Checking in on the "Big Three" one last time, this is how things ended for Kevin, Kate and Randall.
It's been a powerful journey filled with shocking twists and turns, plenty of laughs and lots and lots of tears, but Tuesday night marked the final chapter of "This Is Us."
We've been chronicling this show since the beginning because right away it stood out from its peers, domestic and cable and streaming. From the time twist in the pilot to the various timelines traversed throughout the series runs, it was immediately clear that this was going to be a story unlike any other on television. It basically demanded our attention.
As "This Is Us" wrapped a six-season run Tuesday night, that sprawling focus that took us generations into the past and into the future honed in on two pivotal moments in the lives of the "Big Three."
One was the funeral of their mother, Rebecca Pearson. The other was a rainy Saturday "nothing" day at home with the family -- because it's not only the big moments that define a life. In many cases, it's those lazy nothing days that carry the most weight as there's nothing to distract.
Throughout the show, we've enjoyed flashbacks to different days in the upbringing of the Big Three, so there was something appropriate about a seemingly random day being such a big part of the series finale.
After all, the message in the present is that life goes on. And life, after all, is made up of all these random days that come together to create something spectacular.
There were so many beautiful little moments throughout the episode, probably the only big lament for fans will be the complete and total lack of Miguel, save for a fleeting mention of him when Deja was razzing Randall about his grieving process.
We again checked in on the final moments of Rebecca's train journey toward the afterlife where it was her and Jack again lying in bed. There are a lot of theories as to why second-husband Miguel had such a miniscule part in her final chapter, but mostly there is frustration.
Miguel was dumped on for the entirety of the season, and when he finally gets his story told, it's right toward the end of the series -- and then he dies in that very same episode. From there, he's little more than a footnote in Rebecca's life.
It would have been sweet if somehow Jack and Miguel were there together with her at the end -- they were, after all, best friends. Seeing them together would have been poignant and sweet.
Are we supposed to believe that people who marry more than once can only be connected to one of those loves in the end?
As for who we did get to see, it was the whole family that assembled for Rebecca's funeral, as well as a couple of glimpses into different eras, including baby Jack in the future during a montage of parents pushing their kids on swings; a nod to Rebecca's cherished childhood memory with her father.
Life goes on. But that's the beauty of a life well lived. Even when it's over, it carries on in the lives of everyone you touched, directly or indirectly. We are, after all, a community of individuals, but rarely do we live our lives solitary. Even Nicky was coaxed out of his trailer and into living life.
One last time, we're going to single out the show's most powerful moments. We did still rank these moments, but we're not going to bother highlighting how many tissues we used. The box is empty.
This was a nice nod to the journey Uncle Nicky went on through the course of the series, as well as a totally appropriate for him to acknowledge the roll that Kevin played in helping him to find his way back from the dark. It also emphasized that Nicky helped Kevin as much as Kevin helped him. Kevin's worst enemy has always been his own insecurities and his need to be the best (or at least seen that way). Nicky helped him humble himself and see the value in someone else. The transformation of Nicky was nothing short of miraculous, and the same can be said for Kevin, though in more subtle -- but equally meaningful -- ways.
"Yes You Were"
Sometimes life doesn't go the way you wanted, and in the case of Kate and Toby, none of us wanted to see that marriage end. At the same time, in this one scene we got to see the value in the end of their marriage. They were ultimately not right for one another, but they became so great after they stopped trying to force their marriage to work. Sometimes you have to step back and realize that society and expectations don't dictate what's right and what's wrong. Only you, in the middle of the thing, can know the right path, if you'll just allow yourself to see it and have the courage to take it. It may not look easy in the moment, but when it's right, it will pay off beautifully and you will, in time, come to see it.
