Viewers have been following the rich lives of the characters in This Is Us for six seasons now. The unique family drama took audiences on an emotional ride, with highs of pure joy and lows of sadness and loss. We were transported effortlessly from present to past via flashbacks throughout different eras of their lives. And recently we’ve seen flash forwards in preparation for impending doom.
With finale still on the horizon, the producers saved the best—or it is worst?—for the penultimate episode, “The Train,” as we said goodbye to matriarch Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore).
It’s been a rough few weeks in the This Is Us universe. First, we watched in stunned disbelief as Miguel (Jon Huertas) progressively sicker, all while caring for Rebecca as her Alzheimer’s disease steadily worsened. Within one episode we finally got the backstory for the beloved character. As stunning as it was, I called it 40 minutes in, telling my wife: “I don’t think he’s going to make it out of the episode.”
Sure enough, Miguel was gone. Tears would flow as a confused Rebecca no longer had Miguel by her side. His absence likely exacerbated her condition, sending her into deeper dementia. It was one of the biggest shocks on the show since Jack was killed off shortly after a house fire.
Rebecca’s waterworks-inducing deathbed scene, set sometime in the future, has been telegraphed for several seasons, but the show took the opportunity to bring back some familiar departed faces as Rebecca traveled on a train to heaven. We got William (Ron Cephas Jones) as our tour guide, and Dr. K (Gerald McRaney) as the train’s bartender, with his last nuggets of wisdom. Once she was ready to go, she reunited with Jack in the caboose (remember a few weeks ago when she couldn’t recall the word?) for eternity.
So what’s left to say about this family in the final episode of the series? All the backstories have been filled in, the past is well-covered territory. And we know what’s in store for the future. It appears that the finale, simply called “Us,” will be a retrospective celebration of the entire series, really not much more than a clip show. It’s not clear if there’s much new content here, but it probably won’t matter for the show’s devotees. This is just an opportunity to spend one more hour with all of the Pearsons, in all of the various time warps, before the door closes for good. No doubt, there will be plenty of chances to embrace and celebrate all the reasons the show was so popular (and won so many awards!). And yes, I expect there will be yet more tears.
Although that might sound anti-climactic for a finale, consider it an opportunity to take a much-needed breath and share memories of the family once more. Enjoy it, because by the time we blink they’ll be gone for good.
The final chapter of This is Us ends Tuesday, May 24, on NBC at 9:00 p.m. PT/ET.