Ever since This Is Us came to grace our TV screens back in 2016, it has become hard to find someone who hasn’t heard of the show. It very uniquely captures the nuanced moments of family life: all of the people, places and things that come to characterize our daily existence and yet somehow, just as easily, come to leave us. Despite its original take on issues of life and love, however, it has almost as much criticism as it does praise. While I agree that the writing favors some narratives and not others, I cannot help but disagree with the notion that the show is all about the tragic, premature death of the family’s patriarch, Jack.
It is definitely true that one of the characters who seems to drive the story most no longer exists in the show’s primary timeline. That being said, the big episode this past weekend should not have been viewed with the expectation of some gratuitous, shock-eliciting depiction of Jack’s demise. If you did watch, you would know that no drawn out and teary goodbyes were exchanged, and we certainly saw no last breaths. After all the thinking and theorizing about how Jack died, it simply happened while Rebecca was out of the room. I personally think this speaks to how we ought to be watching the show.
Of course, there is no one way to watch a show, and with a show like this I love that what we see can come from our own experiences. Still, This Is Us should not be critiqued for dwelling on Jack’s death because it is really about the aftermath. We are lucky to know Jack as his family remembers him, but it is ultimately their story.
This Is Us can continue without Jack because it has always been about the people that remained, especially Rebecca. We even experienced his death through her, and the fearless way in which she cared for Kate, Kevin and Randall after the fact. While everyone was focused on Sunday night’s episode, Dr. K made a reappearance Tuesday night to a mourning Rebecca, and reminded her that she innately has the strength to continue living and never should have needed Jack for that. When I watch This Is Us now, it is with an even more intense admiration and excitement for Rebecca, and with the knowledge that how Jack loved is still so evident in the choices of his children and grandchildren.