Great acting from Ventimiglia and Moore during the big fight scene
Options left open for loads of different paths in season 2
Jumping around to yet another new timeline and spending SO much of the episode there
Spending next to no time with the Pearson kids
Kate's seemingly out-of-nowhere new ambition
Not enough Randall
Destroying the Jack-Rebecca fairytale so late in the game
So many misdirections towards the fate of Jack
This is Us leaves us tearing our hair out after the finale, and we wonder: Is the show bordering on emotional manipulation?
This is Us, we’ve been with you all season. We’ve laughed with you. We’ve cried with you. Actually we’ve cried so many ugly cries with you it’s gotten to the point where we can no longer watch you with others. That is unfortunately why the finale was such a heartbreak for us. For about half a season we’ve been guessing at the show’s biggest mystery to date: How does Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) die? The entire second half of the season has been building to this crescendo. It’s almost Kate’s (Chrissy Metz) entire storyline! So when we the episode ended and we realized the entire episode had been a ruse and none of anyone’s theories had be proven or disproven and we actually didn’t learn a thing, we were more than a little annoyed. (Okay I actually threw something at my television and yelled, “This cannot possibly have been the end! Are there more minutes in this hour??”)
There were some decent moments in the episode, courtesy of some fine acting by Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore, but overall the finale just felt flat. Its major accomplishment seemed to be putting a giant ellipsis on an otherwise great season. Obviously this sort of ending leaves things open for next season, but it meant that we didn’t really care an awful lot about anything that happened in this episode.
At the end of last episode we saw Jack hop into his car drunk to go to Rebecca’s first music gig at the urging of his daughter Kate. We all assume drunk driving accident, but we were fooled. What follows is bouncing with Jack and Rebecca back to the 70’s to their first meeting (and yet another timeline to be mined for cry moments) to the 90’s where drunk Jack sabotages Rebecca’s gig by punching her bandmate, she quits, they have a rousing fight and separate. And oh yeah, the “big three” make some serious life decisions in thirty seconds of the episode, which we’ll discuss later. What’s going on, This is Us finale? How could you do us so wrong? Come cry with us below for all the wrong reasons.
Maybe it wasn’t a fairytale romance after all
If there’s one thing This is Us gets entirely right this week it was the rousing fight between Jack and Rebecca. For one thing, Moore and Ventimiglia act the snot out of it. Moore as Rebecca, the housewife who finds she’s lost herself when her children don’t need her attention as much anymore- her realization that she had become her mother was awesome and Moore nailed it. For another, it was nice to see Jack and Rebecca brought to human level. Sometimes the show can feel sappy where they’re concerned and we’re gad they have real human feelings, especially Jack. He’s been a bit larger than life the entire season, and even when he’s bad he immediately does something good. He finally turned into a real person during this fight and we appreciated that. His complete disregard, almost contempt, for Rebecca’s dream was pretty awful and were added to a laundry list of things that evidently these characters hated about each other. When you take moment to consider the entire season, you realize Dan Fogelman and his writers have dropped some breadcrumbs about these pent up resentments, but it felt forced.
“Career? You are a forty year old woman singing covers in pubs! That is not a career, Rebecca! That is ridiculous!” -Jack
But part of Rebecca and Jack’s charm was that we loved them as a super couple. Yes! Of course Jack immediately stops drinking and dedicates his life to doing pushups with his adopted black son on his back! Obviously Rebecca walked miles while pregnant with triplets to make Jack a cupcake for his birthday when she realized she had forgotten it. And we already know Jack dies tragically and forever damages the psyche of his daughter, so this ill-fated love affair couldn’t possibly end with separation, could it? Rebecca does end up married to Miguel. That leads to this truly disturbing thought: Was their entire love story season one a giant fake out? Will all of next season be devoted to showing us how miserable Jack and Rebecca actually were?
…And oh yeah, there are some other people in this show, too.
