The scheduling gods of television gave you an extra week to recover from the “Memphis” episode of This Is Us, which featured a bonding road trip for Randall and William that ended in heartbreak with the latter’s death.
That doesn’t mean the time for tears is completely over, however. Titled “What Now?,” Tuesday’s episode (airing at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC) picks up a few days after Randall (Sterling K. Brown) bid farewell to his terminally ill father (played by Ron Cephas Jones) in the hospital. Now he — and the rest of the Pearsons — will get another chance to say goodbye at William’s memorial service. “You see Randall struggling with the idea of how [to] honor his father’s legacy at the beginning of the episode,” Brown tells EW. “He’s at a loss with regards to how to move forward, and thankfully William may have had a sense of that. He leaves instructions behind for how he wants to be memorialized, so it takes things off of Randall and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson).”
What kind of tone can you expect from a service that pays tribute to the poet/musician who advised Randall to roll down the windows and turn up the music? “William left clear instructions that he wanted his memorial to be something that was fun and celebratory rather than downtrodden and sad, and he ensured that that would be the case by leaving it in the hands of the two granddaughters,” says Brown. While Tess (Eris Baker) and Annie (Faithe Herman) “rise to the occasion,” notes Brown, Beth is struggling “because she never had a real opportunity to say goodbye. The whole Pearson family — at least Randall’s section of the Pearson family — is trying to figure out how best to move forward with the loss of a family member.”
In other news, look for Kevin (Justin Hartley) to (re-)stage his play while dealing with the repercussions of bailing on the original opening night to help Randall, for Kate (Chrissy Metz) to struggle to share more with fiancé Toby (Chris Sullivan) about Jack’s death, and for Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) to navigate their faltering relationship as she readies to hit the road.
“Someone had asked me, ‘Does it continue to escalate? Am I going to be crying my eyes out even more for the next two episodes?’” says Brown. “I would say, ‘Hopefully not.’ I think the loss of a life is about as traumatic an experience that we can all go through, so hopefully we leave you on a slightly higher note at the end of the season. But we will definitely leave you wondering what’s going to happen next.”
To hear what This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman had to say about “Memphis” and the plan for William moving forward, click here.
To hear from Ron Cephas Jones about William’s “wonderfully sad” death, go here.