Now that the fire has been extinguished, the somewhat surprising cause of Jack’s death has been revealed, and the funeral has taken place, it’s time to move on with the mourning process. And part of that process is, of course, acceptance or even forgiveness. But maybe you’re experiencing some difficulty with these stages. How is it possible that the beloved Pearson father is truly gone? How could this tragedy have even happened? You’re searching every which way for someone, something to blame.
Of course, Jack’s daughter, Kate (Hannah Zeile), is haunted by guilt and feels wholly responsible for this tragedy, as she cried out that the family dog was still stuck inside the inferno after the family escaped, which prompted Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) to duck back into the house to fetch him. But she’s just a teenager, she never specifically asked Jack to go back inside, and on his mission to rescue Louie, Jack did stop along the way to collect some of the family’s treasured possessions, a time-consuming move that surely caused him to inhale significantly more smoke, so let’s remove her from the equation.
So, where else should we turn? What about the dog, for not sticking by the family upstairs (and who, somehow apparently, was able to tolerate just as much smoke as Jack and survive)? George the neighbor (Jack McGee), who gave Jack the slow cooker, knowing you had to fiddle with the switch? The faulty slow cooker itself (which created quite a little hot mess for Crock-Pot)? The dish towel that caught fire under it, without which there probably wouldn’t have been a fire? The doctor (Bill Irwin) at the hospital for inadequate medical care? There are just so many ways to spit blame and not deal with the true nature of our grief!
EW turned to two authorities on the matter — the man who plays Jack, Milo Ventimiglia, and the man who designed this whole tragedy, series creator Dan Fogelman — during an interview about the Super Bowl of Sadness.
“Please don’t pass it on to Bill Irwin,” says Ventimiglia. “Jack McGee has already suffered enough.”
“I think the dish towel has gotten off way too clean,” Fogelman says. “Everybody’s come after kitchen appliances and doctors and hospitals and the old man, but no one really comes after the dish towel. If that dish towel hadn’t been there, none of this would’ve happened. I blame the dish towel.”
“Dan, I think we’re approaching this wrong,” Ventimiglia says to him. “I’m going to put the blame on Jack. I mean, first of all, take some responsibility for your own self. He forgot the batteries [for the smoke detector]. You’ve got to know certain things in your house. I have, in my own home, a faulty light switch right now, which sometimes sparks. I’ve got to change that. I mean, Jack knew. George said, “You gotta fiddle with the switch.” Maybe Jack didn’t want to pay attention. I’m going to put it on Jack, not the dish towel.
“It’s such a Jack thing to do, to take responsibility to spare a f—ing dish towel!” responds Fogelman.
And as Ventimiglia told EW — and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) stressed to Kate in Tuesday’s episode — the Pearson patriarch sealed his own fate. “Jack made a decision. I mean, it’s not that Jack just went in and grabbed the dog and ran out. Look at all those other treasures — those family memories that Jack pulled out.”
Couple of thoughts here:
• That is such a Jack thing to do — to sacrifice himself instead of throwing a dish towel under the bus.
• One could make an argument that any blame assigned to the dish towel actually tracks back to Jack, as he brought it into the house in the first place as a fake gift that hid the jewelry he bought for Rebecca. Maybe he spent so much money on the bling that he could only afford an inexpensive rag that was extremely flammable?
• There’s a convincing argument to be made that series creator Dan Fogelman is most responsible, given he’s the one who actually engineered Jack’s demise.
• Ventimiglia really needs to fix that faulty light switch in his house. Seriously.
You may now continue with your healing.
Ventimiglia has plenty more to say about Jack’s “perfect” death, which you can read all about here.
To find out how Fogelman decided on Jack’s cause of death, click here.
This Is Us returns Feb. 27 to NBC.