When is the last time you and your friend(s) had a real conversation? Have you reached out to them at all today?
Did you check in just because?
A Million Little Things Season 1 Episode 1 probably had you reaching for your phone around the same time it had you reaching for a box of tissues.
Let's get the obvious point out of the way. There are some similar vibes to This is Us, but can anyone blame another network for trying to capitalize off of such a fantastic hit?
There is a reason the family drama did so well. People were craving something to break up the monotony of crime, legal, and medical drama. A Million Little Things has a similar vibe right down to the flashbacks and near deification of the departed.
However, writing the series off as just another tear-jerker is patently unfair. It's so much more than that, and the series is juggling so many different elements that there is anticipation for what's to come next. The hour almost felt too short.
John: Friendship is when you don't care when your buddy throws up in your car when you're taking him back from chemo.
Gary: And yet he keeps mentioning it.
John: Friendship is believing that your friend will one day make his movie.
Rome: What do you think I'm doing?
John: Friendship is holding a friend's hand when she loses her restaurant even though you know she's going to open up a better one. It's the person that you trust with your wallet, and your keys, and your wife, and your kids and it's being able to have the hard conversations and willing to listen. It's a million little things.
Everyone: A million little things.
John: A million little things.
The series postulates that friendship is a million little things. The entire series is contingent on it, but it's not just friendship. Life is comprised of a million little things too.
The series portrays that well, capturing the ebb and flow of life, all the ups and downs, and the different components to it because even in the face of such a tragedy, life is never just one thing. So, A Million Little Things has a bit of everything in it.
Despite the darkness and melancholy that hangs over the series, it's simultaneously optimistic and uplifting as well. It's a drama, comedy, suspense, and mystery all wrapped up in a tiny bow.
It's scandalous, confounding, provocative, sad, messy, schmaltzy, and humorous, too. The unexpected but realistic humor and mystery round out the angst, which makes it appealing even for those who are inclined to avoid something this heavy.
Million has a lighthearted quality that levels out the dark subject matter. And the subject matter is dark. It's difficult for a show to tackle a precarious and delicate topic like suicide.
There's no right way to talk about it without putting people on edge. It's like dancing through a minefield, which is precisely why A Million Little Things is so important.
Suicide is something that no one ever wants to talk about, and when they do, they're so afraid of saying the wrong thing -- the politically incorrect thing, that the conversation often gets shut down before it can even take off.
A Million Little Things can be a conversation-starter. Viewers and critics can disagree on how the show addresses suicide, depression, and mental health, but at least it's getting people talking.
Maggie: Maybe he just lost sight of the horizon. I was watching this documentary on JFK Jr. You remember when his plane went down? ... Anyway, Kennedy was a novice pilot. He was flying at night, and the clouds came in, and his instruments were telling him which way was up, but he didn't trust them. The truth was right in front of him, and he couldn't see it. He lost sight of the horizon and nosedived, and by the time he realized what was happening, it was too late, and he couldn't pull up.
Gary: What does this have to do--
Maggie: That's depression. Now maybe he wasn't depressed; maybe something else was going on. People keep secrets from loved ones, and sometimes, you don't even know they have these secrets until an event like this happens.
Our outlook and understanding of mental health are progressively better than it has been over the years. Mental illness is still stigmatized, however, and Million shows some awareness of that.
It would seem problematic to have the show revolve around John's "why." Building up a season of John's friends and family trying to understand why he did it may seem insensitive, tone-deaf, or exploitative, but you know what else it is? It's real.
It's a legitimate question that loved ones turn over in their heads after losing someone to suicide. A Million Little Things isn't trying to show us the right way to broach the topic/act and all the mixed up feelings that accompany it. It's showing us a reality of how people deal with the issue.
Like it or not, no matter how much information there is about depression and suicide, people instinctively cling to a reason whether it's a concrete explanation ( financial or work woes or marital strife) or something metaphysical involving the universe or some higher power.
