This Is Us likes to play with the emotions of its viewers (this writer included), but at least, as the show goes on, we’re starting to get answers about the backgrounds of our characters. Viewers know present Beth, but past Beth is important, too. And that’s why finally learning about Beth’s backstory on This Is Us is so helpful — it finally explains the Season 3 flash-forward of Beth in a ballet studio, and it really helps fill out the relationship Beth has with Randall.
Oh, and don’t you worry, Bendall lovers — Beth and Randall are absolutely fine. There were hints of trouble in their relationship earlier in Season 2 and Season 3, but these two are on solid ground. After the Feb. 17 episode, we know about Beth’s upbringing, her stern mother, and the tragic death of her father in Beth’s teenage years (kind of like Randall, huh?). Beth was a ballerina, and by the time she was ready to graduate from high school, Beth’s mother decided it was time for Beth to choose a new path. She chose to apply to college, to go to Carnegie Mellon (we finally know where Beth and Randall met!), and to quit dancing. And that’s why it makes so much sense that Beth ends up where she does in that flash-forward.
Beth explains to her mother, as an adult, that she never should have had the opportunity to dance taken away from her, and Beth’s entrance into the dance academy and pitch to be a teacher is her way of reclaiming that for herself. In their marriage, Randall is the kite and Beth is the string, keeping him from flying away, but it's about time that Beth gets to be the string for a little bit. She is finally seeing that she needs to be able to dream and dance — literally and metaphorically — and this is the step to do it. She is combining her pragmatic side with her daydreams, helping future generations of dancers to pirouette on command. Hopefully, she will also be able to teach them what to do if it doesn’t work out, too.
Beth’s backstory also gives wonderful insight into Beth and Randall’s relationship. Her mother was very stern, and her dad was a dreamer. In a speech she never gave to her father, Beth tells him that she married a man so much like him that it still astonishes her — and Beth has chosen the same place in her own marriage. Randall truly believes that his wife can do anything, and they certainly have a solid foundation from which Beth can explore.
In a recent interview with Good Housekeeping, Susan Kelechi Watson, who plays Beth, says Season 3 will go even deeper into Beth's finding what she wants. "This season Beth has become undone in ways we haven’t seen before, and that will continue," she said. "It’s been wonderful to learn about the dreams she had, who she wanted to become — and how far from that she is.”
This Is Us has expanded on Miguel and Toby (a little), so it’s only right that Beth get her due. Zoey and Beth grew up together, so this episode is kind of a two-fer, but it’s only right that Beth gets her own story. She is one of the foundational personalities of This Is Us. It’s about time that Beth’s layers are peeled back, and it’s about time that she does something that’s just for her — not for Randall, her kids, or her mother.