This Is Us fans were not expecting this. Yes, they were expecting "a big piece of the puzzle" regarding Jack's (Milo Ventimiglia) death. But they weren't to see the Pearson family's formerly idyllic life literally go up in flames.
This is Us fans were shocked by the final scene of the Season 2 premiere, "A Father's Advice." The long-awaited episode ended with Jack confessing to wife Rebecca (Mandy Moore) that he had been hiding an ongoing battle with alcoholism. Rebecca convinced him to get in the car and come home with her where they would beat his problem together. But the car driving scene segued into a flash-forward that showed Rebecca driving up to a burned-out Pearson house and letting out a devastated wail as firefighters cleared out the charred debris in the background. It was a haunting visual.
In an interview with The Wrap, Mandy Moore revealed viewers will get all of the details behind Jack's death as the second season of This Is Us progresses. But make no mistake: The Pearson patriarch's death is directly related to the fire that destroyed the family's home.
"It's pretty unbelievably tragic," Moore said. "I think [the rest of the questions] will be answered sooner rather than later."
This Is Us fans noted several big clues in the final five minutes of the Season 2 premiere. As Mandy Moore's character drove home, a clear plastic bag which contained what looked like Jack's possessions was in the seat next to her. In addition, a pan to 17-year-old Kate and Randal's (Hannah Zeile, Niles Fitch) reaction to their father's death also showed a redheaded teen girl sitting with them at Miguel's (Jon Huertas) house and a dog on Kate's lap. And a shot of a still unaware teen Kevin (Logan Shroyer) revealed he had a cast on his leg, presumably from a football injury. Kevin didn't have a broken leg in earlier scenes from the episode, so this was clearly a flash forward—but not too forward, based on the teen characters' ages.
At a This is Us screening, show creator Dan Fogelman revealed that the final scene was not "misdirecting" viewers and that Jack's death is directly related to the fire. Mandy Moore called the fire a "monumental event" in the Pearson family timeline.
"We don't know the full story, we'll say that, that's not the full story, that's just a piece of the puzzle," Mandy told the Hollywood Reporter.
Fogelman explained that the remaining 17 episodes of season two will be spent exploring the details around that devastating night.
"All the answers about how Jack died... it's all going to happen over the course of the season," the This Is Us showrunner said. Fogelman also promised that the surprising details in the final scene will be explained over the next few episodes.
"These are all things that I think people are going to start to see the origin of in the next couple of episodes," Moore added of the clues in the episode's final minutes.
Dan Fogelman revealed that producers carefully planned filming of the This Is Us premiere episode to make sure the "incredibly emotional" final scene remained a secret. The pivotal final scene was only shot a week and a half prior to the premiere, more than three months after filming started on the rest of the episode. In addition, the This Is Us production team built a replica of the Pearson home five hours away from the rest of the This Is Us set so spoilers wouldn't leak about the burnt house. While the final scene had been planned out for months, Fogelman said Mandy Moore nailed it in one take.
"We built a replica of the house five hours away, we had code names for everything," the This Is Us showrunner explained to Entertainment Weekly.
"Mandy came to set and they put her in the car and what you see is literally her first take. After all that planning, it was like 30 seconds and then we were done."Mandy Moore advised This Is Us fans to pay attention to some of the clues planted in that final sequence.
"There were some clues I don't know if people picked up on — Kate was holding a dog, Randall's got a girlfriend, and Kevin has a broken leg," Moore said. "These are all things that I think people are going to see sort of the origin of in the next couple of episodes, leading up to figuring out a bigger piece of the puzzle."
As for the devastating backstory behind Jack's death and the burned-out Pearson house, This Is Us fans will just have to be patient.
"It's not the full answer," Mandy Moore told Entertainment Tonight. "It's not the full story because we have 18 episodes to tell that in and for that to unfold. It's a very monumental, pivotal moment in the lives of this particular family, so it can't just all come out in one fell swoop."This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.
[Featured Image by Ron Batzdorff/NBC]