In the season one finale of NBC’s This Is Us, we thought that the show’s central question would finally be answered. We should have learned how Jack Pearson, played by Milo Ventimiglia, died. WARNING: Don’t read beyond this point if you don’t want to be spoiled!
But we didn’t. Instead, “Moonshadow” revealed that Jack and Rebecca did split before he died, at least for a time. Another big reveal was Randall’s decision to adopt a new baby.
The set-up for showing Jack dying in a car crash was all there in the previous episode, “What Now?,” which ended with Jack driving away to see Rebecca (Mandy Moore) perform in Cleveland. He was inspired by Kate, who told him that he should be with her mother that night instead of home alone. That’s why Kate told Toby in the present that she believes his death was her fault.
But instead, this was a fake-out. Jack survived the drive to Cleveland and fought with Ben, who brought Rebecca out on tour. The two fought that night, leading to their split. The episode still didn’t explain how Jack died. This means the theories that Jack died of a terminal illness are still in play. We do know that Kate saw the Steelers with a Super Bowl with her father, but she was likely referring to the fact that she had his urn. We did learn that Jack lived until the children were in their teens, so he must have died in the 1990s.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly on March 13, Ventimiglia promised a “heartbreaking” finale and the episode certainly delivered on that.
“They change the game of what the show is,” Ventimiglia said of two surprising moments in the episode. “They’re two incredibly impactful moments — one’s seeking conflict, and one’s seeking resolution. You may not completely disagree with the conflict, and you may not agree with the resolution, but they sit on complete opposite sides of one another.”
In his interview with Entertainment Weekly, This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman promised that the finale would answer some questions, but post some new ones. “Without giving much away, it changes everything — and maybe in ways people might be talking about, maybe in other ways,” he told the magazine.
When Variety asked Vantimiglia how Jack died, he played coy. “That’s a pretty big question. It was revealed in episode 13 that it looked like it happened sometime in the ’90s when the kids were teenagers,” he said. “So yeah, you’ve gotta wonder a lot of things. What was the state of their marriage? What was Jack’s personal state? These are some of the questions.”
Considering that This Is Us has been renewed for two more seasons, Fogelman will have plenty of time to answer all those new questions.