Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers from the This Is Us Season 2 episode, “Clooney.”
This Is Us left viewers with a pit in their stomachs this week. In a wide-ranging episode that included the ’90s Pearsons going to the mall, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) tracking down his late bio dad’s special lady, a present-day Kevin (Justin Hartley) mending fences with Miguel (Jon Huertas), and a rogue cat roaming the streets of Philly, in the final seconds of the show the camera panned to an entryway smoke detector, with wires dangling and an empty battery compartment. This after Rebecca (Mandy Moore) asks Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) if they forgot anything at the mall, and he says, “I don’t think so.” But clearly, they did because, in one of the earlier scenes of the episode, Rebecca asked her husband to remind her to buy batteries.
Viewers already knew that Jack Pearson’s death had something to do with a fire—the Season 2 premiere gave viewers a gut punch when Rebecca pulled up in her car to the blackened shell of the family’s burnt-out house. But seeing that ominous, empty smoke detector now shows fans that Jack’s death is coming very, very soon.
It doesn’t help that scenes for next week’s This Is Us episode show Rebecca wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey. In the scene where she pulls up to the burnt-out house, the Pearson matriarch is wearing the jersey. All signs point to Jack Pearson’s death reveal playing out just in time for the show’s buzzy Super Bowl episode on February 4th.
Diehard This Is Us fans weren’t completely blindsided by Tuesday’s episode’s final shot. Ahead of the “Clooney” episode, the show’s stars teased the devastating final seconds of the show, which can be seen in the video at the end of this article.
This Is Us star Mandy Moore also told fans to keep an eye out for “a major detail” at the end of the “Clooney” episode. Sterling K. Brown took to Twitter to warn fans: “This Is Us starts now… and maybe take notes. There’s a small detail in tonight’s episode that is a major clue to a life-changing event.”
And Justin Hartley wrote: “Can’t wait for you to see tonight’s episode. All smiles now, but the last 30 seconds…”
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, This Is Us producer Isaac Aptaker explained why this seemingly “lighter” episode of This Is Us ended on such an ominous note.
“We’re trying to brace people and help people prepare,” the This Is Us producer told EW.
“It’s a way of showing that there’s so much going on in these characters’ lives right now, and there’s so much that they’re dealing with. It’s so easy to make a simple mistake. Of course, looking back, we all know what that leads to, but life is hectic. Sometimes you forget to get batteries.Without giving away exactly what episode we’re going to see the death, we are very close. We’re not pulling any punches…You are watching the events that lead to this man’s untimely death.”
Aptaker did not confirm that past This Is Us scenes showing Jack tinkering with the circuit breaker are related to the fire that ultimately consumes the Pearson home, but he also didn’t rule it out.
“Yes, certainly it could be that electrical fire,” the This Is Us EP said. “Also, there’s lots of different ways that a house can catch on fire. It’s the kind of thing where you don’t really realize what’s important until you have all the information and can reflect on it, much like actual life.”
The This Is Us producer also said he knows that viewers are closely watching Jack’s every interaction when they see scenes set in the late 1990s, the timeframe that the beloved Pearson patriarch died in.
“Now that we know we’re this close to the death, every time Jack has an interaction with one of his kids, that’s even the tiniest bit emotional, it has this added weight to it because we, as an audience, have this bird’s eye view and can see what’s coming,” Aptaker said.
“We’re certainly very mindful of that whenever we’re crafting these moments, that a little goes a long way, because you know that the audience is sitting there going. “Ooh, is this the last time they talk?” And very soon it will be because like I said, we’re not pulling punches with that smoke detector — it’s coming.”
You can see the final scene of the This Is Us episode “Clooney” below.