There aren’t enough tissues in the world. This Is Us could not have pushed us to a greater emotional limit. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare to wake up and find their child in danger. It’s every child’s worst nightmare to lose a parent. So for every son or daughter who has lost a parent, for every wife or husband who has lost a spouse, for everyone who knows the fear, the grief, and the hope, this is for all of us.
By the time Jack wakes up for a glass of water after Super Bowl Sunday, he knows something is wrong. He can feel it before he even smells the smoke. Jack springs into action to get his family out of the house, and yes, he goes back for the dog. Don’t blame the crockpot or the dog though, because neither one of them is responsible for Jack’s death. Jack makes it out of the house alive. In the moment, it is heartbreaking to see the house that Jack built with his own hands up in flames. Rebecca’s right. A house is just a house. But when a house is a home, it’s not the physical house you miss, but the memories you made inside it that matter. Which makes it even more amazing that Jack was able to grab some family treasures before they fell victim to the flames.
The doctor calls it a miracle that Jack made it out with smoke inhalation and one second-degree burn. But there is nothing remotely minor about smoke inhalation. Jack was fine, and then he wasn’t. The rest is flashes of memory that haunt the Pearsons. The last time you hear “I Love You”, the last laugh, and even the last bad memory you wish you could forget.
Every year on the anniversary of Jack’s death, Kevin, Kate, Randall and Rebecca have their traditions. Rebecca makes Jack’s favorite lasagna, and waits for him to send her a sign. Randall throws a Super Bowl Party. Kate watches the audition tape Jack made for her. Kevin usually gets blackout drunk, but he can’t do that anymore. Jack is gone, but he still finds ways to make his family smile.
On the 20th anniversary, Kate nearly loses her mind when her tape gets jammed in the VCR (note to us all to backup our tapes). Thankfully, Toby has a guy to fix that. We all love Toby, but my goodness, Jack would have absolutely adored his daughter’s fiancÃ©e. Randall throws a Super Bowl party for his daughter’s friends (who don’t care about football), and ends up holding a funeral for a lizard. Balancing out his sadness, Randall also reassures Tess that he may be looking for things, the way he looked for William and a new career, but she is his constant. In many ways, it’s not about looking, it’s about giving. Giving all of the love Jack poured into him is so important.
Kevin tries everything to avoid the day short of drinking, but he can’t avoid the center of his pain, his dad. He has to talk to Jack, to apologize, to ask for guidance as he takes the same steps Jack took. Most importantly, he promises to do better, not just for Jack, but for himself. So he goes to his dad’s tree to pour his heart out, then does the same with his mom. True to her tradition, Rebecca makes lasagna and waits for Jack to send her a laugh. Kevin realizing that he might have poured his heart out to the wrong tree qualifies. 20 years later, Rebecca gets her sign through Kevin. Jack sent her Kevin for this day.
But this is still a show that offers the unexpected, and in the last few minutes, it delivered in spades. Throughout the hour, a little boy was teased to be Randall and Beth’s new foster son. He ends up with another family, set up by his social worker — grown-up Tess. And who comes knocking on Randall and Beth’s door? None other than Deja.
Did Jack’s death hit the right balance of grief and hope for you? (And doesn’t Grandpa Randall look good?)
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