Warning: This post contains spoilers for This Is Us‘ series finale.
This Is Us fans who were braced for some major sleight-of-hand in the series’ finale instead witnessed a quiet, lovingly crafted hour with one quick flash-forward and no giant plot revelations.
“Us” was “a simple reflection on family and time,” said series creator Dan Fogelman. Instead of the twists for which the series became known, the final hour instead split its time between Rebecca’s funeral and a lazy Saturday in the Pearson home when The Big Three were kids. “In some ways, that’s the most challenging stuff,” the executive producer added. (Read a full recap of the finale, and check out our breakdown of the show’s final flash-forward.)
We know you’ve likely got questions about the NBC drama’s final episode, and at a finale screening on Sunday as well as in a conference call with reporters Tuesday, we asked Fogelman (and some of his actors) for a final helping of Pearson family scoop.
WHY DID REBECCA DIE IN THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE, AND NOT THE FINALE? | “That decision was made really early on,” Fogelman told TVLine at the screening. “The reason was the theme of the show, the very thing that’s spoken about at the end of the series: Just because somebody leaves doesn’t mean the world doesn’t continue and that they don’t continue living on with the family. So it was important to me that the last episode not be all about Rebecca’s death, and the sadness that revolves around her death, but to actually focus on a day that was just a normal slice of life in this family’s history.”
WHICH PARTS OF THE FINALE WERE SHOT WELL IN ADVANCE? | William and Randall’s scene outside the girls’ bedroom, as well as scenes from the Pearsons’ lazy Saturday, were captured long before Season 6. In the conference call, Fogelman said he hadn’t seen that footage in a while, and “I didn’t have a big, full-fledged backup plan, which is what made it all a little bit terrifying. It’s literally why I had to watch the first cut of the past footage with my wife [series star Caitlin Thompson], which I’ve never done before, because I was too scared to watch it alone.”
WAS THE SERIES ALWAYS GOING TO END ON A SHOT OF REBECCA AND JACK? | Fogelman told reporters he always thought the show’s final dialogue would be Jack and Rebecca exchanging “I love you”s, as it is in the episode — albeit with some background noise from the other scenes in the montage. The show is about family and time, and the way a family loves one another. And I thought that this original love story, sentiment-wise, was the right language to end on.” Milo Ventimiglia told TVLine that scene partner Mandy Moore “was very worried about that being the last thing. She was like, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do this. I’m just going to be a wreck,’ but she wasn’t. She was wonderful and peaceful and beautiful.” Added Moore: “It was incredible to have that one last opportunity to look in each other’s eyes and recognize what this experience has been like for both of us. I know I will never ever have a partner like him again, in any regard, and I’m really grateful for it. So I just tried to stay present and be in the moment with him.”
DOES RANDALL BECOME PRESIDENT? | “Randall’s political journey ahead of him is probably the closest we come in this show to our Sopranos going to black at the end of the episode, and you’re left to choose your own adventure as to what you think happens with him,” Fogelman told reporters, chuckling. “In my mind, I know what happens to Randall and his family, but it’s meant to not be answered… It’s up to the audience to decide what they think happens next with Randall.”
WILL THERE BE A SPINOFF? | “I’m pretty set on this being it,” Fogelman said on the call. “Who knows what change of heart my ensuing midlife crisis brings, but I really feel we’ve put these stories to bed now.” — With reporting by Diane Gordon