Post Mortems
This Is Us Finale Season 1 NBC

The This Is Us Team on Shooting That Heartbreaking Finale (And Season 2)

Warning: The following contains spoilers for Tuesday’s This Is Us finale.

This Is Us put us on a real emotional rollercoaster in Tuesday’s season finale — then again, when doesn’t it? — flashing back to the highs of when Jack and Rebecca first met… and the lows of a huge fight between them that ultimately led to Jack moving out when the kids were teens.

RELATED This Is Us Finale Recap: You Don’t Know Jack — Plus, Grade the Episode!

“[Creator] Dan [Fogelman] had this idea very early on,” episode co-writer Elizabeth Berger revealed at a post-finale Q&A on Tuesday night. “We knew early on in the writing process that this finale was going to show the time that they met, and the separation. We tried to lay, along the way, little clues that we were going to build to this sort of emotional break.”

This Is Us NBC Season 1 Finale Jack RebeccaMilo Ventimiglia (Jack) remembers Fogelman cornering him and Mandy Moore (Rebecca) at a party and telling them about the finale: “People are gonna freak out! We’re gonna crush America!” And as difficult as it was to watch that vicious fight scene, both actors agreed that it was the most exciting scene for them to shoot. “You know you’re about to go down a deep, dark path… but you’re looking forward to it,” Ventimiglia says.

In fact, the scene was so good, their costars — who weren’t even in the scene — showed up on set just to watch. “Susan [Kelechi Watson] and I were there,” Chrissy Metz (Kate) remembers. “We had snacks,” Watson (Beth) adds.

And we may be seeing more of Jack and Rebecca’s early dating days, when Jack was clean-shaven: Ventimiglia remembers the writers asking him, “‘How long does it take you to grow a mustache?’… They really liked the era of Jack and Rebecca having just met. So [they’re] asking me how much I like working in a fake beard.”

More highlights from the This Is Us post-finale Q&A:

* As you might imagine, it gets a little weepy sometimes in the This Is Us writers’ room. Episode co-writer Isaac Aptaker remembers when they started writing this season, Fogelman brought in people to share their tragic life stories with the writing staff: “It was so sad… we’re sobbing, sobbing, sobbing.” Berger agrees: “It was truly like group therapy. So many of the stories have come from that.”

* The This Is Us cast is one big happy family when the cameras stop rolling, too. Watson even has a nickname for Ventimiglia on set: “Papa Bear… Milo takes care of us, man.” Moore agrees: “If anyone has a question, they’re like, ‘I don’t know… but Milo would know!’… I thought I was a nice person until I met Milo.”

* Will Toby and Kate walk down the aisle in Season 2? “We might be hearing wedding bells,” Metz hints. But Chris Sullivan (Toby) cautions that the honeymoon period might be over: “I think they’re coming down from the dopamine, serotonin festival of falling in love… it’s about to get real.” He’s still pushing for Toby’s idea of them getting married in a water park, though: “So much can happen in a lazy river.”

* Crying for a solid hour each week is fun and all, but could we maybe lighten things up a bit in Season 2? The writers promise that next season will be a little less heavy. “We were talking to Dan today for a few hours about Season 2,” Berger says. “We kept pitching things, and then we kept saying: ‘Too sad!’ We want to find that balance, for sure.”

* Watson says Beth is supportive of Randall’s new career path: “I think she’s OK with him quitting his job. You know, the pears… he could’ve died!” But she does think Randall’s new push to adopt a baby “could be an issue… She was looking forward to a time in their life where she could start doing other things… She really wants to figure some things out for herself.”

* No one’s saying a word about how Jack dies — Kate still thinks it’s her fault, but we don’t know why — and Ventimiglia insists that question isn’t important anyway: “Let’s focus on how he lived.” But Sullivan wants to keep the suspense about Kate’s guilt going: “If we stretch out the reveal for seven or eight seasons, like that Neil Patrick Harris show, we can call it How I Killed My Father.”

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23 Comments
  1. Mark says:

    Feels like a let down in so many ways. Yes, I’ll be back for season two, but this was the only sub-par episode of the season.

    • toppiri says:

      This. It wasn’t a bad episode, it could be ok somewhere in the season but as a finale, for such a great series, it’s just disappointing.

      • Mary says:

        This. I guess I was expecting more being the finale, but it was okay. I think this is the first time I didn’t cry my eyes out, so there is that. Still a great show and yes I will be back for season 2.

    • mrmcgee says:

      I have to agree. Seems like this could have been maybe the penultimate episode? Especially when the episode description built it up to something more final for all of the cast.

      • Dryheat says:

        Penultimate episodes before season finales are always better episodes, just like the episode last week.