That happens. That's realistic, and that highlights the flaws of humanity and in this case, these rich, messy characters.
Each one of them tried to determine some reason why John would kill himself. To them, it didn't make any sense. But based on everything they shared about John, it wasn't that much of a surprise.
John was the one who had it all together. He was the one who was always there for everyone else even if they weren't there for him. Out of everyone, he was the one they never worried about much.
He always had a fix for every problem, and he had the perfect Hallmark-esque words to say for any occasion. He was magnetic, inspirational, and seemingly eternally optimistic. On the surface, he was the happiest of them all.
John was the glue that kept all of them together, and it's an effect he had on everyone. Even the characters like Katherine or Regina loved him to bits. Let Eddie tell it, Katherine doesn't like him, but she was fond of John despite seeming inconvenienced by his funeral.
John was perfect. The series idealize the man in the eyes of his loved ones, so far, and we're along for the ride buying into it too. John's final act before he died was arranging for Regina to get the restaurant of her dreams like she always wanted.
From the countless stories of how he helped his friends out from urging them to go to rehab, taking them to chemotherapy, to never collecting money on the season tickets, John was kind and selfless, so his last good deed fell in line with his character.
He couldn't be that perfect though, right?
Eddie: Do you have any idea why he did this?
Ashley: Why does everyone keep asking me that?
Eddie: Sorry, I just know you were with him all day.
Ashley: I didn't know him like you guys did.
Gary [trying to unlock John's phone]: What's the code? [Ashley types it in] See, there are things you know that we don't.
The most curious matter is John's relationship with Ashley. What was the nature of it? She and John were close but closer than they probably should have been.
She found his suicide note, but she's keeping it from everyone including Delilah. She practically camped out at the office and was deleting files off the computer. What is Rutledge?
Ashley knows more about John than she wants the others to know, like the passcode to his phone. It's strange that she had his phone instead of his wife. Also, why didn't Ashley contact Delilah when John died? Ashley contacted Gary, and he was the one who had to tell Delilah the news.
They're trying to lead us to believe Ashley and John may have had an affair, but it almost seems too obvious a choice. What if she's his daughter or something? Anyway, Gary is suspicious of Ashley, so he'll be the one who will figure something out.
It's good to have James Roday back in front of the camera. Gary is a standout character and the most entertaining. He brings the dark humor with his acerbic wit and cynicism and often steals scenes every time he's in them.
He got brownie points right out the gate for being the one out of 100,000 men diagnosed with breast cancer. He handles it like a champ with boatloads of snark and sleeping with most of his support group, but the fear of it returning never goes away.
That fear may shift towards Maggie when he inevitably finds out that her cancer is back. Gary has something special with Maggie. The fact that she's a therapist doesn't hurt matters either.
She found something special in him because he's one of the few men who understand her experience, but he has someone who can seamlessly fit in with his friends and help him sort out his grief.
Gary is the angriest about John's death. He's pissed off at John and the entire situation. It was a nice counterbalance to all of the "look on the bright side" coming from Eddie and Rome.
Gary called all of them out on what falls under the umbrella of "toxic masculinity" where guys don't talk about their feelings, especially as it pertains to mental health. It would've hit the mark if not for the other members of his group.
Gary: I spent almost 950 hours sitting next to John, and I had no idea that he was depressed. Did you? Did you? No! You want to know why? Because we don't talk.
Eddie: Yes we do.
Gary: No, Ed, we don't. The last time we said anything deep was when we were in that elevator. We were more honest with each other before we were friends. Now we do this. We sit shoulder to shoulder like guys, what we're doing right now, and the truth, the very sad truth, is that we don't really know each other. I bet you two don't even know what color my eyes are. Yeah, I'll drink. I'll drink to whatever we thought this is.
John was a walking, talking motivational placard, so it hardly seems like he would let the others get away with not talking about what's troubling them, even if he didn't practice what he preached. Rome internalizes, but he's a sensitive soul, and it shows. Eddie is a stay-at-home dad who admits he's in touch with his feelings.
