This Is Us just did it again.
We guess we shouldn't be surprised at this point.
And yet: That's sort of the whole point, isn't it?
On This Is Us Season 4 Episode 1, which aired Tuesday evening on NBC, the beloved drama shifted our focus from its core characters to a bunch fo newbies... prior to wrapping up the premiere with yet another twist that brought everything together.
Appropriately titled "Strangers," the episode introduced fans to:
Cassidy (Jennifer Morrison), an intense military officer whose wartime stint in Afghanistan left her detached, drinking and not very close to her husband, Ryan (Nick Wechsler), and their young son.
After losing some control, along with her loved ones, Cassidy sought assistance from a veteran’s support group.
From there, we saw her first meeting was interrupted by… Griffin Dunne’s Nicky, who hurled a chair through the window in a fit of drunken anger.
Then there was Malik (Asante Blackk), a teenager who’s attempting to provide for a young daughter -- at any cost.
This new character's parents are Darnell (Omar Epps) and Kelly (Marsha Stephanie Blake), who shower him with affection and also plenty of babysitting.
Darnell made sure that Malik had a few moments of carefree bliss at a friend’s barbecue, where the latter grew instantly smitten with a new-to-Philly girl whose name is… Deja (Lyric Ross).
Following along so far? Because we're about to change time periods.
In a flash-forward, viewers met a bold, quippy, struggling blind musician ... who married the waitress at the diner he happened to visit by happenstance ... and is now enjoying burgeoning fame, because this guy is… Jack (Blake Stadnik).
Yes, present-day premature son of Kate and Toby!
Both grandmother and mother had music dreams -- and Jack was the one who seemed to turn similar dreams into an actual, successful reality.
There's your major Season 4 premiere twist, folks.
Elsewhere, however, this opener was anchored in the past, traveling back to the early 1970s as Jack and Rebecca returned from their amazing road trip and were feeling out the possibilities of this new romance.
Jack was invited to meet her parents (the incomporable Elizabeth Perkins and Tim Matheson) at a country club dinner, where our favorite underdog Vietnam veteran managed to impress everyone at the table.
Ultimately, however, Rebecca’s father shook his hand ... and told Jack that wasn’t good enough for his daughter.
That's a lot to take in overall, of course.
Thankfully, showrunner Dan Fogelman spoke to Entertainment Weekly and broke down this shocking This Is Us premiere.
Why did he introduce new characters in this fashion?
Normally you would meet characters through the eyes of your main characters, which always gives you a little bit of a skewed perspective, because you’re meeting them through our characters. But that’s not how you meet strangers in real life.
The first time you meet the person who becomes your husband or wife or your new boss or your business partner, they’ve had a whole life before you and the meeting with them is your first experience of them.
So I wanted to give the audience that feeling of getting to know these people before you got to know them in relation to our main characters.
What will the relationship between Cassidy and Kevin be like?
The relationship is complicated, it’s formative, and it’s a very deep, interesting, bizarre relationship. And whether or not it’s ever romantic is for the series to delve into a little bit later on.
But it’s an interesting thing when you look back — she’s going to be somebody who adjusts a part of the course of Kevin’s life. As is the entire first half of the season that he’s embarking on.
How far might the show flash forward?
Beyond Jack at the concert? I mean, anything’s possible. It’s not in the current plan right now...
We do have plans for the future and that which we call “the deeper future" -- because we call it the one where Rebecca’s in bed “the deep future” -- but I think we would only being going past that linearly.
Meaning a continuation of where we’ve been with Jack, but not even jumping further into the 2300s or anything like that.
How will Jack’s blindness affect Kate and Toby in the present day going forward?
It’s a gigantic story... 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.