        This finale was not good enough to be the penultimate.

  2. MMD says:

    Even though we were told time and time again that we wouldn’t find out how Jack dies for quite some time (and truly, does it even matter?) some people didn’t get the message. All in all this is one of the best shows on television and there is NO way the finale could have lived up to everyone’s expectations as they are all different.

    What I love about this show is that it portrays that bad things can happen to good people and that this is a family, albeit with all their faults, who loves each other through thick and thin. As an added bonus, people who have passed away are still very much around (like in Kevin’s painting). Some do the wrong things for the right reasons and others do the right things for the wrong reasons.

    Although it is a tv series, it is kicking ass because this is what real life is all about. Due to the current culture people want instant gratification and answers to their questions. The absolute treasure and uniqueness of this show is that it doesn’t provide this.

  3. ella jasper says:

    I love this show, but I didn’t love this episode. It was just too dark. We love the family for their love of each other and this went too deep for me. The funeral scenes, I cried like a baby, but not this episode. Looking forward to season 2.

  4. Garbo says:

    I think the timeline is off. The Big Three turned 36 in 2016, so they were born in 1980, Rebecca got pregnant on her 30th birthday, so she was born around 1950, this huge fight happened in 1996 (sticker on Jack’s car, plus the kids are 16), so she isn’t a “40 year old” as Jack stated in his tirade, but at least 45-46.

    P.S. For future reference, the two episodes of the season with barely if any time with The Big Three, were the weakest. The show works because of the family dynamic, when they take the kids away and devote entire episodes to just the parents, it is simply losing its touch. My two cents.

    • Gospino says:

      I agree about the weaker episodes being the ones with less balance. Something is off, not nearly as good.

      • DJ says:

        I agree. Really not a great episode. They led you to believe that you would need a lot of Kleenex, I am a sensitive person, no tears. Rebecca changed 100%To the point that I didn’t really like her.Very disappointing

    • LaDonna says:

      You must not have reached your 40s yet. I’m 46, but still refer to myself as 40-ish. Once you reach 40, it doesn’t matter until you turn 50. HA!

    • Carla Krae says:

      Jack wasn’t being literal re: 40. He meant “a woman in her 40s”.

    • S says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who spent time watching and doing math too.. giving them some leniency for the tags expiring at least a year or less from when he was driving, the timeline is a little fuzzy.

      Show wise, I had my mom binge watch the entire season in 1.5 days, watched the finale with her. As it was emotional and sweet, prior episodes take the cake in the best episode arena.

  5. Joel Maurice says:

    I still think Jack kills himself from depression of the cracking of their marriage. With Randall talking to the jumper in the Christmas episode and the way Kate asked Toby about his depression the kids seem to be affected by it. If that is the way he dies NBC probably didn’t want them to pull that trigger in the first season because it will be divisive. They also needed time to make Mandy Moore more sympathetic. So I feel like that is what led to this rather bland conclussion

  6. Nan says:

    I enjoyed the episode, however, I can’t recall a time when I’ve seen Rebecca really reflect on all the sacrifices Jack has made and the dreams he’s given up too…should he have gotten drunk…no….but he should have been told about that she dated the guy in the band. I still think Jack is a good guy but they do need to find common ground.

  7. herman1959 says:

    Hmmm…and I don’t mean it in a good way.

  8. David Hambly says:

    there seemed to be a lot of hype about this episode showing about how jack,drinking on a long 2 hour drive,etc. i found the episode kind of anti climatic for a season ender. ik mean we all kind of knew they were going to get separated probably.

  9. JJ. says:

    that fight was intense! Personally I think I need to rewatch this episode, all throughout I was on edge worried about jack’s death. Inevitably this episode was going to feel a bit underwhelming after Randall’s death but I liked the simplicity of this episode. The mirror of how jack and rebecca met and (what seems to be) the beginning of the end for jack

  10. Satchmo72 says:

    What emotional finale…… It would have been emotional if we hadn’t already known that Jack dies. WTF I have been waiting weeks for the big answer as to how our boy Jack shuffles off this mortal coil and hell everybody has been alluding to it being revealed in the finale. The only thing that was devastating about the finale is the actual FINALE itself. What a giant disappointment.

    I don’t usually get GEEKED about Major Network shows anymore, but this one had me hooked only to let me down at the most crucial part in any season “The Finale”

    Seriously I was so upset last night I actually considered skipping season LOL.. Yeah I know “Overreact MUch?”

    • By “everybody” are you referring to the fans, or those who’re actually involved with the show? If the latter, I don’t recall any of them saying we’d find out at the end of this season.

  11. HAP says:

    Gotta give Mandy some credit. She really showed her acting chops in this episode.