The "we don't talk about the things that matter" rant Gary went on was evidently for the viewer's benefit more than anything. The effort was appreciated though because it's true.
Eddie quickly taking to John's "everything happens for a reason" perspective was especially bothersome given his relationship with Delilah.
He used the man's own words to justify pursuing his wife. He transitioned from getting choked up at the eulogy to being blase and wanting to move on with Delilah too damn quick for my taste.
Eddie is the least likable. He is sleeping with, fell in love with, and plans on running off with his best friend's wife. John's words about friends being the ones you trust with your kids and wife should haunt Eddie.
Then, Eddie ignored John's phone call the day he died because he was sleeping with Delilah at the time. John's final phone call was to Eddie. That leaves an acidic taste in one's mouth, doesn't it?
Worse yet, John is the one who helped Eddie get sober. John's death didn't have Eddie on the verge of drinking again, nor was it his guilt over banging his best friend's wife, no, it was Delilah's rejection.
Delilah: We can't do this. Not now. What if he knew about us? What if that's why he did it?
Eddie: He didn't know.
Delilah: Maybe that's why he tried to call you.
Eddie: Tell me you don't love me, and I will leave here right now.
Delilah: If you love me, you'll leave here right now.
There is probably more to this story, but Eddie a sucky person and friend. We don't know much about Katherine yet, other than she is a workaholic and ice queen, but that doesn't give anyone the right to cheat on her.
Think back to Katherine and Delilah holding hands as Katherine extended her genuine and heartfelt condolences at John's funeral. Now tell me that isn't effed up. Eddie finally told the guys he's in love with someone else, but it'll be wild when they realize that person is Delilah.
Rome taking to John's words had more of an emotional impact. He was seconds away from killing himself when he got the call. The scene was poignant in so many striking ways.
The news playing in the background was a reminder of how life can be too much sometimes. The bad in it is overwhelming, but then there were subtle things that stood out.
He went to use filtered water to down his pills like it would've made a difference. He overheard the reporter draw parallels to Boston's tap water with Flint and he didn't want to use it, like the water poisoning him would have made a difference if he was planning to overdose.
The letter he wrote his wife was heartbreaking. He talked about how unbearably sad he was despite her being perfect and implied that he was holding her back. He mentioned wanting her to find happiness as if she could ever find happiness in his absence.
He wanted her to be strong and implied that she's always strong, and the cultural part of that struck a chord. It's a common (and harmful) misconception imposed on black women by others (and themselves) that they have to be strong all the time.
It made the many scenes where an oblivious Regina didn't know how to process John's death or how to approach Delilah about it not knowing that she was almost Delilah too hard to watch.
Gary: Everything happened for a reason. Really? Tell me one good thing that's happened because if this. One.
Roman: If you hadn't called to tell me about John, I would be dead right now. I had a mouth full of pills when I answered that phone. And I know, I know, I know that sounds crazy. Because I have an incredible life, and I am married to the most amazing woman, but sometimes, I feel so hopeless. It's like I can't breathe, only I'm breathing. And I just think, you know, maybe if I just stopped it wouldn't hurt so much. And for the record, Gary, your eyes are hazel, and they're magnificent.
Gary: We got you, man. We got you.
Regina also unknowingly addressed the stigmatization of mental illness in the black community. It's still taboo, and that extra layer of what Rome is dealing with was subtle but handled well.
Rome breaking down and confiding in his friends at the Bruins game was emotional, but it tapered off after that with no follow-through from Gary outside of the photo on the stairs, nor Eddie (he's the worst), which was odd.
Over to you, Fanatics. Are you all in for A Million Little Things? How do you feel about Delilah and Eddie? What is Ashley hiding? Hit the comments!
If you missed the premiere, you can watch A Million Little Things online here via TV Fanatic!
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.