The aftermath of Randall and Beth's fight, the fate of Kate and Toby's baby, and the future of Kevin and Zoe are also laid out in the emotional season finale.
Finally, all became clear on those agonizingly drawn out flash-forwards with the "This Is Us" season finale. And yes, it's heartbreaking. Because of course it is.
This was a huge hour of television even beyond the revelation of who the family was coming together to see, and how that family makeup is looking these days. We flashed back to the past to learn that Jack thinks corn sandwiches should be a thing, proving how integral Rebecca is to everything.
Mandy Moore is the only actress to have appeared in every timeline so far, and it became crystal clear why that is with this week's episode. She is the center of this family. She is the engine, as Jack described her to an exhausted nurse. She is the heart and soul of her family.
But there was so much more to unpack before we could even step into that future. Beth and Randall had still to navigate the aftermath of their huge fight, little Jack was still fighting for his life in the hospital and Kevin and Zoe were grappling with the idea of parenthood.
And don't worry, they slipped in another quick shock to the gut in the closing seconds to keep us on the edges of our seats for next season.
As we do every week, we're going to single out the show's most powerful moments, scoring them by how many tissues we tore through just to watch them. Believe us, these are happy tears of anguish.
"I Don't Know What That Is"
Jack was in rare form tonight, cracking us up with several good jokes. "Blockbuster's not going anywhere," he told the kids in the flashback, which brought out a small chuckle, but his best was his reactions to a bleary-eyed young Kevin flirting with that nurse.
After telling her that the kids couldn't handle one night without their mother, Kevin shot back, "We could have made it one night." He then turned to the nurse with a wink and a smile, "Hi." We don't know what it was, either, but it had to be the early stages of that kind of cocky swagger that has carried Kevin through life. And it was absolutely hilarious to see the youngest Kevin actor, Parker Bates, laying it on so thick
1 tissue (to sop up our tears of laughter)
"You Have This Magical Quality"
It was a powerfully uplifting episode, and one of the best moments was a retread of a moment already shared between Rebecca and Kate. But this time, Kate had the courage to acknowledge her own insecurities and really tell Rebecca just how amazing she was as a mother and as a person. This was a huge development for Kate, as well, because owning your own flaws is the first step toward conquering them. Maybe she can find her own sense of value and worth now.
Jack has gotten all the credit as this amazing father, and he was in so many ways, but it's taken perhaps this long for the Big Three to start to realize just how important Rebecca was to the success of their lives and upbringing. She had to be the tough one, for the most part, but she was perhaps every bit as amazing and super and magical as Jack ever was.
2 tissues (get that respect and acknowledgement)
"You Won the Lottery"
Deja has been laying low much of the season, which is sad because she emerged last year as one of the show's strongest new voices. She came out like a shot this week, showing just how much Randall's influence and love and support has meant to her by turning the tables on him.
How ingenious of her was it to give Randall the full Randall complete with over-the-top gesture and a meaningful speech to slap him back to reality about his life and what he needs to do. And yet, Deja did not offer any solutions because she is yet a child. But she has the wisdom of her life to see that Randall has "won the lottery" twice in his: once by being adopted into the Pearson family and once by finding Beth.
2 tissues (the student has become the master)_
"I Think You Made the Wrong Choice"
"Piece by piece" Kevin is finding himself, and it's the same advice he gave Tess as she continues to struggle with the aftermath of her coming out. She just doesn't know what's right anymore or what's next for her. Kevin didn't have the answers, but he was able to relate to her in his own way and proved that he really does have what it takes to be a father.
He also proved that he really wants to be a father, which is just a deal-breaker for Zoe. And in the end, a relationship breaker. Already, steamroller Kevin had continued talking about kids even after telling her he was fine without it. That not-so-subtle Pearson personality domination was coming to the fore, and Zoe was smart to recognize it as the line they could not afford to ignore. It's a shame, because they were good for each other, but maybe that's all they needed to be right now. Good to get them each into a better place for what's next.
3 tissues (sometimes the right thing is harder)
"I Found the Door"
Randall has trained everyone to go behind his back and make grand gestures. Even as Deja was delivering her speech to Randall, Beth was sneaking off to reconfigure her dream of teaching dance. She realized there was some truth to Randall's words that teaching bored housewives isn't necessarily living that dream.
And so, Beth made the trek to Philadelphia to look at studio space. Randall has bought a building and entered public office. He's in a position now where if he steps down, it's a betrayal. And yet, for family, he was willing to do just that. Beth found another solution, one that's far harder, requires more sacrifice, but is believing in and betting on one another. And so this Pearson family is moving, too.
It's going to be exciting to see the family adjust to their new home, new city and new dynamic. There's so much change happening at the close of this episode, with Rebecca and Miguel moving closer to Kate and Toby to help with the baby, and then Kevin showing up as well. The present-era sets are all going to have to change for next season.
3 tissues (love found a way)
"Your Son, Randall"
Just like it took way too long to find out how Jack died, they really drug this one out and threw so many red herrings in the way. We saw future Toby sad, so did Jack die? Randall and Beth were not together physically, so did they break up? Well, it turns out there were a lot of fakeouts along the way. But one thing remains constant in the Pearson household and that is Rebecca at the heart of it.
And so, of course is it her they are coming together to see. And in doing so, we learn that Rebecca is suffering from Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia, as Randall introduces himself to her. And in a surprising turn of events, we also see that Nicky is there at her bedside, proving that he somehow comes into the fold sometime between now and then.
The future also introduces us to Kevin's son, though we do not yet see Kevin or the woman he presumably had this child with. Could it be the return of Sophie, even though she was engaged last time we saw her, or someone altogether new. Toby showed up and said that Jack was on his way with "her," but he spoke to Jack and note Kate ... does that mean there's trouble in that relationship?
Randall and Beth, of course, are still madly in love with one another. Tess brought Randall for his sweet reunion with his wife at Kevin's huge house -- which he'd apparently never seen -- leaving Deja and Annie still unaccounted for in the future narrative. Also missing was Miguel, though it's possible he passed years before Rebecca.
While it's great to see a glimpse into the future for these characters, it also leaves us desperately curious as to what's transpired between now and then, and really, really worried about why we're so focused on this day in the future. Is this the day Rebecca dies? Is that why the family's come together? This is the only flash-forward we've been given, so it has to be big.
We've spent so long building up to this scene it surely has to be more meaningful than just what we've got here, as fun as it is checking up on everyone. But it also can't be something we drag out for another full season. If this is Rebecca's last night, then we need to close that chapter and either have this be the furthest into the future we ever go, or we need to move on from this as well.
We're all for spotlighting these characters throughout their lives as every bit of it enriches their overall story. It's what makes "This Is Us" one of the most unique and special broadcast network dramas of all time. We are getting this story like putting together a puzzle, disconnected pieces that slowly come together to create something beautiful.
"This Is Us" will return for its fourth season in the fall on NBC.
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