The Super Bowl 'This Is Us' killed Jack with love

After the wild celebration of the Super Bowl win (what, you weren’t an Eagles fan?) and the razzle-dazzle of Justin Timberlake’s half-time show, the new episode of This Is Us that followed the football game was a different kind of celebration: One that honored the life and death of Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia), and how that life continues to be honored by the characters into the present day. Spoilers follow for This Is Us, in case you fell asleep after the Super Bowl.

The show had been teasing the notion that all our questions about how Jack died would be answered, and they were. We knew there was a fire that would destroy the Pearsons’ house, and naturally thought that Jack died in the conflagration. After all, isn’t that why grown-up Kate (Chrissy Metz) didn’t want to get a dog, because her dad died, perhaps, rescuing her childhood pet? Well, This Is Us gave that a twist: Jack saved the family and the dog, but died in the hospital soon afterward. The heavy smoke inhalation put a strain on his lungs and heart, and he suffered what they call a widow-maker. And you can bet the widow it made of Rebecca (Mandy Moore) took it hard.

Cut to, inevitably, the present, and it was Super Bowl Sunday in Pearson-ville, and the 20th anniversary of Jack’s death. Each of the kids honors Jack differently. Kate sits in front of the TV and watches the VHS tape her Dad made of her singing, while sobbing and making Toby feel helpless. Randall (Sterling K. Brown) goes in the opposite direction, psyching himself up into manic cheerfulness, organizing an elaborate Super Bowl party no one in his family is interested in except him. And Justin Hartley’s Kevin — well, Kevin goes to talk to a tree, which is where he apparently thinks his father’s spirit resides, even if he’s sometimes not quite sure he has the right tree.

Was all this sad? Yes. Was all this moving? Occasionally. To criticize This Is Us for jerking our tears is like criticizing The Flash for running fast — it comes with the premise of the show. There was an awful lot of crying in this one, that’s for sure. It’s not the sobbing that can sometimes be irritating in this show — This Is Us really knows how to do sorrow effectively. No, it’s more the trite therapy-speak that sometimes mars the dialogue, particularly with Kate. This was true here, as she told Toby she wanted to sit in her grief and “once a year I want to beat myself up for it,” as well as making sure Toby knows that she has transferred the feelings of safety she found in her father to him now. I get that Kate’s the one who’s probably been in therapy the longest, but sometimes the wooden words get in the way of Chrissy Metz’s effective performance.

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Milo Ventimiglia on 'This Is Us'
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Milo Ventimiglia on 'This Is Us'
THIS IS US -- 'That'll Be The Day' Episode 213 -- Pictured: Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'The Fifth Wheel' Episode 211 -- Pictured: (l-r) Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Mackenzie Hancsicsak as Kate -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'That'll Be The Day' Episode 213 -- Pictured: (l-r) Parker Bates as Kevin, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Lonnie Chavis as Randall, Mandy Moore as Rebecca -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'The Fifth Wheel' Episode 211 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mackenzie Hancsicsak as Kate, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Clooney' Episode 212 -- Pictured: Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Clooney' Episode 212 -- Pictured: Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Number Three' Episode 210 -- Pictured: (l-r) Lonnie Chavis as Randall, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Mackenzie Hancsicsak as Kate, Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Parker Bates as Kevin -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Number One' Episode 208 -- Pictured: (l-r) Logan Shorter as Kevin, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Number Three' Episode 210 -- Pictured: Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Number Three' Episode 210 -- Pictured: (l-r) Niles Fitch as Randall, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'The Most Disappointed Man in the World' Episode 207 -- Pictured: (l-r) Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Mandy Moore as Rebecca -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'The Most Disappointed Man in the World' Episode 207 -- Pictured: (l-r) Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Mandy Moore as Rebecca -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'The Most Disappointed Man in the World' Episode 207 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'The Most Disappointed Man in the World' Episode 207 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'The 20's' Episode 206 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mackenzie Hancsicsak as Kate, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'The 20's' Episode 206 -- Pictured: (l-r) Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Mandy Moore as Rebecca -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Brothers' Episode 205 -- Pictured: (l-r) Parker Bates as Kevin, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- Season: 2 -- Pictured: (l-r) Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Mandy Moore as Rebecca-- (Photo by: Maarten de Boer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Brothers' Episode 205 -- Pictured: (l-r) Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Mandy Moore as Rebecca -- (Photo by Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- Season: 2 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mackenzie Hancsicsak as Kate, Parker Bates as Kevin, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Lonnie Chavis as Randall -- (Photo by: Maarten de Boer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Still There' Episode 204 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson-- (Photo by Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Still There' Episode 204 -- Pictured: (l-r) Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson, Parker Bates as Kevin Pearson-- (Photo by Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Deja Vu' Episode 203 -- Pictured: (l-r) Parker Bates as Kevin Pearson, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Deja Vu' Episode 203 -- Pictured: Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Moonshadow' Episode118 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jeremy Luke as Darryl, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)
THIS IS US -- 'Moonshadow' Episode118 -- Pictured: (l-r) Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Jeremy Luke as Darryl -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'I Call Marriage' Episode 114 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'I Call Marriage' Episode 114 -- Pictured: (l-r) Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson, Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'I Call Marriage' Episode 114 -- Pictured: (l-r) Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson, Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson, Wynn Everett as Shelly -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Three Sentences' Episode 113 -- Pictured: (l-r) Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson, Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Three Sentences' Episode 113 -- Pictured: (l-r) Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson, Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'The Big Day' Episode 112 -- Pictured: Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)
THIS IS US -- 'The Big Day' Episode 112 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)
THIS IS US -- 'Last Christmas' Episode 110 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mackenzie Hancsicsak as 8 year old Kate, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THS IS US -- 'Pilgrim Rick' Episode 108 -- Pictured: (l-r) Parker Bates as 8 year old Kevin, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'The Game Plan' Episode 105 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Kyle' Episode 103 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'The Big Three' Episode 102 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
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The episode was a good showcase for Mandy Moore, who conveyed the various gradations of shock and sadness. And the hour was also a showcase for what is perhaps a new timeline in the series. We saw that Randall’s eldest daughter, Tess, will have a job as a foster worker, placing children in new homes. (The older-man make-up for Brown as aging-Randall seemed fairly subtle.) The final moments also suggested that Deja may be returning to move in with Randall and his family in the present day. On Sunday night, I’m not sure if any This Is Us newbie, burping from too many chips and beers, would have been able to follow what was going on, but the Super Bowl-themed episode was a nice way to mellow out after an exciting game.

This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.

 

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