Randall may not be able to picture himself as an old man, but everyone else now can.
Sunday’s post-Super Bowl episode of This Is Us brought the long-anticipated resolution to the How-did-Jack-die? question, but it ended the episode with a surprise as well. Near the end of the episode, we transported deep into the Pearson future, where Randall’s vision of meeting with Tess (Eris Baker) for weekly dinners came true, and adult Tess (guest star Iantha Richardson), now a social worker, brokered the adoption of the little boy from the fall finale as older Randall (Sterling K. Brown) looked on proudly.
Yes, we have seen the flashback-friendly show play with the future in the past: One episode last season teased ahead a few months, showing Randall sadly packing up William’s possessions post-death, even though his terminally ill biological father had yet to pass in the current timeline. But this was a much bigger — and further — peek into the future. Which prompts the question: While the show pull a Lost and start mixing in a dose of flash-forwards with the flashbacks to help unspool the story of the Pearsons? Will we start to see more of the Painting, so to speak?
“Part of the promise of this show is the ability of our own stories to comment upon themselves, depending on what time periods you’re looking at,” series creator Dan Fogelman tells EW. “I think in the future — literally, in the future — we could potentially change up our pattern a little bit. Right now we tend to go, ‘Here’s how the past is commenting on the present.’ But what happens when our present becomes the past, to the near future? What if we could hop into the stories of these characters 10 years later and figure out how they got from A to B, the same way we have with the past? So, it was always part of my initial pitch of this as a series. The future timeline that was just revealed carries the painting forward. That was always part of the plan from day 1, that we would do both of those things in the same episode around this point.”
Fogelman told EW last year that he would do “more and more adventurous stuff with our storytelling and structure as we move forward a little bit,” and he says now the show plans to shuttle not just forward in time but also further into the past, which is helpful since that’s where Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) lives. “We have arcs and story lines already planned in all different periods,” he says. “We’re going to go deeper into the past, we’re going explore new timelines within our own family, even in the same relative areas. And then we’re going open up some brave new worlds, as early as starting next season.”
In other words, put on your time-traveling pants and prepare to see, uh, maybe Annie starring with Kevin in a reboot of Uncle Buck?
To read more from Ventimiglia about Jack’s “perfect” death, click here.
To see why Moore said Jack’s cause of death was “exponentially more tragic,” click here.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.