“This Is Us” has spent the last six years unfolding an emotional story of tragedy, excitement and change. This family dramedy has shown how precious, pure and perfectly imperfect it is to love and be loved. With the series finale airing on May 24, audiences formally bid goodbye to the unforgettable Pearson family.
Though watchers experience the gradual death of Rebecca (Mandy Moore) in a heartbreaking penultimate episode, Dan Fogelman, the show’s creator, establishes a contrast by setting the finale on a simple day. The funeral of the family’s matriarch is muted, pulling the audience’s attention away from the grief. Watchers never hear the eulogy that Randall (Sterling K. Brown) prepares so hard for or the thoughts Kevin (Justin Hartley) has as he watches everyone shuffle around the room. Instead, the show focuses on a time when the Pearson siblings are toddlers under the watch of Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca once more.
While young Kevin (Parker Bates) and Randall (Lonnie Chavis) whine about a “do nothing” day, Kate (Mackenzie Hancsicsak) basks in the prospect of carefree family time. After the two boys cool down and learn how to shave from Jack, they return to the living room with full enthusiasm. In slow motion, Jack sits back and admires his family in front of him. His eyes tell a story, and it is evident that he loves them dearly. To him, this very moment — this routine round of Pin the Tail on the Donkey — is priceless.
Amid the heavy atmosphere of Rebecca’s funeral in present day, Deja (La Trice Harper) approaches Randall with news of the sex of her baby — it’s a boy. With his tears ricocheting, Randall playfully dances to honor the newest grandson that will soon grace his life. It’s painfully bittersweet to hear such good news on a sad day, but this decision is intentional. Fogelman reminds audiences of what real life is like: all of the good and bad tangle together, coming fast whether welcome or not.
Above all, “This Is Us” provides closure by answering all of the looming questions planted throughout the show’s six seasons. While some endings, such as the divorce of Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan), ruthlessly rip “Katoby” hearts apart, fans can now see and understand this loss. Fogelman highlights how humans are bound to change, and those changes can be accepted even if they hurt at the start.
“This is Us” is a family show, but it’s one that carefully depicts what it is like to simply love and be alive. The audience witnesses the maturation of Kevin, the self-exploration of Kate and the bravery of Randall. They see how Rebecca grappled with the absence of Jack and how Miguel (Jon Huertas) fell in love with his favorite person for all the right reasons.
Weaving in events as major as childbirth and as minor as a day at the pool, “This Is Us” gifts watchers with these cherished moments to smile fondly upon years later. Members of the audience drowns themselves in tears, but also belly laughs, from the jokes and mishaps of everyday doings. They grow attached to these characters, root for them and recognize their own families in them, too. They experience life with the Pearsons.
Years later, present Randall watches his now-grown family play Pin the Tail on the Donkey in parallel with Jack one generation ago. As children of the Big Three run and roam, the audience can swoon over how the circle of life inevitably begins again for the Pearsons. Undoubtedly, pockets of memories from the past emerge in this one superimposed scene, reminding audiences that these stories are not forgotten, even long after someone is gone.
Sometimes, a cliche, happy ending isn’t the right answer. “This is Us” ends on a relieving note that speaks to the core of the show’s message. Maybe that’s enough, even when loved ones pass and life goes on. In the most beautiful way, this will always be us, and our hearts can finally rest.