Let’s make one thing clear: I was not expecting us to learn how Jack died in the This Is Us finale. Did I think maybe we’d get another piece of the puzzle? Sure. Get a better look at the big picture? Maybe. But I did not expect to have my questions answered. So even with that off the table, I still found the season finale to be an unfortunate way to end what was a compelling, entertaining, and extremely emotional first season. Here’s why.
If you look back at the last two episodes, “Memphis
,” which showed why Sterling .K Brown deserves alllll the Emmys, and “What Now?,” which showed how good the entire
cast can be, the show was on a roll. Throughout both of these episodes, fans got emotional whiplash. We laughed and smiled one second, and then teared up or cried the next. More importantly: they both furthered storylines. In the present, Randall quit his job. Kate admitted she had something to do with Jack’s death. And Kevin potentially got a big break. In the past, Rebecca made moves towards her dream. And Jack took steps backwards with his drinking. What I’m saying is: a lot of things were set in motion, which is why the end of the season finale felt so abrupt: it was like the momentum just stopped.
Now, let me set one thing straight. I love Jack and Rebecca. And I think the world has fallen in love with their love. I do think there is value in showing how their love began and ended; in watching this weirdly beautiful kind of symmetry of seeing something fall apart as you’re watching it fall together. I also think for their particular story, this episode was very important. Knowing that their marriage may not have been in a good spot, or potentially even a thing at all, when he died could be a game changer in the end. But the significance of this revelation (if you want to even call it that) was kind of lost by one thing: the way the episode as whole was essentially a fake out.
Like I said above, I was not expecting to find out how Jack died. But the end of the penultimate episode, and the promos for the finale, sure made it seem like drunk driving was gonna be the COD —or at least a contributing factor. And to be fair, it still might be. But what’s not fair is to fake fans out, and not have there be any kind of payoff. If you’re gonna mess with fans like that, we have to get something even better (or more emotional) in return. And that’s not to say Jack’s ending monologue wasn’t emotional — calling someone your ‘big break’ is about to become the new ‘bae.’ But it wasn’t a powerful enough punch to end the season. And lord knows this show can pack some emotional punches.
For a season that was filled with twists and turns (lookin’ straight at the pilot
on this one), the fact that the season ended in the ‘darkest place we’ve been’ doesn’t feel like enough of a tradeoff. It doesn’t feel like what fans deserved after such a good ride. Yes, I was left wondering about the future of Jack and Rebecca. But what I am wondering even more, is why this couldn’t have aired halfway through the season. Watching them start to fall apart was definitely heartbreaking, but compared to some of the emotional gut punches of the season, this just felt more like a kick in the shin (which is still painful BTW).