One of the most infuriating thing about the episode was the tacked on cliffhangers for the “Big Three”. They didn’t even get their own full scenes. It’s not like the show hasn’t jumped around before. Don’t these characters deserve at least a scene? Well, scratch that. Doesn’t Randall deserve at least a scene? It’s such a disservice to both his character and to Sterling K. Brown to tack in a couple of lines about how he suddenly wants to adopt a kid. What about Beth? Surely there was something more to be said between these characters. It’s a real letdown, and so frustrating that there’s really nothing more we can say about it that won’t send us into a frothing rage.
Kevin and Kate’s wrap-ups are even worse. Kevin goes off to audition for Ron Howard, but makes sure he tells Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) he loves her. She loves him too. …Hope you get the part, Kevin. As for Kate, her stint in the limelight at the nursing home must’ve made a big impression, because she looks at a picture of her mom in the same outfit we see her wearing when she quit in the 90’s and announces to Toby, “I want to be a singer!” Really? Kate’s not even done so much as sing in the shower since barely getting over crippling stage fright singing in front of the elderly. She hasn’t mentioned it. She hasn’t even gotten her groove on in private. Where did this come from? We know there’s more flashbacks to come, so we can forgive the “Kate-finds-mom’s-photo” part, because we’re going to assume that more “Rebecca sings” information will be filled in, but we just can’t overlook the other “twist”.
What year is it again?
This is Us has used the time jump effectively before, nowhere more than the pilot episode when our brains exploding upon first realizing the conceit. Some of the time jumps have been explored more fully than others (we’ve seen a lot of the big three around 1986, for example), others less so. This one seemed particularly frustrating, because it seems like the only reason it’s there is to make it sadder than Jack and Rebecca are fighting. We’ve seen Jack and Rebecca pre-baby before, but this is the first time we’ve seen them at the very beginning of their relationship. In the show’s typical style we’re given a dummy storyline that allows us to believe their being set up with each other when in reality they’re really setting up something more elaborate. Now their meeting is far more poignant. It’s fate! Love at first sight! And Jack is even spared becoming a worse guy because he no longer robs the gang members who robbed $1500 off him earlier in the episode.
But why. Why do this? Are we going to spend more time in the 70’s? If this season’s misdirection with Jack’s death merely led us to the separation, why the 70’s love? We don’t want to see more of Jack and Rebecca as a fated super couple if they’re just going to be miserable in the 90’s. It all just feels like emotional manipulation! Will the 70’s love lead Jack and Rebecca back together? We’re just going to have to see next season. While we’re speculating on that, we can also think about how on earth Jack dies, because there are really no clearcut frontrunners for us in terms of theories. The cast is deflecting and we’ve give up speculating, but we’d love to discuss some of your fan theories. How is Kate responsible? What could it be? And how are we going to wait until September to know? It’s maddening!
Will we ever know the answer??
The season finale of This is Us left the biggest question of the season unanswered. This leaves the show open for any number of possible theories. When you stop and think about it, we’re really not in a terrible place for the start of season 2. We just wish the finale hadn’t been so frustrating! The time spent in the 1970’s seemed incredibly excessive. The time with the Pearson kids wasn’t earned and some of it came out of left field. We owe these characters a little more than that (especially Randall). Is This is Us turning into one extended ploy to emotionally manipulate us each week?
Real talk: We love This is Us and we’re obviously going to continue to watch. This season has been fulfilling overall: Packed with emotional moments, great characters (Randall) and great acting (Sterling K. Brown). We’re already thinking about what we want to see next season. How will Kate get her singing career off the ground? What does the future hold for Jack and Rebecca’s marriage? How will Randall’s life change since he’s quit his job and wants to adopt a child? Most of all: How and when does Jack die, and how is Kate responsible? These are just a few of the questions season 2 needs to hurry back to answer. What do you think? What were some of your biggest questions from the season finale of This is Us?
Questions, Comments, Concerns
- Watching Rebecca wear the moon necklace in the fight scene was sad for us. But we loved how it all came together as Jack first saw Rebecca singing “Moonshadow”.
- Raise your hand if you missed Randall this episode.
- We’re getting more and more curious to see how Rebecca ended up with Miguel.
This is Us Review [1×18]: “Moonshadow”