This Is Us is delving into Kate’s (Chrissy Metz) past and uncovering some troubling secrets.
The episode “A Hell of a Week: Part Three” presented the latest chapter in the relationship between a teen Kate and her emotionally abusive boyfriend Marc. He spends the entire episode swinging wildly from considerate to cruel, and he insults, body-shames, and gaslights her. This culminates in him kicking Kate out of his car and leaving her to fend for herself at the side of the road. Eventually, he later returns, however, with a blanket and an apology.
Marc’s behavior is erratic and disturbing, but according to This Is Us executive producer Isaac Aptaker, it comes from a very real place. Although he didn’t go into details, Aptaker implied that Marc “has some undiagnosed mental health issues” that could be contributing to his actions.
Even so, that doesn’t justify any of the things Marc is doing or mean that Kate should in any way accept it. Health issues or not, Kate should have never felt obligated to stay in such a toxic environment.
Yet, she does. The moment in the episode where Kate hangs up on her mother (after being abandoned on the road and calling her for help) to accept Marc’s blanket could seem unbelievable to some viewers. But Aptaker explains that the situation is a difficult one and that Kate is dealing with a complex array of emotions that she’s struggling to sort through. He said,
“Kate’s a really, really intelligent woman and she knows — at least a part of her knows — that Marc is not good for her. She’s really scared in that car. She’s really scared when she gets left on the side of the road. And she comes so close to telling Rebecca, ‘I need help, I need to get out of here.’ And then he turns and goes back to sweet Marc and he approaches her with a blanket. And there is a big part of her that believes that she’s in love with him.”
“So it’s not so simple. And I think as an audience, on that phone call scene talking, you’re just hoping for her to get the words out and let Rebecca hear what she needs to hear to come rescue her daughter — and it doesn’t quite get there.”
Marc’s gradual seepage into Kate’s life is insidious. He is two-faced, equal parts comforting and controlling.
One of the biggest alarm bells concerning his behavior is a scene in a prior episode in which he shows up unannounced at Kate’s house to “rescue” her. It’s not only a clear attempt to come off as the handsome savior, but also a dominating move. What Marc wants, he gets. He feels entitled to Kate and her time, not the other way around.
Of course, Kate, being young and in love, doesn’t see it this way. With no other relationship to compare it to, she likely believes his behavior is normal. Or, perhaps, by listening to his numerous rants, she believes she is to blame for it. It’s easy to feel frustrated with characters like Kate because, as a viewer, it all seems so obvious. But we forget that she, like many other domestic abuse survivors who are stuck in these situations, are often underage, in over their head, and in love. What they need is a support system to help them understand and to get them out of the situation they are in. Thankfully, the next episode shows Kate’s family is about to do just that.
As for how all this may have effected Kate in the long run, Aptaker said,
“There’s so many things going on inside of Kate. But a first love is so formative and so shapes the way that you see yourself. And I think that the way that Marc speaks to her and treats her has a big impact on her self-esteem and self-worth for a while going forward.”
Judging by the character’s current arc, the writers appear to be showing viewers the unvarnished truth of what a toxic relationship can do to a person, even years later, when they’ve lived a relatively successful, harmonious life. Aptaker mentioned in another interview that the relationship “definitely goes to an unhealthy place that’s going to make a real impact on Kate and stay with her over the years.” So there’s confirmation that we’ll see the fallout of Marc’s abuse.
It’s important to show that in these types of relationships, the wounds don’t always heal and go away and that there is a real danger in encouraging people to “stick it out” in the hope that things will get better. Kate eventually got out, and it was the best thing she could have done for her life. At least she appears to realize it too.