but they are adorable enough to pull them off in a way that doesn't detract from the show.
    • While the therapy scene in the “Fifth Wheel” is quite meta it still does address some of the misgivings and shortcomings fans have had about the show and it’s characters and the fact the characters themselves are calling each other out makes it a little satisfying.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • The Pearson house beginning to burn down in the final moments of "That'll Be The Day". The episode fades out just as the flames begin to make their way upstairs where Jack, Rebecca, Randall, and Kate are sleeping.
    • Jack's time in Vietnam goes full-tilt into War Is Hell, even bringing on Tim O'Brien, famous for his semi-autobiographical stories about the war. It includes the likes of a soldier getting his foot blown off, a man under Jack's command senselessly dying when he steps on a mine while playing catch, and an uneasy trip with a local who ends up admitting he's "sometimes" Viet Cong.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Pam Grier as Deja's great-grandmother, an object lesson in how to create a fully realized character with just a few minutes of screen time.
  • Paranoia Fuel: The ending of “That’ll Be The Day.” A kitchen appliance turns itself on, shorts out, and bursts into flames. Sleep tight.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap:
    • Kevin right now has won over a good amount of supporters after basically risking sabotaging his career to be there for Randall when he suffers a nervous breakdown. As up to this point he was still viewed as the most selfish sibling out of the three. Him risking so much just to be there for his brother gave him a good amount of character development and supporters.
    • Toby has won over some people in season 2 after the miscarriage plot and him calling out Kate on her selfish behavior.
  • Seasonal Rot: The second part of season 2 and season 3 so far has been seen as a major decline and step down in the show's quality. Among fans the main reasons are the Vietnam plot which over did Jack shilling and was too fragmented, Kate's bratty behaviour, a plot with Randall running for Philadelphia councilor which seems to be more of an ego trip for him then helping people.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Jack's speech to Randall in "Still There" explaining covert racism.
  • The Scrappy:
    • Olivia, for her bitchy and arrogant attitude.
    • Toby is also unpopular with some viewers for asking Kate to spend more time on him than to focus on herself.
    • Nobody likes Miguel because he married Rebecca after Jack's death as well having made fawning comments about her to Jack while being married himself. Since the circumstances of Jack's death and the remarriage have yet to be explained, viewers are still holding negative views about him for the comments and the leering he did at his secretary in front of Jack. He eventually even gets a very meta line about how weird it is how little the fact that he married his best friend's widow gets brought up.
    • Duke, the "fat camp" counselor, is also unpopular in his first appearance because his blatant advances on Kate gives off the appearance that he's sexually harassing her and preying on an emotionally vulnerable woman. Luckily, after a few episodes it's confirmed that we were never actually supposed to like him, no matter how much the promos played up the "love triangle."
    • George, the Pearsons' neighbor who gave them the faulty Crock Pot that ultimately burned their house down. From the way some fans talk, you'd think he walked up to Jack and shot him in the head.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: Beth makes one great point after another about how wrong-headed Randall's running for city council is, while he acts exceptionally condescending and dismissive in response...and the storyline ends with her admitting she should have just shut up and blindly followed his every whim. Then Randall has the audacity to tell her to Stay in the Kitchen and give up on her own dreams because he won't have any time for the kids himself, and it's honestly very hard to tell if we're supposed to be for or against it.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
    • Kevin abandoning the premiere of his play to be there for Randall during the latter's nervous breakdown is written to make Kevin appear as a selfless big brother. While the show accomplished that, the deed also made Kevin come off as very unprofessional. Plus, we're apparently just supposed to overlook the huge amount of other people he screwed over in the process, including Sloane, who was nervous about the production to begin with.
    • Randall is crushed to hear Kate called her IVF treatments the only way to pass on Jack's legacy, and calls her out for not considering just adopting a kid who badly needs a family, to which Kate retorts that he has no idea how badly she's wanted a biological child all her life and how hard it was to lose her last chance. However, many fans are still firmly on Randall's side as her statement also dismissed his own kids as a legitimate part of the family, which goes completely unacknowledged.
      • Kate gets it again when she tells her mother about Tess being gay without her permission, a huge no-no in the LGBT community which the show basically sweeps under the rug.
    • Many fans took issue with Randall and Beth's reaction to Tess' coming out to them, with them never actually saying it's okay to be gay, and making no move to hug her or any other kind of physical contact she clearly needs in the moment. It can easily come off as them actually being homophobic but trying to clamp it down.
    • Randall is this throughout his campaign as he repeatly chooses his campaign over his family and when Beth rightfully calls him out on this he dismisses her complaints as jealousy and basically downright insults her about her not being able to pursue a job. And even once he wins he expects Beth to drop her Dream Job so she can basically take care of the girls (something she was already doing during Randall’s campaign) while he is councilman.
  • The Un-Twist: Inevitably became an Enforced Trope when the story of Jack’s death was finally revealed. For over a year it had been billed by the creators as an event so unbelievable and shocking that no fan could guess what happened in their wildest dreams. It turned out that what actually happened was a pretty common fan theory (Jack made it out of the fire, but died from complications afterwards).
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The puppet for Kate's prematurely born baby Jack is unnervingly realistic.
  • The Woobie: Randall. His father died, his biological father is dying, and his mother knew all along that his biological father was alive and kept him away, and his siblings are too absorbed in their own matters to care about him.
    • After the episode of “Number One” Kevin himself is a close second when it is revealed all the self doubts he has about himself and the fact that because he is the oldest and from other peoples perspective the “perfect one” no one other than Kate sees just how lost he is.
  • Wangst: Kate is this with her constant woe is me attutide, complaining and self pity party. It became a real problem in season 2 and 3 much to fans annoyance.
  • What an Idiot!: "The Last Seven Weeks" asks us to believe that Kate would be completely clueless about how valuable a complete set of original Star Wars action figures would be, as she sells them for ten dollars. To be fair, Toby was just as idiotic for writing "DNS" on the box as an acronym for "Do Not Sell." There was more than enough room on the box to write the full words, which would've entirely prevented Kate's mistake.
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