This Is Us patriarch Jack Pearson has finally died—but is anyone really ever dead on this flashback-filled NBC drama? After months of teasers and fan theories, Milo Ventimiglia’s beloved character passed away from a heart attack, a complication of smoke inhalation, on the post-Super Bowl episode of This Is Us.
But the episode had a silver living: Viewers learned that Jack’s now-adult son Randall (Sterling K Brown) will actually outlive his late father. The revelation was made during a rare flash forward scene which showed Randall with his grown-up daughter Tess (guest star Iantha Richardson) in what appeared to be about 18 to 20 years in the future. If you do the math, Randall would be in his mid to late fifties, while his dad only lived to be 53. Randall had previously said he couldn’t imagine living longer than his father.
This is not the first time This Is Us jumped to the future—last season there was a brief peek at a mourning Randall packing up his late father William’s (Ron Cephas Jones) belongings several episodes before William actually died. But this latest time leap was much more surprising, causing fans to wonder of This Is Us will start jumping into the future more often.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman revealed that the glimpses into the future were part of his original pitch for the show. The This Is Us creator said the show’s present day and flashback format could change—”literally in the future.”
“Right now we tend to go, ‘Here’s how the past is commenting on the present,'” Fogelman said.
“But what happens when our present becomes the past, to the near future? What if we could hop into the stories of these characters 10 years later and figure out how they got from A to B, the same way we have with the past? So, it was always part of my initial pitch of this as a series. The future timeline that was just revealed carries the painting forward. That was always part of the plan from day 1.”
Fogelman revealed plans to do “more and more adventurous stuff with our storytelling and structure as we move forward a little bit,” explaining that This Is Us writers have future storylines already planned in multiple time periods.The This Is Us showrunner added the following.
“We’re going to explore new timelines within our own family, even in the same relative areas. And then we’re going open up some brave new worlds, as early as starting next season.”
But will Jack’s story end in 1998? Viewers saw the Pearson patriarch in the present day a couple of times so far: Once when Randall was hallucinating and another time when his son Kevin (Justin Hartley) was receiving an alumni award at his high school.
In an interview with Glamour, Fogelman teased the possibility of seeing Jack Pearson in the present day once again, or even in the future as part of a dream sequence.
“We play with a lot of things around time and memory and what could have been, so I think that’s definitely a possibility,” The This Is Us showrunner said. “There’s a lot of emotions because if you’ve lost someone tragically, you dream about them a lot.”
While Fogelman didn’t confirm if one of those dream sequences will feature Jack walking his daughter Kate (Chrissy Metz) down the aisle on her wedding day, he did hint that Jack will be present in some way for his daughter’s big day.
“You’re not exactly right,” Fogelman told Glamour when asked if Kate would have a dream about her dad walking her down the aisle. “But you could actually be in a place where something like that could happen.”
As for Milo Ventimiglia, he seems to like when This Is Us’ past meets its future. Ventimiglia told Esquire he cherishes the rare scenes when he gets to work with the grown-up versions of his TV family.
“Those rare scenes when I do, the easiest way to put it is that I try to slow down time,” the This Is Us star told Esquire. “It’s like William’s speech to Olivia early in Season One when she asks him what it feels like to be dying, and he tells her he’s just trying to hang onto these moments. I try to do the same when I get to play opposite Sterling or Justin or Ron because it’s so rare and it goes so fast.”
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.