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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Tuesday’s season two premiere of This Is Us.”]
This Is Us returned Tuesday for season two with the answer to the show’s biggest burning question: how Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) died.
The final five minutes of the premiere picked up in the immediate aftermath of Jack and Rebecca’s epic fight. After kicking Jack out of the house and telling him to stay at Miguel’s, Rebecca (Mandy Moore) asked Jack to come home, because as she said this was not the way they dealt with issues. However, Jack revealed that he was drunk after drinking all day and that he had been hiding his issues with alcoholism from his wife and family for a long time. She eventually persuaded him to get in the car and come home, telling him everything was going to be all right. However, the drama then cut to a different scene in which Rebecca was in the car alone driving and next to her were was what looked like Jack’s possessions in a clear plastic bag.
The 17-year-old versions of Kate and Randall (and Randall’s girlfriend?) were then seen sobbing at Miguel’s house as he tried to comfort them. Kate insisted on finding Kevin, who was off somewhere with Sophie, sporting a broken leg. Still solo, Rebecca drove up to the Pearson family house. As firefighters went through the debris of the burned-down house she sobbed and the show cut to black.
At a screening Tuesday in Los Angeles with the stars and team behind the show, creator Dan Fogelman insisted the scene was not “misdirecting” viewers and that Jack’s death directly relates to the fire. “That’s what we’re saying to the people. I think that they don’t know the details,” he said. “Did he die in the fire? Did he get out of the fire?”
Moore shared that sentiment when discussing the fire, which she called a” monumental event” in the Pearson family timeline. “We don’t know the full story, we’ll say that, that’s not the full story, that’s just a piece of the puzzle.”
Justin Hartley interjected: “A big piece.”
Fogelman said that the rest of season two would be spent exploring the details around that night. “All the answers about how Jack died … it’s all going to happen over the course of the season.”
When discussing some of the other surprising details in the final scene, such as the appearance of a Pearson family dog, Randall’s teenage lady friend and Kevin’s huge leg cast, Moore said, “these are all things that I think people are going to start to see the origin of in the next couple of episodes.”
Added Fogelman: “You’re seeing a lot of things that are going to reveal themselves.”
After a year of facing constant questioning about just how his beloved character died, Ventimiglia admitted Tuesday’s episode “helps. It’s like a pressure valve release for a little bit,” he said. “But like Dan as always said, ‘With this answer there’s still a lot of questions and I think people are just going to have to pay attention over the course of the season.”
Fogelman discussed the intense planning that went into making sure that secret stayed secret until viewers watched the premiere Tuesday night. The scene was only shot a week and a half prior to the premiere, and roughly more than three months after filming started on season two. The team built a replica of the Pearson house five hours away so that spoilers wouldn’t leak about a burnt house. Even NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke had to visit the This Is Us edit bay to see the footage ahead of Tuesday.
Fogelman said this was the cause of death that had been planned since the beginning. “We’ve analyzed every bit of minutiae” he said of his work in the writers room. Because it was in the works for so long, Fogelman said they had been planning how to film the final moments of Tuesday’s premiere for six months. “What you see in the show is [Moore’s] first take and after all of that planning, it was literally about 30 seconds of shooting,” he said.
Moore called it “incredibly emotional” to film.
When discussing what’s to come, Ventimiglia said the show will continue to explore Jack’s issues now that he’s come clean to Rebecca about his inner demons. “There’s always a darker side to a lighter side if people always look at Jack as this light,” he said. “Now seeing that the cracks are not cracks, but deeper wounds and valleys, we get to understand a little bit more about why he chooses to be good and why he chooses to inspire. … There are reasons why he’s doing something, so that’s the stuff we’re going to unpack.”
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