March 14, 2018 at 01:45 PM EDT

Kate ended last season by moving in with Toby, and she ended this season by moving on with Toby. And putting her Jack in his place. (In the nicest way possible.)

Tuesday’s season finale of This Is Us centered on the daughter who was haunted by tremendous guilt over her father’s death, and who worried how she would handle her wedding day without Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) being there to walk her down the aisle. To that end, her dreams became flooded with the stuff of not nightmares, but of fan fiction: Kate (Chrissy Metz) and her family had gathered to celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of Jack and Rebecca (Mandy Moore), and here was the devastatingly emotional part: Jack was very much alive in this alternate universe, sporting a graying goatee. But working through those dreams — and the requisite drama that comes with the wedding day — Kate wound up making significant strides in two of her key familial relationships, all while cementing the most important relationship in her life moving forward. She had a cozy conversation with her dad’s ashes outside the family cabin, explaining that he was taking up a little too much space in her heart for her to move forward, and there was a worthy man — a man of whom Jack would approve — ready to step in and take care of her. (This ever-loyal man, Toby, shut down his skeptical parents by telling them that if they couldn’t get on the Kate train, they should hit the road.) She also shared a breakthrough bonding moment with her mother, Rebecca (Mandy Moore), who’d been so nervous to upset her daughter that she was walking on eggshells stacked on a tightrope.

After Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) made sure that the ceremony would have made their dad proud — and one of Jack’s screwdrivers had been selected to replace the forgotten-back-at-home Daytona Beach T-shirt to accompany Kate down the aisle — Kate and Toby (someone with whom she had weathered break-ups, make-ups, health hazards, and a miscarriage) danced into the night in holy matrimony, and lived happily ever after. Well, at least for a while. A one-year peek into the future painted a not-so-rosy situation for the couple. Toby (Chris Sullivan) was languishing in bed, suffering from depression, while Kate informed him that the doctor was going to adjust his medication.

What was it like for Metz to be able to finally share the screen with Ventimiglia? What intimate scene ended up on the cutting room floor? What’s going in with poor Toby? EW caught up with Metz before the show began its six-month honeymoon, or hiatus, to break down “The Wedding.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Surely you had thought how Kate’s wedding might play out. How was it different in your head — and what intrigued you about this version?
CHRISSY METZ:
I thought that the ghost of Jack would be there and he’d be walking her down the aisle. I had no idea what we would do; I just knew it would be really clever and heartfelt and emotional, per usual. I have to say, it was so creative. Brides in particular have all these ideas of what they want it to be, and everybody wants to marry their dad, especially if they’re wonderful like Jack. But just to have him there when he wasn’t going to be there — and how do we incorporate not only Milo and I onscreen together, but, of course, Kate and Jack — and to have it through a dream sequence of what could have been  — is even more heartbreaking. This is her idea of the perfection of her dad and their relationship and the vow renewals and dancing with her father and all their things every bride wants to do with their father and their family on very, very special day. I have to say it was emotional. There’s something about Milo that I’m just [sighs romantically]. I mean, I know everybody feels that way. To have never worked with him before, and then to have this kind of experience was really special. And then, of course, Mandy sang the song, and oh, all the things that really meant so much to Kate. And then to see it happen live, through the actors as the characters, was really, really special.

What resonates with you about shooting that sequence? To film a father-daughter dance with Milo must have been high on your wish list.
Yeah, definitely. It was interesting because I played it as I was in the dream, watching myself in the dream, but also just being there and believing it to be real. There’s so many layers in playing that through a dream — there’s of course the dream and then the dreamer having the dream and then believing it to be true and then wanting it to be true. I mean, he’s the man that we all want to be or be with, and it was just really like —it’s hard to put into words. It was magical, because I know so many people are going to relate to either having that experience with their father or never having that. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking either way. There’s so many layers to that. And then, of course, Randall and Kevin wanting to make it the best wedding possible and stepping aside, but also trying to fill the shoes of their own father.

The 40th wedding anniversary is the essential fan-service moment.
Yeah, definitely. Like, “Oh my god, look what they could have been like together! And how they have would have aged and their memories and their experiences!” And seeing the whole family there. It’s so beautiful.

What was it like for you all to see Milo in old Jack make-up? Startling at first?
It was. It’s sort of stifling in the prosthetics, because there’s only so much you can do. The prosthetics don’t last forever and then it can start to peel or crack, and they’re constantly touching [them] up through [filming], so there were times where he couldn’t really laugh as hard as he wanted to. [Laughs.] He had this small-mouth laugh. I was like, “I can’t, I can’t handle this.” The whole end was so fun to shoot, but it was definitely like ‘Whoa!” We had to get used to it. But also because I never even worked with Milo before, and that was doubly special.

Kate’s journey to forgive herself for Jack’s death has been long and arduous. Does her speech with his ashes in essence bring that chapter to an end as she moves on to the next one?
Yeah. I think it was so important for her to have that, because there was a lot of pain surrounding, “Oh my gosh, I don’t want you to think that I’m forgetting you, but I found somebody who truly loves me and you love would him, too.” All any parent wants for their child is for them to be happy genuinely. And then to let a piece of Jack go, so there’s truly room in her heart for Toby — so much of the pain and the shame had filled her heart for so long that she had to overcome that to come through it. Nobody’s perfect and having one incident is not going to heal everything, but it’s definitely healing and it’s definitely on the journey of healing.

NEXT PAGE: Metz on filming the goodbye-Jack scene that you didn’t see

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