Last night, This is Us — everybody’s favorite sob-along television show — offered perhaps the best, most devastating cry in the series’ two-season run. Kevin (Justin Hartley), who’s been on a season-long downward spiral, finally caved under the weight of Vicodin abuse, booze, sex, and unresolved daddy issues. The episode ends with him, crumpled — crumpled! — on the lawn of a woman he just slept with, sobbing, and repeating “I am in so much pain. I just need somebody to help me. Please help me,” in a thin, high, ragged voice. My god, it was terrible. Just terrible. So terrible, and also so satisfying.
This is Us is television’s most reliable source for the juiciest, wettest, most manipulatively cathartic cries. They are cries designed to make the audience cry along and feel cleansed by our own tears. And while, yes, every actor on This is Us cries beautifully, in my opinion, it’s the three male leads that offer the most satisfying-to-watch sobs.
There are many reason why the crying men of This is Us make for the best hour of television all week. First, the diversity of their crying styles: Did you know there are so many different ways to cry? There’s Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) who tries to be strong, even though he cries easily. For him, the cry starts with a reddening of the eyes and some strong sniffles, like he’s sort of trying to delay the experience. Then he looks down, up, all around, avoiding eye contact until the moment he really starts to cry, and then his eyes are so plaintive and emotive you realize the reason he didn’t make eye contact — because beholding the amount of pain in his eyes might actually kill you.
Then there’s how Randall (Sterling K. Brown: sexy, especially while weeping) cries. He broadcasts that he’s about to cry with a pout and a single tear that that falls from his right eye, leaving little shiny, wet footprints down his cheeky. His cries start small, but end in full-bodied sobs. Sometimes Fleet Foxes plays. And then there is Kevin — stoic, repressed Kevin — who literally tries to push the tears back into his eyes and the snot back into his nose with his hands.
However, the pleasure of seeing all the crying men on this show isn’t simply that they are hot men crying. Nor does it just mean that men cry so infrequently on TV that seeing one is like seeing a baby cry for the first time, realizing the baby just became aware that there is pain and injustice in the world, and then wanting to cry too.
More broadly: it’s rare to see men do the majority of the emotional labor on a TV show — that’s usually saved for female characters. And on This is Us, the trio of men (and all satellite male characters) seem to do more than even Mandy Moore, who is always doing the most when it comes to emoting. But Randall, Jack, and Kevin really do suffer on this show; they get dumped and fired and lose people and have panic attacks and are set off by nice comments the mailman makes about their recently deceased birth father. They worry and cry and curl up in fetal position and bawl in hotel rooms. They grapple with their emotions and reckon with their psyches, like every day is a little melodrama. Now nice. Thank you, men, for doing the work. As thanks, the Cut has made a supercut of all their best, most devastating crying.
Watch at your own risk, with a box of tissues next to you and maybe also an emotional support dog.