'This Is Us': Why Beth, not Randall, is the best Pearson

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Susan Kelechi Watson as Beth, Sterling K. Brown as Randall in a scene from NBC’s “This Is Us.”

Do you have a favorite Pearson on NBC’s This Is Us?

If you said Randall — a great choice, but not the best — we need to talk. (If you picked Kevin, or Kate, or Pearson-adjacent Toby, we may have nothing to talk about.)

With all due respect to Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown and the beautifully realized character he plays on the hit drama from University of Pennsylvania grad Dan Fogelman, Randall is only the second-best member of the endlessly complicated Pearson clan. Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), the woman he was smart enough to have married, is No. 1.

Here’s why:

She sees the Pearsons more clearly than they see themselves.

The outlaws — as the in-laws in my family call themselves — nearly always do. Beth, who knows things about her driven husband that his mother and birthday-sharing siblings may never fully grasp, is in some ways like the audience: She has a ringside seat to the craziness, but she’s not of the craziness.

She makes Randall’s generous impulses reality, but she tells him the truth, too.

“I can understand you [Randall] wanting to bring your dad home, and I can understand your wanting to move your brother into the house,” Watson said in August, speaking of  the first season’s events and her character’s initial skepticism about Randall’s wish to adopt. “But there’s something about now really saying, ‘Let’s have another child, after the two we have are now sort of going to school.’ … It’s a real commitment, and, let’s be honest, a lot of times that falls on the woman.”

She’s generous when it counts most.

Where Randall seemed intent on recreating his own situation — adopting a newborn, and a boy, at that, to round out a family with two daughters — Beth, though initially reluctant, ultimately pushed for them to go to where the need was greater, and to  instead offer a home to an older child.

She’s never just the wife.

“It was very important to me with Beth [that] … people saw her as an individual, that they didn’t just watch the show and see her as the wife, as the mother of two children, but that they saw her as Beth, that they said, ‘She’s those things, and she’s this,’ ” Watson said.

She’s seen even more than we have of The Manny, and she knows it’s not funny.

As much as I loved the moment when  Kevin (Justin Hartley) revealed the part he’d played in bringing Randall and Beth together — Watson could use a few more scenes like that to lighten things up — it’s a relief to know that I’m not the only one bewildered by Kevin’s past sitcom success.

She is not constantly trying to make us cry.

I’m not saying it’s never going to happen, because on This Is Us, anyone can be expected to trigger ugly bouts of sobbing at any time — in Tuesday’s episode, look for guest star Sylvester Stallone to set off the waterworks — but Beth so far hasn’t been written that way. She may not always come off as warmly as she should, but she’s not attention-seeking, or manipulative. And in a room full of  weepy This Is Us characters, she’d be the person I’d hit up first for a tissue.