5 Ways the ‘This Is Us’ Finale Surprised (and Moved) Us

This Is Us - Mandy Moore
Spoiler Alert
Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Pictured: Mandy Moore as Rebecca

[Spoiler alert: Don’t continue reading if you haven’t watched Tuesday’s season finale of This Is Us.]

From the very first episode of This Is Us, when the tear-jerking final reveal established that Kate, Kevin and Randall were actually siblings, and that Rebecca and (the late) Jack were their parents from decades earlier, we’ve learned to expect the unexpected, with clever misdirection a hallmark of the way the writers deliver their emotional blows.

So it was in Tuesday’s This Is Us season finale, another tour de force for Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore as the perfectly imperfect Pearsons, who even at their lowest ebb are living out a love story for the ages.

Here are some of the ways This Is Us left us gasping, and crying—and as always, wanting more. (Though the season is ending early with only 18 episodes, NBC is fully committed to This Is Us, giving it an early renewal for two more seasons.)

1. Before Jack Met Rebecca

Flashbacks are part of the DNA of This Is Us, but never before have we spent significant time with Jack and Rebecca before they became the loves of each other’s lives. Jack, who served in Vietnam as a mechanic, is miserable living in the attic of his parents’ home, looking for a way out and trying to avoid the soul-crushing behaviors of his abusive alcoholic father. Being robbed of his bankroll at a poker game has this good guy wondering if he’ll ever get what he deserves. Cue Rebecca, who’s chasing her dreams of musical stardom but beginning to realize that she needs to diversify by maybe seeking a soulmate.

2. The Blind Date

Not surprisingly, all those who know and love Jack and Rebecca are trying to set them up with someone special. And when both agree to go on a blind date, we expect it will lead to a legendary meet-cute. But quirks of fate are a This Is Us specialty, and it turns out Rebecca has been set up with a mergers-and-acquisitions stuffed shirt, whom she ditches for an open-mike night at the bar Jack is planning to pilfer in retaliation for the poker-game fiasco. His bone-headed heist caper is stopped in his tracks when he gets his first look, and listen, at Rebecca. (Little does he know how her musical ambitions will cause conflict later on.) Jack was also supposed to be on a blind date that night, but he stood her up to go rob the bar, and when Rebecca later wonders who this unseen mystery date might have been, Jack says he doesn’t care. Neither, really, do we. This was love at first sight, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

3. Jack Behind the Wheel

Many This Is Us fans a week ago were worried that when Jack began to drunk-drive to Cleveland to smooth things over with Rebecca during her first big club gig, this would lead to his death, the details of which are still the show’s greatest secret. (Last week, Kate told Toby that she blamed herself for Jack’s death, and given that teenage Kate had urged Jack to go win Rebecca back, we feared the worst.) Jack’s quest did end in disaster, a drunken brawl with Rebecca’s smitten band leader, whose misbegotten backstage attempt to kiss her had a frantic Rebecca calling Jack at home, not knowing that he was already there drowning his sorrows. Irate at Jack but unwilling to let him drive in his sodden condition, she walked out on the show, chauffering her wasted husband home in stony silence. “That would be some way to leave us,” she said later. And she’s right.

4. Bombshells From the Next Generation

The focus of this unconventional episode was almost entirely on Jack and Rebecca. It seemed as if we wouldn’t hear at all from their kids, but in quick-hit succession as the episode built to its heart-tugging finale, we learned that Kate has decided to follow her mother’s path and attempt a singing career, that Randall will honor his own history by telling wife Beth he wants to adopt a child, and Kevin will once again leave his ex-wife Sophie behind to pursue a great career opportunity, though this time with her (ambivalent) blessing.

5. A Happy Unhappy Ending

While we tuned into the finale worrying that we’d be witnessing Jack’s death, what happened next had us wondering if Jack and Rebecca’s marriage could survive the events in Cleveland. When they got home, the couple engaged in the sort of epic late-hours fight that can’t be resolved with a mere “I’m sorry.” The morning after, Rebecca asks Jack to stay with Miguel for a while. Humbled and chastened, he agrees, but not without rising to the challenge when she told him, “The next time that you tell me that you love me, make sure you’re not doing it out of habit.” Before he leaves, Jack launches into a quietly heartfelt testimonial that would melt the heart of any romantic. His final words: “You’re not just my great love story, Rebecca. You were my big break.” They’ll be fine, but what about us?

Hearts broken and lifted at the same time, tears freely and unashamedly shed. That was us watching This Is Us. Can’t wait for Season 2.