We now pronounce this season of This Is Us officially over. Let the honeymoon of speculation and questions begin.
The uplifting wedding of Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) closed out a dark, intense season of This Is Us that centered on the death of Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia). It wasn’t an easy path to the altar for Kate and Toby, who broke up at one point, weathered a serious health scare, and suffered a miscarriage. Not to mention, Kate battled a few jitters on the wedding day itself, clearly haunted by the idea that Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) wouldn’t be there to walk her down the aisle — and obsessed with somehow representing him physically at the ceremony. (One of Jack’s screwdrivers dutifully would have to fill in for that left-at-home spring break T-shirt.) Meanwhile, Toby’s parents tried to persuade him to rethink his nuptials to a woman they were now considering unstable.
Ultimately, Toby issued an ultimatum to his parents: join Team KaToby or don’t let the door hit you on the way out. (They chose the former, and were happy about it when it was time to hit the dance floor.) And Kate had a heart-to-heart with Jack’s urn at a meaningful tree stump, in which she finally made peace with his place in her life, which is to say: she needed him to occupy less space in her heart so she could make room for Toby, who, as Rebecca (Mandy Moore) helped her accidentally realize, was not present in her dreams. What dreams? Oh, nothing major. Just dreams of Jack TOTALLY ALIVE AND CELEBRATING HIS 40TH ANNIVERSARY WITH REBECCA. (Feel free to send a fruit basket or five to the This Is Us writers’ room.)
Kate and Toby’s wedding ultimately came gift-wrapped with as much love and joy as the dreamy 40th, and then the episode closed out with a little time tinkering. After Kevin’s breathe-out-the-pain toast and during Randall’s choosing-our-loved-ones-is-the-closest-we-come-to-choosing-our-destiny speech, time skipped one year to the future, when Kevin (Justin Hartley) was jetting off to Vietnam with Beth’s cousin and his new girlfriend (!) Zoe, whom he met at the wedding. In the same period, Toby was languishing in bed, appearing to be suffering deeply once again from depression. And we jumped ahead two decades, seemingly to the time when we recently met adult Tess. But this time, the situation wasn’t as cheerful, as we saw Randall (Sterling K. Brown) tell his daughter Tess, “It’s time to go see her,” to which Tess said, “I’m not ready.” Randall’s response: “I’m not either.”
Chances are that the tears on your face are surpassed only by the question marks above your head. Let’s ring up This Is Us executive producer Elizabeth Berger, who co-wrote this fine season 2 closer, to break down all things related to “The Wedding.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How much of the tone and story direction of the finale was influenced by the brutal one-two punch of Jack’s death and the funeral just a couple episodes ago? This show always strives to balance darkness with light. Was there a very conscious effort to do something lighter?
ELIZABETH BERGER: Yes, we knew that we wanted the end of the season to be a little lighter and to end with that breath for the family. One of the first things that we talked about at the beginning of season 2 is that this season would end with the wedding and it would end with the whole family doing their exhale. That was a very conscious decision. Everyone has been through enough — our viewers, our characters — and it was time to let everyone have a bit of a catharsis.
It’s certainly been a long journey for Kate to forgive herself for Jack’s death. Does her telling Jack when she’s on the stump that she has to make room for Toby effectively put that chapter of her life to rest?
I think so. I mean, she is always going to feel so linked to her father and she is always going to miss him. But I think this is a new stage for her, of a healthier sort of grief, as opposed to being lost in it and consumed by it.
Her relationship with Rebecca has been two steps forward, one steps back. It feels like this was yet another critical step for her with her parents — both in spirit and in physical person.
Absolutely. I think they’ll always be a mother and daughter, and it will always be a loaded dynamic, but they’ve been through so much together this season, and I think Rebecca and Kate can feel each other’s love for each other in a way that they haven’t in many, many years. And I think they’re moving into season 3 in a really beautiful, healthy place.
Kate’s line, “You’re not in my way, you’re my way” — that gets the tears moving a little bit.
It got all of our tears moving when we viewed it as a group. They just played it so beautifully, and I think it is very moving to just feel how much they’ve grown over the course of the season.
Yet there’s some darkness juxtaposed in the lightness of this episode. Zoe’s speech to Deja seemed to resonate, but it ultimately didn’t have the desired effect, as Randall’s windshield can attest to, when she takes Jack’s baseball bat to it after Toby’s mom told her that she looked just like her father. Is that sense of abandonment — and emotional damage — that Deja feels since her mother relinquished parental rights much greater than Randall and Beth realize? And how much is it tied to things about her birth father that will be revealed next season?
I think Deja’s going through something really complex, where she’s generally filled with anger right now and not exactly sure where to direct it. I mean, she’s angry and betrayed by her mom, she feels angry and betrayed by Randall and Beth just for being involved in the whole situation. And yeah, there’s still a lot that we don’t know about her, and one of the things that we may come to know more about next season is Deja’s father, because we haven’t yet talked about it at all. Obviously, Deja has had almost no relationship with him, but she may know more about him than we previously let on. So, we’ll get to know a little bit more about what that relationship is moving forward.
Toby tells his parents “If anything, I’m the unstable one,” when they’re worried about Kate being stable. And then we see him a year later, seemingly wallowing in bed in a deep depression, which he’s been in before he met Kate. What can you say about the depth and cause of his depression? We know he tends to feel things at least nine times stronger than the average human.
Right. Depression is something that Toby struggled with before, and it’s something that he’s gotten a hold of. But I think as many people can attest to, the path of dealing with depression isn’t always a straight line, and sometimes you get off-course. And especially when there are stressful situations going on, things can sort of come to a head. And Kate and Toby will be thrust into some stressful situations as we move forward, and that will definitely have an impact on Toby’s state of mind.
Is there anything you can hint about the trigger for this one?
Obviously with the miscarriage, it was steps backward for Toby and Kate in terms of expanding their family, and I think that the desire to expand their family isn’t going to go away. So that, along with other stresses that come with the first year of marriage will definitely be at play as we move forward.
Now, we met Toby’s parents – great casting with Dan Lauria and Wendy Malick, by the way –
Yeah, we were so happy with them. We love them!
Why didn’t Toby’s brother show up for the wedding? The bachelor party is one thing to miss, but this is obviously a bigger deal. Is that something we’ll be exploring, too? Toby obviously has some issues with their estrangement.
Yes. Obviously it’s such an estranged relationship that he didn’t even bother to come to Toby’s wedding. And moving forward as we get to know Toby better in season 3, we’re definitely going to be exploring his family and his relationships in a deeper way.