Fans of This Is Us have been on an emotional rollercoaster since the very first episode of the series. The Pearson family share a love and compassion for one another, and for others, that sets a standard. It’s the kind of series audiences around the world have been longing for, and even though we’ve already seen so much of these characters and their stories – there’s much more to come.
One of the key components of the series has been Jack Pearson’s death. We were made aware of it very early in the series and it remained in the back of our heads until the night of the Super Bowl, when it was finally brought to light.
However, for some, his death was an all-encompassing thought that consumed them.
Jack Pearson died being a hero, but not in the way we expected. Yes, there was a fire, yes he did run back in to save Kate’s dog, but he didn’t die then. No, the most painful part of this story is that he died in the hospital, just moments after Rebecca left him to make a call…alone.
‘When I started to write this thing, in my mind’s eye, there was a fire at the house, and the patriarch of the family heroically got the family out of the house, and then died in a really small way, without proper cinematic good-byes, hours later in a hospital by himself. So we were always writing towards that.’
After looking back at the series so far, Fogelman says there’s one thing he would have changed in the way the show led up to Jack’s death. The moment where Kate told Toby that she was responsible for Jack’s death, and the flashback immediately after.
It’s a scene where Jack tells Kate that she’s right, and he’s going to go get Rebecca back. However, he’s been drinking and we see him begin his trip to find her. Of course, the immediate thought was a drunk driving accident took his life.
‘That was a head fake on our part. While I thought it was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool, interesting timing,’ and people might think that’s coming, I didn’t realize the narrative around that moment would get so strong. If I could take back a moment, that’s the moment I’d take back, just to have slowed the spread of our story.’
Like other members of the cast, especially Milo Ventimiglia himself said for months, the story was, and is, so much bigger than Jack’s death. It was a heartwrenching and large part of their story as a family and as individuals, but some lost the focus of the series, instead just looking for clues or waiting to find out when and how Jack died.
In fact, Fogleman hoped fans would take away that the big moment at the end of season 1 wasn’t a death at all, but the fact that Jack and Rebecca were on such different pages of what was an indescribable love story.
‘I think that we thought — and I still continue to think — that the big shock with the finale to people was going to be, ‘Oh my god, this marriage is suffering! America’s sweetest couple is in a state of disrepair and separation. I thought that was the big kind of twist or misdirect: This isn’t about Jack’s death; this is about something deeper and darker, which is: these two are on different pages.’
Fogelman is happy with the way season 2 has played out in terms of Jack’s death. He feels that they left enough of a hint for fans to have a clear idea of what happened, which was enough to allow them to begin to prepare for the event and also free up some concern to focus on all that was happening to the rest of the Pearson family.
The moment has come and gone now, which seems weird to say because Jack’s story is just getting started, but fans know that every new memory for the big 3 and so much of Rebecca’s life happened without him. That…will always break our hearts.
This Is Us returns on February 27th.