This Is Us has easily become one of my favorite television shows on TV right now. What drew me in was not only the family dynamic and issues of identity, race, and self-confidence but also the compassion and resilience Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) has a father, friend, and husband to Rebecca (Mandy Moore). When it was revealed that he died before the big three, Kate (Chrissy Metz), Kevin (Justin Hartley), and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) went off to college, my heart broke. No one knew exactly how Jack died until tonight and it was nothing like I expected.
SPOILER ALERT!! DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THE EPISODE!!!
The episode starts with Jack waking up. He starts to take a drink of water when he smells smoke coming from outside him and Rebecca’s bedroom. He opens the door and sees fire coming up the stairs and immediately goes into protective mode.
Jack manages to retrieve Randall from him and Kevin’s room (Kevin was not as home at the time) as well as Kate from her room despite the fire growing stronger. Jack leads Kate, Randall, and Rebecca to safety by helping them climb out him and Rebecca’s bedroom window. Before he climbs down Kate hears her dog, Louie, barking inside. Jack being the great dad he is, runs backs inside to retrieve him.
The fire begins to spread to Jack and Rebecca’s bedroom and for a moment the audience thinks the fire got to him. Just when we think Jack is gone, he comes out of the front of the house carrying Louie and a pillowcase. In the ambulance Jack reveals that managed to retrieve all the family photos from the fire, proving to viewers the wonderful father and husband he is.
In the emergency room, everything seems fine. Jack only has burns on his hands and the doctor says he should be fine. But he suddenly dies after going into cardiac arrest due to the smoke from the fire swelling his lungs. What makes his death so tragic is that his heart gave out when Jack always gave nothing but his heart to everything and everyone in his life.
What also is tragic in the episode is seeing present day Kate watch the video that Jack filmed of her singing the day of the fire. She watches it every year on the anniversary of his death because she thinks it’s her fault he died.
“He died because of me,” Kate tells her fiancé, Toby (Chris Sullivan). “Because in the scariest moment of our lives, he couldn’t bear to disappoint me. So, if once a year I want to beat myself up for it, please just let me.”
It’s heartbreaking to hear Kate still blame herself for Jack’s death after twenty years. He went back inside in the house because he loved her not because he didn’t want to disappoint her. Jack was just being a great dad.
Kevin also has a sense of guilt because the last words he said to Jack before he died were hurtful. Essentially, Kevin feels like he didn’t get any closure with Jack. However, later in the episode we see Kevin in the present day visiting Jack’s tree after not visiting the spot for twenty years. There, he talks to Jack and asks for forgiveness and guidance. By Kevin asking for forgiveness, he gets the closure he’s desperately been seeking while rebuilding his relationship with Jack although he’s no longer alive.
The heartwarming part of the episode is seeing present day Randall talk to his daughter, Tess. She thinks that Randall isn’t happy with his current life and is seeking to have a new one since he found his birth father William, fostered a young girl named Deja, and got a new job.
“It’s like you want a new life,” Tess says.
Randall reassures Tess that he doesn’t want a new life and that all he’s ever wanted to do is be as good a dad to her and her younger sister Annie as Jack was to him.
“You my number one, baby girl,” Randall says. “You’re the girl that made my life somersault.”
“Super Bowl Sunday” isn’t only heartbreaking because of how Jack died but because of the effect he had on the people around him and how his benevolence and strength transcends not only to Rebecca and Randall but to people he never met that help Kate and Kevin become stronger.
Jack Pearson is one of the best dads American television has seen in years. Although viewers will never see Jack continue to be the best version of himself in the present day, the flashbacks of him show just how amazing he was and still is.
Watch This Is Us every Tuesday at 9 p.m. on NBC.