This Is Us
actors Milo Ventimiglia, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Moore and Chris Sullivan pose with show creator Dan Fogelman at a screening of the show’s final episode May 22 at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. (Photo: Kevin Winter / Getty Images)
Spoiler alert: Do not read this until you watched the final episode of This Is Us.
The penultimate episode of This Is Us was an emotional wringer, but Tuesday’s finale was, appropriately for a show known for sending its audience reaching for the tissues on any given week, a tearjerker and a fitting goodbye to the Pearsons. The episode revisited the early days of Jack and Rebecca, spending a rare free day with their young triplets, and also flashed forward to the Big Three’s lives after the devastating loss of their mother.
Viewers saw one last scene of Randall and Beth engaged in witty banter and true love, a beautiful last moment between the divorced Kate and Toby, among other poignant parting shots. And we learned that Randall, Kate and Kevin had serious plans for their lives beyond the show: Randall to accept the Democratic National Committee’s offer to test a run for president by appearing at the Iowa State Fair; Kate to open additional music schools for blind children like her son, Jack; and Kevin to spend more time working with his nonprofit.
The episode packed an emotional punch for the cast, too, who gathered to watch a screening Sunday at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. They spoke about the difficulty of filming scenes in both the gut-wrenching “The Train,” in which family members tell beloved character Rebecca farewell, at least for now, and “Us,” the final installment of the Emmy-winning show.
“Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things,” Chrissy Metz (Kate) said in a panel discussion with the cast that followed the screening, “because you’re saying goodbye to the show, but you’re also saying goodbye to a character but you’re also saying goodbye to a friendship, as far as the six years go. So it was very layered. It was very, very layered. And while, of course, as this episode shows us, we never say goodbye, it’s just like, ‘See you later.’ “
For Mandy Moore, who played matriarch Rebecca, just sitting there listening to the goodbyes was also difficult.
“I have to say, one of the hardest parts was the very end, this last episode, I remember thinking, ‘OK, I’ve gone through four hours of makeup, and I get to sort of just lie in bed and listen to my friends say these beautiful things about this character. I was like, ‘I can not wait! What a great day,’ “Moore said. “And Susan [Kelechi Watson, who plays Beth] walks in first and delivers that whopper of a monologue. And thank god the camera was on her, because I just started crying, like, with my eyes closed. I just had tears streaming down my face…. I would say that was, oddly, one of the most challenging parts was just having to like put myself in a completely different frame of mind. And I did not get to listen to everything. But I did get to see everyone’s work in the episode, obviously, I was just like, ‘Oh, I can not listen. I’m gonna cry all day. ‘”
Thanks to the script, Justin Hartley [Kevin] and Sterling K. Brown [Randall] said their goodbyes to Rebecca together, which made it somewhat easier but nonetheless moving. Hartley described it as “kind of magical.”
What Milo Ventimiglia appreciated about the very last episode is that it captured the Pearsons just hanging out. They played basketball and Pin the Tail on the Donkey with their school-age kids.
“It just, it felt like any other scene. I mean, you can drop that into any season that we’ve filmed, and it’s the same,” Ventimiglia said. “I think that was kind of great, this moment we had to capture in time with the kids being as young as they were. You know, [they’re] adults today. This idea that we only have that moment and even kind of reflecting what Jack was saying, ‘You kind of only have those moments.’ William has said it. Other characters have said it. Hanging on to those, those times that you’re not gonna get back. “
The NBC series, which famously jumps around in time, filmed some of the scenes from the final episodes roughly three years ago, when the cast could not really envision the end yet. Ventimiglia recalled that Moore whispered to him, “Is this the end ?,” when they were filming the last thing viewers would see.
Creator Dan Fogelman had had those critical moments in mind for years. He’s said since 2019 that This Is Us had an end game, and we were halfway to it. Still, some questions remained for the writing team.
“We really debated everything at the end. Is Miguel’s death gonna be too close to Rebecca’s death? Episodically, how do we do all that? How do we balance out the tone?” Fogelman said. “We knew going in that we wanted Rebecca to die in the second-to-last episode of the show, so that the final episode, while big and sprawling and gigantic and epic, the show isn’t ending with a death. It was ending literally and structurally with what happens after somebody dies, which is very much what the theme of the whole show is. “Somebody can pass away, somebody can die, but they do not stop becoming a part of the family’s story both past and future.”
Yes, as we learn, Randall finds out during what has to be one of the saddest times in his life, his mom’s death, that his daughter Deja is expecting. And it’s a boy!
That last episode did more than connect the sweeping arc of the series, though. It also revisited smaller moments, such as Randall and Beth playing one final round of “worst-case scenario,” which, as Brown correctly put it, was “so damn funny.”
“Sue did it like five or six different ways, and each way was brilliant and hysterical and heartfelt,” he said of Watson. “I remember thinking, I was like, ‘This is like one of the best scene partners I’ve ever had, and we’re not gonna get to do this again.'”
Then he rolled out a line as sweet as anything that was in the script.
“Every time I hold your hand,” he said to Watson, “Sterling as Randall holding Sue as Beth’s hand, all I’ve felt was loved, and it was nice to just feel that love one last time.”