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THIS IS US: Did the Finale Disappoint, or Are We All too Obsessed With Jack Pearson’s Death?

BY Jennifer Griffin

Published 5 years ago

Fans who tuned into NBC’s This is Us season finale may have shed significantly less tears than expected.

The episode, focusing almost entirely on the fallout from Rebecca’s decision to go on tour with former flame Ben, did not end in a fiery drunken car crash claiming Jack’s life, as many (including us) expected.

Teased by the cast as “a crushing ride,” “heartbreaking” and more, “Moonshadow” went further back in time than we’ve been to before, centering on Jack as a desperate and penniless 28 year old Vietnam vet who is determined to make enough money to escape his father’s toxic stranglehold on the family, and to take his long-suffering mother with him.

When Jack’s get rich quick scheme (a high stakes Poker game) backfires spectacularly, he contemplates taking what he feels life owes him by force. About to knock over a local bar, Jack is momentarily distracted from the sight of the open cash register by a woman’s voice. It’s Rebecca, fresh from an excruciating blind date, and giving it her all on stage. Their eyes meet, the cash is forgotten and the rest is history.

Later, Jack will tell Rebecca that their meeting was his “big break” in life, and we shudder to think what might have happened to him otherwise.

Cut to Jack’s arrival in Cleveland on the night of the big tour and the shine has definitely left this marriage. Ben, while attempting to soothe Rebecca’s stage fright, leans in for a kiss. She’s horrified, and leaves, holding up the show. Meanwhile, Jack sits at the bar, waiting and drinking and waiting some more. When he eventually gets up to go look for his wife (in order to make good on that grand apology), he’s drunk and stumbling, and ends up getting into a tussle with Ben, who is subsequently socked on the nose.

With the night in shambles, Rebecca elects to leave and drive her husband home. There, the pair have a blazing row, with some never going to be able to take that back grenades tossed into the arena:

“You are a 40 year old woman singing covers in pubs. That is not a career, Rebecca. That is ridiculous!”

“That’s it Jack. Let your father out. Let go of the whole Mr. Perfect charade!”


Rebecca challenges Jack to list one thing he loves about her, and he can’t. (In fairness, the timing’s not great.) She goes to bed in defeat.

In the morning, they agree to split — temporarily — but before he goes to sleep on Miguel’s couch for an as yet undetermined number of nights he lists everything he loves about her, and it’s quite a specific list. This couple’s relationship may be in the doldrums, but creator Dan Fogelman is clearly keen to leave fans with a note of hope.

This is Us "Moonshadow" Pictured: Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Mandy Moore as Rebecca.

This is Us “Moonshadow”
Pictured: Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Mandy Moore as Rebecca.

In other news, we got a brief flash-forward to present day where Randall approaches Beth about the possibility of adopting a child, Kate decides she wants to pursue a singing career and Kevin leaves for an audition with Ron Howard. These three new plot-lines will take us forward into the show’s second season, but for now we’re still scratching our collective heads over last night’s goings on. Wasn’t Jack supposed to die? Or was that something we just assumed was going to happen? Was the finale’s “heartbreaking” element grossly over-sold? Or are we all just too hung up on Jack Pearson’s death?

Milo Ventimigila, speaking to USA Today before the big finale, had the following to say on that subject.

“Everyone, particularly now, is so focused on when he dies, how he dies, why he dies. I think the opposite. I think you should focus on how he lives, why he lives.”

Perhaps Ventimiglia has a point? Why are we so eager to rush the death of one of TV’s currently most loved characters? Aren’t we loving him (and in turns hating him) as he is? If we are happy to forego unboxing that mystery for now won’t we be ultimately happier?

“Our love story? I know if might not feel like it right now, but baby, I promise you, it’s just getting started,” were Jack’s closing words to the show’s first season. He may as well have been talking to all of us.

Jack Pearson along with This is Us has been renewed for seasons 2 and 3 by NBC.

Season 2 premieres Tuesday, September 26 (8:00-9:00 pm) on NBC, but if you can’t wait that long you can catch the opening scene through this link now.

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