This Is Us: Kate Is Taking Life as a Special-Needs Parent by the Horns, and I Love It
Warning: spoilers for season four, episode one of This Is Us lie ahead!
The season four premiere of NBC's This Is Us left viewers feeling all of the things, as per usual, and no doubt caused Kleenex's stock to rise as fans prep for an emotional season. But perhaps the best part of the twisty first episode full of new characters? The last reveal, which tells us that the blind, amateur musician who goes on to become a full-on star is none other than future Jack Damon, Kate and Toby's son who was born prematurely a few months prior in the present day.
In the beginning of "Strangers," we go as far into the future as we have been so far to see adult Jack at home with his adorable dog, Sam, who accidentally causes a plate of breakfast to fall and shatter. We realize in this moment that Jack's blind, a fact that is confirmed when he strolls into a local diner with sunglasses and a mobility cane, where he meets his future wife, Lucy, who's a waitress and aspiring chef.
He mentions to Lucy that he "can see some light — just a little — and really, really blurry shapes, but nothing clearly," a line that is then referenced later in the episode when Toby and Kate are sitting with baby Jack in a doctor's office. The couple is told that following procedures within the past three months, "Jack is still not following cues or responding to tests. . . it's time to move forward. Jack's retinopathy will not be reversed, his eyesight will not return. The good news is it's not total stage five — he will be able to see some light, maybe some shapes."
According to KidsHealth, "Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a disease of premature babies that causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina, the layer of nerve tissue in the eye that enables us to see. This growth can cause the retina to detach from the back of the eye, leading to blindness."
Of Kate, Toby, and Jack's storyline playing out in the episodes to come, This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman told Entertainment Weekly: "It's a gigantic story. We've worked with a bunch of different people who have been advising us and talked to a bunch of people and our actor [Blake Stadnik, who is legally blind] to try and get it right. Raising a child is a complicated process, and raising a blind child comes with extra challenges. Obviously, having a newborn child — with or without sight — is a challenging time for young parents. For any parents. You're snipping at each other, you're exhausted. [Now] there's added stuff. This was not expected. It's a surprise and that's a big part of their season this year."
"My son is going to live a life without limits."
While Kate has sometimes been seen as a more negative character in the series, by the looks of the season four preview that aired at the end of "Strangers," being a parent to a child with special needs may be the life experience that helps her to become more positive and driven. We all know that however Jack's life between three months old and his adulthood goes, he eventually becomes a massive artist who sells out arenas, but it's the in-between that is of interest. At the end of the first episode, we see Kate silently inform Rebecca that the doctor's visit didn't go as they'd hoped, but in the preview for the season, Kate can be heard telling someone, "My son is going to live a life without limits."
Despite Jack's differences, he has a mom who appears to be willing to fight for him to have a normal life in which he can experience everything he would have had he not been blind. And what parent — whether of a child with special needs or not — can't relate to that motivational energy?