Everything we know about the This Is Us Super Bowl episode — including Jack's death

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Everything we know about the This Is Us Super Bowl episode

The emotionally potent NBC drama aims to go big after the big game, offering up an episode that promises to resolve that long-brewing mystery about the Pearson patriarch. Grab a few extra boxes of Kleenex and start clicking to see what awaits you — and Jack — this Sunday.

The Super Bowl episode will be supersized. Sort of.

This special installment will run about three minutes longer than a normal episode. (Your DVR listing will show an 80-minute episode, but that was to provide a buffer in case the game runs long.)

This is the episode in which Jack dies.

“All of your questions will be answered,” promised the promo that ran after last week's episode, as images of Jack trying to help his family escape the fire flashed before us.

No, really — this is it.

Yes, you've braced yourself before, convinced it was coming at end of season 1. But This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman says that this is "the Big One." Mandy Moore (Rebecca) has said as much, too. As did TIU exec producer Isaac Aptaker, who declares: "Questions will be answered in a very satisfying way. It’s not necessarily what people expect, but people will have a lot of the answers they’ve been hoping for."

The episode picks up right where it left off. And from there, things heat up. Literally.

"It's almost a 'To Be Continued...'" notes Aptaker. Meanwhile, Fogelman says that the producers spent a "fortune" on the opening 5 to 10 minutes. "We went into the middle of nowhere so nobody would see us, and we built our house," he says. "We brought in the people who had done Backdraft, and for you, as an audience member, it’s very hard to breathe. It’s extraordinary." Chew on this quote from Sterling K. Brown: "[Dan] may have written his best hour of television. It is cinematic, it’s epic in scope. He is able to take the mundane and turn it into a superhero movie."

This episode also might destroy your tear ducts for good.

"It’s an absolute soul-crusher,” says Ventimiglia. “Once you figure out the moment where it’s going to happen, you may get some hope — and then it’s all going to go away.” What's that? You want more? Here he goes again: “I think the best thing I can say — or the worst thing I can say — is: It’s going to be f—ing painful.”

It's not just a death march, though.

"It’s one of the most emotional episodes we've ever done, but there is a silver lining to it, and there’s an uplift to the episode,” says Aptaker. "While it’s incredibly intense in a lot of ways, there is beauty to it and there is optimism to it. That’s so important to us — to always find the lighter side of things too."

It aims to transcend mystery resolution.

While Fogelman describes the episode as a "very difficult hour of television," he believes that this installment goes beyond the promise of answering a burning question. "By the end of the episode, you’ll see that this show and Jack’s story was much bigger than his death, or this fire," he says. "It will be very rewarding for fans in a different kind of way. There is a bigger story here than just how Jack dies — and you'll ultimately find something really meaningful and powerful in the episode."

Randall and Beth receive an important phone call.

Remember that kid from the fall finale who was in need a foster home? He just might wind up in the orbit of Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson). "This little boy is so precious, and the way in which the story line pays off is probably one of the more exciting things for me in the course of season 2," says Brown. "You’ll see the manifestation of that relationship in the Super Bowl episode."

There's more to learn about Kate's guilt over Jack's death — and the family dog.

At the end of last season, Kate (Chrissy Metz) revealed to Toby (Chrissy Sullivan), "I'm the reason he's dead." And clearly there's a story to tell involving her and the family dog, Louie, especially as we just saw how emotional she got when she tried to adopt a canine in the present day. As Fogelman hints, "We know that the dog plays a part — somehow."

The adult Big Three observe Super Bowl Sunday in different ways.

"They’re not all gathered in the same place," says Aptaker, "but there are different pairings of characters."

All of those puzzle pieces will snap into place.

The end of the season 2 premiere gave us a brief glimpse of that fateful night. Rebecca (Mandy Moore) sobbing in her car by the burned-down Pearson house. On the seat of the car: a bag of (what appears to be) Jack's possessions, such as a ring, watch, keys, flag key chain, notebook. Randall, his red-headed girlfriend, and Kate, distraught at Miguel's with the dog. Kevin not there, over at Sophie's. "The episode is alternately thrilling and brutally heartbreaking and sad," says Fogelman. "And then surprising. If you stick with it and can make it through it, it’s very rewarding."

Certain moments were filmed with alternate lines of dialogue.

When it was time to film the episode, the Pittsburgh Steelers — a.k.a. the hometown team — were still contenders for reaching the Super Bowl. Not knowing if the team ultimately would be playing in the big game, scenes in which the Big Three were watching the Super Bowl were shot both ways. "Our characters would obviously be saying different things if they were watching the Steelers as opposed to any old team," explains Aptaker. "We had to shoot alt lines in the scenes where [they are watching] the Super Bowl to protect ourselves. So yes, it would have been very, very cool, but what are you going to do? We can’t control football."
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