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Post Mortems

This Is Us' New Flash-Forward: Does Season 5 Finale Solve a Major Mystery?

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Just when we thought This Is Us might end Season 5 without taking us on a little time hop, the last two minutes of Tuesday’s finale flashed the action forward to four years from now. And in doing so, the show might have answered a question that’s plagued viewers since it started playing around with its timelines a few seasons back:

Why hasn’t Kate shown up in a substantial way in the other flash-forwards? Is she (gulp) no longer with us?

The finale’s brief foray into the future showed us the morning of Kate’s second wedding, to her music-school co-worker Phillip (played by You’re the Worst‘s Chris Geere). We were led to believe that she and Toby had divorced sometime after Madison and Kevin’s aborted nuptials. (Read a full recap of the episode and check out our deep dive into the new flash-forward.)

And this plays into one of the show’s two other flash-forwards — specifically, the one that shows Rebecca on what seems to be her deathbed at the house in rural Pennsylvania. And while we always thought that the “she” referenced when Toby and Randall talk during that flash-forward (“She wants you to be there, Tobe,” Randall tells him) referred to Rebecca, perhaps we were mistaken. Maybe it’s Kate they’re referencing — and we would understand why, if they’re divorced by this point, Toby would feel weird about being included in a Very Emotional Pearson Moment — which would mean that Kate is still alive at that point in the story.

It’s not the most substantial of evidence, we admit. But it’s enough to rekindle our curiosity about exactly how the family’s future is going to play out. And though series creator Dan Fogelman didn’t directly address the question of Kate’s existence during a call with reporters Tuesday, he did say that having Chrissy Metz’s character get remarried was “part of our plan all along, from go.

“We hinted at, many times in the deeper future, that something was not normal between [Kate] and [Toby],” Fogelman said. “And here we are.”

The hour also inferred that Phillip would have a greater presence in This Is Us‘ sixth and final season.

“Obviously, Chris is going to be a big part of the show next year,” the executive producer confirmed, adding that Geere will be promoted to series regular in Season 6.

He went on to say that though finale viewers may only be able to focus on the heartbreak of Kevin and Madison’s unsuccessful wedding and Kate and Toby’s implied breakup, it was important to the show’s writing staff that the hour ended on a hopeful note.

“The balancing act of our show has always been — I think we said it out loud with Gerald McRaney’s character, Dr. K, a season or two ago — is mixing the tragedies and heartbreak of life with also the joy and the beauty,” Fogelman said. “They have to be able to coexist in order to capture what we’re trying to capture on this show. Marriages don’t always survive. People don’t live forever.”

He added: “This show has always been about taking snapshots of a family’s existence at one period of time and looking backwards or looking forwards and seeing how you get from Point A to Point B or Point B to Point C, or sometimes Point C to Point B. But ultimately, it’s an optimistic show.”

To that end: The EP promised that fans can look forward to having all of their questions about every flash-forward answered by the series’ finale. “Because our audience has been so devoted, and because hopefully we’ve smartly set up the contained areas where these future timelines live, I think you’re going to have a real sense of resolution and completion for this family,” he said. “It’s where the mixed-up VHS tapes of this family’s existence will all coalesce and speak to one another in completion. And so we have been working tirelessly to set up this rewarding final season to make all the pieces fit together.”