"I Don't Know How to Discipline Someone Who's Already Harder on Himself Than I Could Ever Be"
The sign of a good parent is knowing your children and knowing how to reach them. On that lazy Saturday, after being a sourpuss all morning, Randall shared a pretty bad thing he'd done at school to stave of embarrassment and getting picked on (he redirected the humiliation to another kid). But he then shared how much he was beating himself up over it, and that's so Randall. Jack knows this about his son and so he knows there's no point in lecturing him or even really punishing him. Randall disciplines himself enough for all of his siblings. So instead, he took the opportunity to address the reason Randall was embarrassed and teach him how to shave. It turned into a twofer after Kevin showed up, but it was one of those bonding experiences fathers and sons remember forever. One of those little moments that grows in our memories as life carries on, pulled out from time to time and cherished all over again.
Just as Jack knew exactly how to address Randall's malaise, Rebecca knows by this point in his adolescent life exactly what drives Kevin. Things have always gone pretty smoothly for the good-looking, popular kid. She can't approve that he lied about why he couldn't do a pull-up, but she nevertheless told him that it's okay if he's not great at everything right away. But she also told him, "It'll make the big victories in life a little more special when you have to work hard for them." It hasn't always easy to motivate Kevin, but of course Rebecca was spot-on. Him making things work with Sophie was a lifetime of growth and work, but how sweet it was when it paid off. Life is not about the easy victories, but the hard-fought ones. Those are the ones that mean the most and shape us.
"As Long as I Know Where You Are, I Always Know Where I'm Going"
More than any other Pearson safe, perhaps, Jack, Kate has always appreciated the value and importance of family in life. Her parents were her biggest supporters growing up, and her brothers were right there. Hell, they even stepped up to defend her when she and Toby were fighting. And once she gained her own confidence, a part of the strength and conviction she had in stepping out to conquer the world came from knowing that they were there always to support her unconditionally. It was sweet that this line came out during a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, as she revealed she could always find the tail because her family never shut up and she marked where they all were in the room. But the message remained poignant throughout her life. Family -- good family -- is there forever. Remember where you came from, where your values came from, that's how you can forge your best life going forward. Losing sight of that is when you can lose your direction.
"At Least I Still Have the Scar"
Most of us carry little (or big) scars on our bodies, but they're more than just beauty marks. They are living impressions of moments in our lives, physical snapshots of memories. For Rebecca, a little scar under her eye was the moment thigs went wrong while her dad was pushing her on a swing, but it's not the wrong the scar helps her remember. It was how special those moments were with her father. Her only lament had nothing to do with her injury, but about how she spent too much time thinking of all the wrong things. "I really wish I'd spent more time appreciating it when it was happening, instead of worrying about when it would end," she told Jack during that flashback morning. Life is meant to be lived as it's happening, being fully present to the experience. That's why you'll hear older people suggest not capturing the whole experience your phone rather than immersing yourself in each moment, cherishing every precious second you'll never get back.
In the flashback, the boys didn't understand why Kate wanted to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey -- doesn't she know they're men now that they've learned how to shave?! What Jack shared with them, though, was that Kate absolutely gets it. Soon enough, this growing up will take them all out of this shared house and into their own lives. Growing up isn't something we should be in a hurry to do, because it's going to happen regardless of how we feel about it. And then eventually all we have left, as Jack told his boys, are the memories, so make sure they're as full as you can make them. The better option is to truly cherish each phase of our lives, and never forget the chapters that have come before. Don't be in a hurry to turn from the things that brought you such great joy at any age. Joy is ageless, so feel it.
"You're a 12"
We kind of love that Jack's response to her calling him a 10 and then immediately saying she can't stand people who rank something higher than 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 ("there are rules") was to break the rules and call her what she was, a 12. Her response, thanking him for acknowledging it, was a rare moment when Rebecca was able to fully own her greatness as a wife, a mother and a human being. She wasn't perfect -- how many can claim to be? -- but she was incredibly present for her family, her heart was always in the right place, she put in the work and she loved them all so fiercely. She was perfectly human in her flaws and her best qualities, and she was a wonderful mother to her children at every age because she started always with love, compassion, empathy and understanding.
