This Is Us delivered another shocker with the Season 2 premiere “A Father’s Advice.” Viewers knew the episode would include clues to Jack Pearson’s (Milo Ventimiglia) cause of death, but no one was prepared for the top-secret twist at the end of the episode, when Rebecca (Mandy Moore) pulled up to a burnt-out Pearson family home with Jack’s belongings in a plastic bag next to her in the car.
Here’s what This Is Us fans knew before the episode: Jack died in the late 1990s and his daughter Kate, who was a teen at the time, still blames herself for his death. But the fire storyline threw This Is Us viewers through a loop. The visual of the burnt-out house was almost too much to bear as viewers got the devastating news that not only was Jack dead but that the Pearson family home was also gone.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman said everything viewers have seen regarding Jack’s death were part of his original pitch for the show — and every detail has meaning.
“There’s no fake-outs here,” the This Is Us showrunner said of the gut-wrenching final scene. “And there’s no fake-outs in last season. Kate said she feels responsible for her father’s death. We’ve not done anything by accident.”
Fogelman said the full mystery of the fire and the prelude to that devastating night will be unraveled throughout the season. The This Is Us creator added that everything will go back to what was seen in the last minute and a half of the “A Father’s Advice” episode.
“What causes the fire is going to be heartbreaking,” the This Is Us creator revealed.
“The small movements of our lives, and how big they can become if little things break the right way or the wrong way — I’ve always been fascinated by [the fact that] you could have met your husband or your wife if you had just not gone that way at the bar that night, or the friend hadn’t wanted to set you up. The great things in your life, how easily that sliding door could have gone a different way, as well as the tragedy. That’s part of our story.”
Fogelman went on to say there were five “big mysteries” in the episode: the house and what transpired that night; teen Kate (Hannah Zeile) holding a little dog viewers had never seen before; Randall (Niles Fitch) being comforted by a mystery girl; Kevin (Logan Shroyer) wearing a cast on his leg; and the fact that the kids were staying at Miguel’s (Jon Huertas) house. Fogelman also addressed Jack’s belongings in the plastic bag — a watch, keys, and a notebook — which all looked intact and uncharred.
“[The notebook] didn’t look burned,” the This Is Us creator noted. “But what you’re watching is something that happened on that night.”
Ahead of the Season 2 premiere, This Is Us producers kept the fire storyline tightly under wraps. Not only did they build the set of the burnt-out house five hours from the This Is Us set in Los Angeles, but they also used the code word “the marble” every time they talked about the fire in writing. Fogelman revealed the word “fire” did not appear in any of the storyboards or in scripts or emails, and that network executives had to come to the producers’ edit bay to view the ending of the episode because he didn’t want to send it out on a DVD or the internet for fear the secret would be ruined.
“We drove hours away from Los Angeles to film it with fake signs that didn’t say [This Is Us],” he said of the shocking minute-long fire scene.
Of course, now the speculation about the This Is Us fire begins as well as what Kate’s involvement in her father’s death could be. Some This Is Us viewers are already speculating that the Pearson family’s faulty basement washing machine could have caused the fire. The first season devoted an entire episode to the “possessed” washer located in Kevin’s basement bedroom. Now Kevin has a cast, Jack’s belongings aren’t burnt, and This Is Us fans are just as confused as ever.
You can see the latest promo for This Is Us below.