Warning: This story contains plots details from Tuesday’s episode of This Is Us, “The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning.”
Remember all that mystery over that Pearson fellow who died tragically years ago? Well, here’s a twist to shout about over the holidays: He’s not dead anymore!
No, we’re not talking about Jack, beloved father of the Big Three who perished via heart attack via smoke inhalation via house-fire rescue — we’re referring to Nicky (Michael Angarano), Jack’s troubled, death-wished little brother who was thought to have perished in combat during the Vietnam War. However, the fall finale of This Is Us, titled “The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning,” brought you on the biggest Whoa-MG moment of the fall season as it shed tiny but precious light on what happened to Jack’s younger sibling whilst in combat. A boat that he seemed to be on was bombed, prompting Jack — who’d spent the last two weeks desperately trying to rehabilitate his damaged, high younger brother — to dive frantically into the water to save him. It’s unknown right now what happened next; that was the last glimpse we got of that time of terror. But as Kevin — on a mission to the Vietnam fishing village where Jack lived — discovered from his tour guide, Trong, that Nicky did not perish while in the war, at least according to Vietnam War veteran records. Whether he was alive or not was another question.
And viewers didn’t have to wait long for a definitive answer to that new question. The final scene of the episode showed an older man in a trailer… and a stack of mail addressed to Nicholas Pearson. Yes, apparently Nicky is among us, and the Pearsons are surely about to get the (latest) shock of their lives. How much, if anything, did Jack know of this secret? What would a Pearson family reunion with Nicky possibly look like? Does Nicky know what’s going with his brother’s family? Here to talk about Nicky’s miraculous rise from the dead — and what the heck might happen next — is series creator Dan Fogelman.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Dan, Dan, Dan, Dan. Did you feel that because you took Jack from us, we should at least get his brother back?
DAN FOGELMAN: [Laughs.] Very good. In terms of getting his brother back, there’s a story to come in the back half of the season, and we’ll see what that looks like and what that entails. But you can never have enough Pearson men, is what we say around here.
Did Michael know from the get-go that Nicky was not actually dead, and what was his reaction?
Michael has known of the arc of the story since the beginning. There’s been a contingent of people who always suspected in a way that that might be a possibility, and I don’t know where Michael landed on that from the beginning. From the very start, we tell all the actors what the arc of the characters are and where it’s going, so they don’t have a lot of time to think otherwise.
The idea that Jack has been mourning a brother that was actually alive — and that Jack was carrying around that guilt for the rest of his life — is almost too much to swallow. What intrigued you about that scenario, and did it rip at your hearts in the writers’ room, too?
Yeah. If as we’re saying, Nicky’s alive and Jack in present day has been carrying that, it’s not quite mourning as much as: What happened and what has Jack been hiding, and why? Psychologically it’s a big part of what we get into in the back half of the season pretty quickly. Which is, not just what happened, not just where is and what happened to Nicky, but also, what was going on with Jack all of this time? What did Jack know — or not know? And then, the last component of it is: In the present day, as some stuff starts coming to light to their family, what is the reaction of family members who learn that something might have been kept from them for a very long time?
So, can we assume that Jack didn’t know that his brother died? Or is it possible that Nicky reached out to him later in life?
Right now, as an audience, anything is possible. We’ve had a very specific story that will answer all of that relatively quickly. It was a story that was decided on before we really embarked on our details of our Vietnam arc, and so once you understand what happened and what was known and not known, it will all make sense. But I think right now, if I’m watching just the episode that just aired, I think anything is possible. As we get into the next few episodes, the pieces will start coming together for everybody.