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THIS IS US: Tracing The Timeline to Jack Pearson’s Death

BY Alan Mann

Published 4 years ago

This is Us returned to our screens last night with a surprisingly somber hour of TV.

The feelgood family drama, noted for its celebration of family and diversity, checked back in with the Pearsons on their 37th birthday in a throwback to last season’s premiere. However this year there was little to celebrate as uncomfortable truths, uncomfortable change, and the specter of death presided over the hour. 

The usually buoyant Toby (Chris Sullivan) bickered with Kevin (Justin Hartley) over the siblings’ closeness. “I’m supposed to be her person, not you!” an exasperated Toby complained to a bemused Kevin, following a day of interference on Kevin’s part. “I’m the one who’s supposed to cheer her up. I’m the one who’s supposed to buy her birthday dinner.”

It finally took Kate (Chrissy Metz) to remind both men — and herself — “I’m a 37 year old woman. I shouldn’t need to be pushed or coddled. Not by a man, not by a husband, not by a brother, not by anyone.”

Inspired to audition for the role of a singer in a local band, Kate was turned down, not because of perceptions surrounding her age or weight, but because she just wasn’t a good enough chanteuse.


Meanwhile, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) encountered problems of their own when Beth began to feel she wasn’t part of the decision making process in Randall’s quest to adopt a baby boy.

He wants a little boy. He wants to adopt a little boy because he was a little boy when he was adopted. He wants to honor his two fathers by replicating the exact same situation he had. Let me ask you a question. Do you have any kids laying around that were left at a fire station? Because that might really scratch my husband’s itch.” Beth snarked to the adoption agent reviewing their case, at one point.

It’s been a tough year for Beth, who pretty much rolled with the punches when William (Ron Cephas Jones) came to stay, followed shortly thereafter by Kevin. The couple were however able to consider an alternative by the hour’s end when Beth suggested they adopt an older child — “someone who no one else in the whole damn world is going to help.”

Are we about to get a new Pearson? Watch this space!

But perhaps the biggest heartache of the night surrounded last season’s cliffhanger, and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) split. The premiere was quick to pick up the reins of that particular story-line, giving us a blow by blow account of the following day’s events, including Jack and Rebecca’s sit down with teen Kate, Randall and Kevin (where we discover that Randall observed most of the previous night’s fight).

While Jack unhappily settles in at Miguel’s, hopeful that Rebecca will call him at any moment, Rebecca takes the day to reconsider their situation.  Finally she goes to retrieve her husband only to discover that he is drunk, and has quietly been for several weeks. Jack is determined to face his demons alone, and closes the door on his heartbroken wife. However, refusing to take no for an answer, she convinces him to come home, gently reassuring him “Everything’s gonna be fine. A few months from now everything will be back to normal.”

Flash-forward a few months and we are witness to a disturbing montage, filled with clues, concerning the date and nature of Jack Pearson’s death.

In a recent interview Milo Ventimiglia spilled a little on Jack’s demise, suggesting that fans should watch the first handful of episodes very carefully.

“We’re going to get answers to Jack’s death very quickly,” said Ventimiglia. “But if you know anything about Dan Fogelman’s style of storytelling, with every answer you’re going to get about twenty questions. I think people should really pay attention to the early episodes, and what happened, what it was, when it was, and how it was.”

Taking that advice to heart, we carefully went over those closing moments, scouring for clues that will undoubtedly pop up in future episodes, and provide fans with an exact timeline to Jack Pearson’s death.

  • We see Rebecca driving home from (presumably) the morgue. It is night. The lights from a police car are visible through the window. On the empty passenger seat are Jack’s personal belongings, including his watch, wedding ring, a spiral bound notebook and a flag pin.
  • Rebecca is wearing her Pittsburgh Steelers shirt.
  • At Miguel’s house, the children are comforted by Miguel. Kate has a dog. Randall is comforted by a girl with long red hair we haven’t yet seen in the series.
  • Kate is distraught that Kevin is not present. She tells Randall that “We have to find Kev. He needs to hear it from me.”
  • Kevin is with girlfriend Sophie. His leg is in a cast. The words “Get Well Soon. S.” are written in red sharpie.
  • Rebecca pulls up outside the Person family home, and the camera pauses briefly on the red mail box before panning back to reveal the house effectively gutted by an earlier fire. A fire crew are present, and yellow tape surrounds the house. Stoic until now, Rebecca finally breaks down in (angry?) tears.
And that’s pretty much all the clues we can effectively glean at this point. Aside from the tiny details, it might be Rebecca’s shirt that provides the biggest clue. The Steelers will play a bigger role in season two “as an entity, as a big thing they’re watching. We have the Super Bowl episode this year so football is a big part,” series creator Dan Fogelman said earlier this year.
The Steelers have won six of their eight Super Bowl appearances. They lost in 1996, against the Dallas Cowboys, and in 2011 against the Green Bay Packers. Given that Kevin, Kate and Randall are 37 in 2017, the timeline could easily accommodate the 1996 game with the Pearsons aged 16 years.
Knowing that This is Us has secured the post Super bowl slot, our guess is that the episode will not only be football themed, but will also be the one
One last question to consider: Is it a little weird to think of Jack being cremated and his ashes being kept by Kate after dying in a house fire caused by Kate?
This is Us continues Tuesdays on NBC.

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