The man who plays Jack warns, 'Papa Pearson is very concerned for the audience right now.'
The last episode of This Is Us ended on a rather ominous note, as we watched a not-exactly-sober Jack hop in a car, apparently headed to Rebecca’s gig a few hours away to save his marriage. The final episode of This Is Us this season, titled “Moonshadow,” will show you the results of that ill-advised car ride. Will this be the event that sends him to the morgue? Milo Ventimiglia, the man who plays Jack, isn’t saying one way or another, but it sounds like he wants you to at least brace for that possibility when he tells EW: “People want to know what happens with Jack. This may be the time when they find out.”
Or this: “It’s almost like that drink is a bit of a truth serum and a relaxer to the way that he thinks, ‘I’m going to go get my wife back.’ And it’s a poor decision on his part that may lead to his death.”
Or definitely this: “Papa Pearson is very concerned for the audience right now.”
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But the season finale — which was co-written by series creator Dan Fogelman and focuses primarily on the Pearson parents — also takes us deep into the past, specifically the year 1972, right before Jack meets Rebecca. “It’s an episode that goes beyond the Jack and Rebecca that we know,” says Ventimiglia.
Indeed, Jack returns from Vietnam and is having trouble making a living, and living at home with his parents. “That was a tough era for Vietnam vets — coming home from war, they weren’t welcomed with open arms,” says Ventimiglia. “A lot of them were spit on, and coming back troubled, having seen some pretty bad things. Even though it may appear that Jack was unscathed by it, I think there’s a deeper understanding to what Jack experienced that we may only see the surface of it and not know what lies beneath. He comes home from a war and ultimately, quietly, there’s a bit of a war at home. It’s no surprise that Jack has had a bad relationship with his father, and that continues.”
Rebecca (Mandy Moore), meanwhile, is pursuing a music career that hasn’t taken off, and she’s facing societal pressures to settle down with a husband. “All of her girlfriends are married, the eye on their prize is meeting marriage material, and Rebecca’s eye is on her music that isn’t quite going the way that she was hoping,” he says. “But at the same time that’s what she’s interested in and that’s where her focus lies…. It’s always about singing and being on a stage for her. “
Ventimiglia hints at a pair of scenes late in the episode that should have fans talking. “They change the game of what the show is,” says Ventimiglia. “They’re two incredibly impactful moments — one’s seeking conflict, and one’s seeking resolution. You may not completely disagree with the conflict, and you may not agree with the resolution, but they sit on complete opposite sides of one another.”
And how would he describe the overall vibe of the episode? “It’s definitely heartbreaking, but it has the Fogelman wink and a smile that will keep you thinking about what just happened. That’s been always the best part about – you can call them cliffhangers — with our show. There might have been only one, where you really have to know what happened, and that was: What happened to Toby? That was the one where you go, ‘Oh my god, I gotta wait four weeks? This is horrible! Screw you people!’ This one feels like it could potentially be a little more reflective. But I don’t think it diminishes the capacity of it in any way.”
“Moonshadow” airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
For analysis of last week’s episode and hints about the finale, check out these Q&As with Milo Ventimiglia, Chrissy Metz, and Sterling K. Brown. And for more This Is Us scoop, follow @dansnierson on Twitter.