Sure, we wanted to know how Jack died… but we didn’t want to find out like this.
Season 2 of NBC’s This Is Us got off to a decidedly morbid start, with the final moments of Tuesday’s premiere delivering a big clue about how dad Jack died: As teen Kate and teen Randall wept over their father’s demise (teen Kevin was blissfully unaware, for now), Rebecca drove alone, wearing a Steelers T-shirt, a plastic bag of Jack’s possessions in the passenger seat next to her. She pulled up to the old Pearson house, charred and gutted after what must’ve been a massive fire, and let out a heartbreaking howl of grief.
The reveal does come as a bit of a relief to the cast, since the question of how Jack died won’t be hanging over the show anymore: “It’s like a pressure valve release, for a little bit,” Milo Ventimiglia told fans and reporters at a post-premiere Q&A on Tuesday. But as his co-star Mandy Moore points out, “we don’t know the full story. We’ll just say that. That’s just a piece of the puzzle. We have 18 episodes!”
More pieces of the puzzle might be found in the tiny details contained within that flashback, Moore hints: “Kate was holding a dog, Randall’s got a girlfriend, and Kevin has a broken leg. These are all things that I think people are going to see… the origin of in the next couple of episodes.”
The filming of that final scene, with Moore in the car, was shrouded in secrecy, creator Dan Fogelman says, which involved months of intricate planning: “We built a replica of the house five hours away. We had code names for everything.” But Moore ended up nailing the emotional scene in a single take, he remembers: “Mandy came to set, and they put her in the car, and what you see is literally her first take. After all that planning, it was like 30 seconds, and then we were done.”
It’s been a year-long mystery to fans, but connecting Jack’s death to a devastating house fire was always the plan in the writers’ room, Fogelman reveals: “We had talked about the fire, and what ultimately happened to Jack, pretty much from day one, when we started.” And he adds that we won’t have to wait another year to put all those other puzzle pieces into place: “All the answers about how Jack died, it’s all going to happen this season.”
What’d you think of the big This Is Us reveal? Drop your thoughts in a comment below.