Randall (Sterling K. Brown) faces a critical present-day moment in his marriage to Beth and a difficult family reunion in Tuesday’s Season 3 finale of ‘This Is Us.’ (Photo: Ron Batzdorff, NBC)
Spoiler alert squared: This story contains details of Tuesday’s third-season finale of “This Is Us.”
In the life of the Pearson family, four minutes can tell a huge story – and raise a million more questions – as the closing flash-forward scene revealed in Tuesday’s Season 3 finale of NBC’s “This Is Us.”
Kevin has a son. Where’s Kate? Rebecca appears near death. Why is Jack’s brother Nicky at her bedside?
It’s enough to induce whiplash worse than the kind Rebecca suffers in a flashback car crash early in the episode. Producers know there’s a lot to digest.
“Whenever we go to that (future) timeline, we try to give enough answers that people are satisfied they got some information, but also enough exciting questions that you’re left wondering,” executive producer Elizabeth Berger says.
She adds: “We know that we left a lot of (questions) and there’s language to parse and people to consider being there and not being there, and those are all answers we can’t wait to fill in as we move forward.”
“Us” looks to have plenty of time to supply the details, as executive producer Isaac Aptaker says the show is “roughly in the middle, in terms of our story.” (NBC and 20th Century Fox are negotiating a three-year renewal of the show that would take it through a sixth season, which is likely to mark the end of its run.) “The exact number of episodes (and) years is still a little bit undecided.”
“This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman Tuesday tweeted, “Halftime,” which suggests three more seasons of the show. In his message to viewers, he added, “Best cast. Best crew. Best fans. See you guys next season. Love, #ThisIsUs”
Before taking a Zapruder-film dive into the closing sequence, let’s hit on the finale’s resolution of three big, present-day stories that help set the stage for the future:
• Beth and Randall, despite long-running marital strains, find “the door,” in Beth’s parlance, to escape their latest impasse. She won’t let Randall resign from the Philadelphia City Council, telling her husband the family will move a few hours south to cut his commute and that she will still follow her dream, opening a dance studio there instead.
“We don’t work when we’re apart, but together, baby, we set the world on fire,” Beth tells her husband as she sits on his lap.
• After a hospital scare, premature baby Jack grows strong enough that his radiant parents, Kate and Toby, can finally take him home.
• Speaking of kids, Kevin won’t stop, telling Zoe she would be a great mother even though she has firmly stated her intention not to have children. Realizing he can’t commit to both her and giving up the possibility of parenthood, she ends the relationship and leaves.
Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
Now, let’s flash forward to that closing scene of “Her,” a title that references the first visit to this timeline, roughly 12 to 15 years in the future, last season. For the time-jumping series, Aptaker says, “This is our main endpoint for where we’re going to wrap up all our characters, where we leave them all when we ultimately say goodbye.”
But there are so many more things to learn before we get there. In that Season 2 episode, an older Randall and grown-up daughter Tess talk mysteriously about a visit to “her,” leading to much viewer speculation before “she” was revealed this season to be Rebecca.
At the end of Tuesday’s episode, Randall sees his mother in a hospital bed at brother Kevin’s house, her long hair significantly grayer and her mind in a clouded state.
“It’s Randall. Your son, Randall,” he says to his mother, who has a distant stare.
“It feels like she’s sort of reaching the end of days and she’s obviously not in the clearest mental state,” Aptaker says, without revealing her condition or what event brought her to Kevin’s house. (It’s not related to the car accident earlier in the episode.)
Other juicy story lines – and questions – arise:
• Kevin ultimately becomes a dad, as a boy says hello to “Uncle Randall,” telling him his father went for takeout. We don’t yet know the mother’s identity.
• Jack is growing up, as Toby, who arrives solo at Kevin’s house – apparently for the first time – mentions he talked to his son and “they’re” on their way. Who’s with Jack? And once again, where’s Kate? That’s a question raised in the season opener, when Toby was seen talking on the phone with Randall without a wedding band or his wife beside him in bed.
“We’re going to have to wait a little longer to find out what’s up with Kate in the future,” Aptaker says.
• There’s no explanation why Miguel, Rebecca’s second husband, isn’t at Rebecca’s bedside, or why her brother-in-law Nicky, who rejected the family’s efforts to reconnect some years back, is there.
Berger says “Us” will delve into the apparent rapprochement early in Season 4. “We’re going to be slowly telling the story of how he went from the guy who told his nephews and niece that he couldn’t have anything to do with them to this guy who ends up by Rebecca’s bedside.”
Other intriguing questions remain, as Beth brings a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game, a Pearson family favorite, and Toby arrives with sidewalk chalk.
“You should be intrigued there,” Aptaker hints. Why bring such kid-related items “to what seems to be a pretty serious affair?”
Beyond those questions, the producers offer a few details about Season 4.
“We are going back to a time period we love, Jack and Rebecca in the ‘70s,” before the “Big Three” were born, Berger says. “It’s a really romantic time period. It’s one (Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia) love playing. We’re (also) going to be meeting Rebecca’s father at some point during the season.”
“Us” will also move forward in time with the Big Three, “who are not so little anymore,” Aptaker says. “They’re really entering into that super-fascinating age of early adolescence, so we get to do all those great, iconic,coming-of-age stories that we haven’t been able to tell yet because our actors weren’t the right age.”
The young actors “are puberty-ing out as we speak,” Aptaker says. “We will be telling very topical stories for all of them.”
Viewers will have to be patient regarding other answers, Berger says, but eventually they’ll be rewarded.
“We’re going to find out what becomes of everybody in that future time period,” Berger says. But “we can’t give it all away at once. We have to dole it out slowly.”
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