Ron Batzdorff/NBC
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February 06, 2018 at 11:52 PM EST

This Is Us

type
TV Show
genre
Drama
run date
09/20/16
performer
Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Justin Hartley, Sterling K. Brown
Producer
Dan Fogelman
broadcaster
NBC
seasons
3
We gave it a B

The other half of the episode is far more compelling. Overall, “The Car” seems to work best when it’s comfortable letting Jack go, and letting Rebecca, the kids, and the audience really experience their loss as it is — without Jack present in any way. Rebecca’s journey is painful but deeply felt; she tries to keep pace with Jack’s urn as it’s transported to the funeral and then to the reception. She’s wracked with guilt and a lack of resolution over not being there at the time of Jack’s death and wants to make up for it by maintaining a kind of presence, however futile. And the kids, too, are reeling. Kate’s wrestling with the feelings that continue to haunt her as an adult — that sense of responsibility for Jack’s death, since it was likely those extra moments Jack spent rescuing Louie that killed him. She considers getting rid of the dog, instinctively punishing herself. Kevin and Randall, meanwhile, are channeling their grief by clashing over being the new “man of the house” — even, most explosively, at the actual ceremony.

At the funeral itself, we catch brief glimpses of the loving speeches from the likes of Miguel and Randall, but most of the timeline’s action is spent around the reception. In the hour’s longest — and best — scene, Rebecca reunites with Gerald McRaney’s Dr. Katowski, the man who delivered Jack and Rebecca’s children and continued to counsel the former on fatherhood years past their initial meeting. It’s outside the reception where they reconnect. He’s there to pay his respects, quipping to Rebecca, “We have to stop meeting under such dramatic circumstances.”

It’s to the doctor that Rebecca finally opens up: about her shame, her grief, and, most dominantly, the feeling that she simply won’t be able to go on and keep her family together without Jack. In a stirring, beautiful monologue — at this point, a trademark of the good doctor — Dr. K reminds her of her strength. “You are the same woman who lost a child and rolled out of my hospital with three babies just the same,” he says.

Rebecca re-emerges, in a way, after this conversation — she’s ready to take charge and bring her family together. She snags the urn, abruptly telling the kids that they’re leaving the reception, and gets back into the car — noticing Jack’s old coffee cup, which she hasn’t been able to throw away, and the Springsteen tickets, which we learn through flashbacks were his big post-Super Bowl surprise. They head to Jack’s tree and prepare to scatter the ashes, and at long last, they’re able to start the long, complicated, unending process of moving on. Rebecca tells Kate that she can’t blame herself, Kevin and Randall that they don’t have to play any added role in the house, and herself (if only implicitly) that she really can do this. They scatter the ashes, with Kate stopping them before they finish and asking to take some home in the urn. (She’ll keep it for decades.) Rebecca then tells them about the Springsteen gift and reasons that they should go to the concert in Jack’s memory.

But Jack’s voice is what we’re left with, of course — one last reminder of his outsize heroism before This Is Us officially closes this chapter of its story. He gives his speech about the car, and visuals of family memories come in faster, this time from what we’ve already seen across two seasons — split-second shots of the car’s role in a collection of vital scenes from episodes past. Again, it’s a little overproduced, a little tacked on and unnecessary given the emotional power of Jack being otherwise absent in this installment. But the final images, simple and sweet as they are, still pack a wallop. We watch Rebecca and the kids drive back from “the tree” in that same Wagoneer. Randall and Kevin exchange a smile. Rebecca crosses that bridge, looking directly ahead, determined — strong. Just as Jack hoped — as he promised — they look okay.

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