Warning: This post contains spoilers for the season 2 premiere of This is Us.
This is Us has been away from us for too long. To make up for its absence, the show delivered a season two premiere that packed an emotional wallop and shared some clues to help audiences find out how Milo Ventimiglia’s patriarchal character, Jack, met his demise. I’m still shook from that final scene – and the episode gave us lots more emotional moments for the rest of the Pearson clan.
Here’s a quick recap of the second season premiere. We pick up where we left off with Jack and Rebecca, as they gather their kids together at a diner to tell them that they’re taking a break. Understandably, the Big Three are shook, and later in the episode, we realize Randall had overheard his parents’ big fight the night before.
In the present day, it’s birthday number 38 for Kate, Kevin and Randall and they are all pursuing their dreams of the moment – Kevin in a Ron Howard movie and still with Sophie, who missed his birthday celebration due to caring for her sick mother, Kate is auditioning to be a singer in a wedding band and Randall is looking to adopt a son. Toby has issues with Kevin, Beth isn’t 100% sold on the adoption and Kate has an attack of insecurity and bolts from the audition. By the end of the episode, Kevin, after admitting that being a supportive brother to Kate is what he feels the only thing he’s good at, smooths things over with Toby. Beth convinces Randall that adopting an older child would be the best way to honor his father’s legacy and Kate goes back to the audition, gives a boffo speech about fat shaming and discovers her singing voice, which kind of does need some work, is the real reason she didn’t get the gig.
And then…that last scene. Past Rebecca goes to Miguel’s, where her husband is staying and wants to work things out. Jack admits he has a drinking problem and is reluctant to return home until can conquer his demons. Rebecca convinces him to come home, assuring him everything will be alright…but it won’t and we all know it. Cut to Rebecca, in the car, wearing a Steelers jersey, with a bag, presumably filled with Jack’s things. Kate and Randall are at Miguel’s, and are crying inconsolably. Rebecca pulls up to Chez Pearson, which we discover has been burnt down. And now we’re all crying.
Well, there is one person who’s not crying, and that’s Jack. Milo Ventimiglia sat down and talked season two with Refinery29. He shared how he relates to his character and how you’ll never see him shed a tear.
What audiences should take away from Jack’s death:
“Don’t focus on how the man died, focus on how he lived, and how he impacted his kids and his marriage.”
“I think once people discover how and when and why he died, hopefully they can move on from it. It’s like death that happens in our own lives: you have to accept that it happens. And you have to accept that it’s coming and there’s nothing you can do about it. None of us can escape it.”
What Milo finds “personally relatable” about Jack:
“I think it’s Jack’s heart. He’s not a perfect man, but he’s a good man. And he tries hard to give people a lot of hope and inspiration, without making it feel like he’s telling them what to do. He’s all about inspiring good, whether he’s good or not. I think his intentions are always right. That’s something I respect about him. I enjoy playing a guy who’s trying to get his kids and marriage everything, even though he’s flawed as a human being.”
Why you won’t see Jack cry:
“Jack never cries, and that’s by design. (show creator Dan) Fogelman and I spoke about it a lot. Everyone else in the show is emotional, but Jack isn’t. He’s an anchor. Someone has to be the anchor. I think about my own parents, I didn’t see my father cry until I was 21. And Jack died well before his kids were that age.”
Jack isn’t crying, and neither is NBC, as the season premiere scored some big ratings. The episode, which aired Tuesday night, got a 3.8 Nielsen rating for adults under the age of 50. For reference, the spring season one finale got a 3.4 and the series; premiere garnered a 2.8. The show is definitely on track to avoid the “sophomore slump” that’s taken many a show down a peg or two (I’m looking at you, Empire).
So, when are we going to find out the whole story about Jack’s death? Strap in, as it’s going to take a while, according to Dan Fogleman, who talked to Entertainment Weekly about the slow reveal. He said that creating the mystery surrounding Jack’s death “was part of the plan from the inception.” He says of the episode’s last scene, “there are a zillion clues that are all over. Our hardcore dramedy fans can study the last two minutes of the show like a Zapruder film. And they won’t be disappointed.” And for fans thinking that plot situations introduced in season one, like Kate feeling a sense of responsibility for Jack’s death, are not going to fall by the wayside. Says Dan, “We’ve not done anything by accident. This has always been the plan, so everything we’ve constructed has been for this.”
Dan says that we will “see everything we need to know about Jack” this season. One thing’s probably certain – Toby didn’t do it, despite Chris Sullivan’s recent tweet to the contrary. God, I love this show.
— Chris Sullivan (@SullivanTweet) September 23, 2017
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