"All I Want Nowadays Is to Slow Things Down Anyway"
it's been six years and we've seen the Big Three through most of their lives, Jack and Rebecca through basically their entire lives, and yet it still feels like it all went by so fast. Parents know all too well that one moment you're strapping them into their car seat to take them home for the first time and then you blink and it's graduation. Life is in enough of a hurry without us trying to rush our way through it. The lazy Saturday was everything for Jack and Rebecca because it was a way to slow life down for one day and cherish each second of each other and their children; this incredible life they'd manage to build for themselves, despite everything. Take as many of these "lazy" days as you can because the story ends the same for all of us. There are no rewards for most days away from your family and what really matters in life at the end. Cherished memories are the reward for taking the time.
The hardest thing about losing someone that is such a huge piece of your life and even your sense of self is that moment when you realize you're hungry, you have to go to the bathroom, to work, to school. There's a huge hole in your heart, but life goes on. This person is no longer a part of this world, but it keeps turning and life goes on. But that's because life has never been about one life. Life is a collective whole. As one single life ends, so another begins. Deja revealing she was pregnant to Randall is the symbol of that. When Jack died, it was hard for everyone, but life still marched forward. Now, all of their parents are gone, and the Big Three still has life ahead, for themselves and the family's they've built. And Jack never fully died, because his legacy and spirit can be seen in the lives they're building, just as his belief in Rebecca helped carry her through the long years of her life after losing him.
"I Wonder What They'll Remember About Me"
It never fails. Whenever Ron Cephas Jones returns as William, we know we're going to have to break out another box of tissues. This time, it was the briefest of flashbacks to when he and Randall were heading to Memphis and William knew he was dying. He'd only just gotten to know his son and his grandchildren, but already he could feel that unconditional love in his heart. He lamented that experience, "to love someone so unconditionally when you know time won't allow you to be a big part of their story." For William, that impact was a little more than seven months. But it's never been about the quantity of time but the quality. He recalled the bits and pieces he remembers of his own grandparents, marveling that these mysterious people must have loved him as much as he does his own granddaughters. But that love doesn't die, and that influence and connection doesn't go away. They may not remember the details intimately, but so long as the story of you continues and what you shared and taught them lingers still inside them, so do you. As Wiliiam wondered what the girls would remember about him, Randall assured him, "A lot."
Randall's testament to William came full circle in the aftermath of Rebecca's birth when Deja shared with her dad that his new grandbaby was going to be a boy. And she was going to name him William. Deja didn't join Randall's family until after William's passing, so she never met him. But she didn't need to because William lived on in Randall's stories, in the memories the family shared of their time with him. And now, carrying that legacy in his name, William's story will surely be passed on to this next generation, long outliving his time on this earth. Our story never truly ends so long as we impacted those around us and strove to make a difference in the world during our short time on board the train.
During the flashback, we jumped back via home videos to another pivotal moment, when Jack first taught the "Big Three" their cute little chant about their births. In the present, while mourning the loss of Rebecca and entering this uncertain new chapter of their lives, they recalled the chant and recreated it. Despite their losses and triumphs, achievements and setbacks, they are still those three adorable little tykes reciting an adorable little something Jack taught them. In that moment, Jack's story continues. And while Kate worried about them drifting apart, as many family's due when the "glue" that holds them together passes away, they shared that it can't happen. When they think about their families, they think first about their parents and each other, then about the family's they created. They are one another's glue.
As for what the future holds for them. Kate revealed that she intends to take her visually impaired music curriculum global, Kevin is going to move home and focus on his nonprofit, and Randall is more than likely going to take a real shot at the presidency, with the support of the DNC. For a show that jumps around time, it was refreshing that we didn't jump ahead to see if any of that worked out for them. Sometimes, it's nice to not know all the answers.
"This Is Us" is done and we are as well. But like the Big Three, we'll cherish these memories forever.