This Is Us fans are heartbroken following the show’s first season finale, but not for the reasons they expected. While the episode, titled “Moonshadow,” gave the promised back-story behind the love story of Jack and Rebecca (Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore), it all came crashing down in an intense mid-1990s flashback scene that marked a crossroads in the couple’s marriage.
After Jack showed up drunk at his wife’s jazz show in Cleveland, long-hidden resentments in the Pearsons’ marriage were uncovered during an intense argument back home. The character’s “convenient” bouts of “alcoholism” were called out by his frustrated wife, and the Pearson patriarch belittled his wife’s career ambitions by describing her as “a 40-year-old woman singing covers in a pub.”
Things got really ugly when Rebecca said she has no life and feels like a “ghost” in her own home, and the blowout ended when she asked her husband to name one thing he loved about her — and not something from their early days together. When he couldn’t answer, she issued the following challenge.
“Next time that you tell me that you love me, make sure you’re not just doing it out of habit.”
The next morning, the couple agreed to separate.
— TVLine.com (@TVLine) March 15, 2017
This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman told Variety he always intended to show viewers the dark side of the Pearsons’ marriage.
“I think hopefully for everybody it feels real,” Fogelman said of the epic fight scene.
“Every time we’ve gone into this storyline with Milo and Mandy, these characters in this timeline, it’s the reality of a long marriage that’s withstood a lot of different things in a lot of different stories in a lot of different time periods. I think it’s important that we’re going to leave the audience wondering and thinking and expose them to that side of the marriage as well.”
Executive producer Ken Olin also talked about the “intense” six-page scene, telling TV Line it was a special moment in This Is Us history.
“Dan wrote it with [fellow EPs] Issac [Aptaker] and Elizabeth [Berger], and we had always talked about the idea of playing that scene with as few cuts as possible,” Olin revealed.
“Part of the thing that makes that scene so special is that it’s very free. It’s all about [Mandy and Milo’s] acting. Dan was just so proud of that scene… It’s not trying to show off as writers. It’s not trying to show off as directors. It’s just them. And we haven’t seen that before from the two of them. I think that’s one of the reasons that it’s so cool, and there are so few edits in it. It feels real. There’s nothing manipulative about it. They just went there.”
Olin added that the scene was shot in six takes.
“The thing that’s great [is Milo and Mandy] really trust each other,” he said. “And I think they trust me. And we played with the levels of intensity and how much anger and how much was revealed. They were both like, ‘Let’s do it until we get the most truthful tone of where these two people are at after this many years of marriage and the kind of people they are.’ It was intense. We were tired. They were really tired.”
In an interview with Variety, Mandy Moore admits the finale episode probably wasn’t what people were expecting, and she went into detail about the intense argument scene that has This Is Us fans talking the morning after. Moore revealed that while some parts of the lengthy fight seemed ad-libbed, the entire thing was scripted and choreographed.
“Everything was scripted,” Moore told Variety.
“When we got the script, Milo and I got together one weekend, and we read through it a couple of times at his house…We read through it again on set. And then the day before we actually shot it, we walked through the house with Yasu (Tanida), our DP, with Ken (Olin), our director, and key department heads, and traced the choreography of what we wanted to do. We wanted to have an idea of how the scene was going to ebb and flow. So by the time we got to shoot the scene, we knew exactly what we were going to do.”
Ventimiglia confirmed that the scene was “100% scripted and executed over the course over a long day on set.”
“Mandy and I aren’t used to being at odds like that,” the This Is Us star said. “Dan (Fogelman) wanted the shot to be done as a one-r [in one long take]. It’s a tall order given how much is at stake for Jack and Rebecca. And orchestrating it in a way so that you’re not undercutting one side or one performance, so it was difficult. But Ken Olin delivered this beautiful piece. It was a tough day at work.”
Many This Is Us fans agreed that the emotional scene was raw and real, and unlike anything they had ever seen on TV before. But some fans expressed disappointment as they were hoping to find out more information on Jack’s impending death before the show signs off for the summer.
— june andujar (@SaysJune) March 15, 2017
That scene/fight is probably the most realistic I've seen btwn a couple on a TV show EVER. #ThisIsUs is GOING THERE y'all.
— Faith Pennick (@FaithPennick) March 15, 2017
Watching Jack and Rebecca fight was so much more painful than I thought it could be. So real. So accurate. #ThisIsUs
— Angela (@angelazales22) March 15, 2017
That fight was so real though. Ugh. I'm in pain. #ThisIsUs
— kaysi (@julietknope) March 15, 2017
That fight was the most realistic I've seen on TV. Marriage is hard. #ThisIsUs Can't wait until season 2!
— Beth (@MillBoom_14) March 15, 2017
Jack and Rebecca's fight was like watching your mom and dad fight. But worse ???? So real. #ThisIsUs
— Desiree Pharias (@Dpharias) March 15, 2017
I blame Shonda Rhimes. She has our brains trained for death in season finales. Now we're disappointed no one died? Wut? #ThisIsUs
— Christy Phend (@ChristyPhend) March 15, 2017
— Liam Mckenna (@LPMCKENNA1711) March 15, 2017
— Fernando Torres (@Fertorr92) March 15, 2017
While the argument scene was realistic, Fogelman made it clear that This Is Us won’t pick up at divorce court next fall.
“There’s a deep, deep gestating love between those two,” the This Is Us showrunner told Variety. “Even though they had a monster fight, even though the fight churned up deep-seated character stuff, one fight is not necessarily going to be the end all and be all. It’s not like we’re going to come back in season 2 and they’re going to be divorced and dropping the kids off for the weekend.”
— seafrizzy (@seafrizzy) March 15, 2017
The pivotal scene in the This Is Us finale was previously hyped up by Fogelman, who went so far as to say that it would be a TV first.
“There is a scene with Milo and Mandy that I have not seen on television,” the This Is Us showrunner told Variety. “I think it’s going to rock people.”
Prior to the finale, This Is Us star Milo Ventimiglia also spoke about the scene, saying it was difficult to shoot.
“It was pretty painful,” Milo told the Hollywood Reporter. “Heartbreaking… some place that we’d never been with This Is Us, and it was just one of those moments that you were grateful for the work and grateful for the words you get to say and the partner you get to be in a scene with. It was one of those scenes.”
Take a look at the video below to see the morning after the big fight scene on This Is Us.
[Featured Image by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]