When This Is Us introduced Malik in the Season 4 premiere, most fans guessed his connection to the Pearsons would be Deja. He was a high-school boy in Philly, the city where Randall’s family just moved. Deja was starting ninth grade, the new girl in school. But eyebrows went to the ceiling when the episode revealed Malik had a six-month-old daughter. Deja dating a teenage father? And where was the child’s mother? Viewers still don’t know who Jennifer is on This Is Us, but everyone assumes it will come to a head eventually. Warning: Spoilers for This Is Us follow.
Since Deja first brought Malik to the dance studio opening and introduced him to the family, Beth has been fan opinion personified. Deja has been through a lot. The last thing she needs is for her first teenage relationship to come with complications, and when those complications include that the boy in question “puts babies in people”? No.
But at the same time, keeping teenage lovers apart is a losing proposition. Just ask Romeo and Juliet’s folks how that went for them. Perhaps Malik and his parents are good people. It’s essential to keep an open mind. With that attitude, Beth invited the family to dinner, somehow failing to put together they would have to bring baby Jenelle when they did.
That was only the start of a disastrous meal, but what neither the Pearsons nor Malik’s parents realized was that events had outpaced them.
All this came about because Deja and Malik skipped school so he could show her the “real Philly.” He took her to Max’s Steaks; they toured the city’s famous Urban Street Murals and the Philadelphia Magic Gardens. But at Penn Treaty Park, Deja balked when Malik took her hand. She has plans for her life. Mr. Smooth Malik was too dangerous for her to trust, especially after watching her mom be played and lied to by men all her life.
Also, Malik has a child. This is concrete, indisputable evidence he is way more experienced than a girl who has never been kissed.
Malik tried to explain. He admitted he didn’t even know why Jennifer had liked him. It was the worst day of his life when he’d told his parent he’d gotten her pregnant.
Malik is a sweet guy, and someone willing to take on the responsibility of his actions, evidenced by getting custody of his daughter. But even though he took Deja to Boathouse Row and won her heart, questions remain.
Malik didn’t say why he got custody of Jenelle, or if there was a legal battle, or if adoption was on the table. Moreover, no one has said where Jennifer is. She’s not in school with Malik and Deja, or she likely would have come up by now. Where are her parents, do they live in Philly? Did she transfer schools? Is she older? There’s a big puzzle piece missing here.
Malik’s mother, though, might be a clue. Beth was too busy being insulted by her insinuation that Deja was fast or bad news to think about why she might assume that maybe it’s because Malik’s last girlfriend was. Either way, it’s a complication, one they’ll eventually have to face.
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