For two seasons, we’ve known that This Is Us patriarch Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) would die, and now we finally know exactly how it happened.
The NBC series follows Jack and his family -- wife Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and children Kate (Chrissy Metz), Kevin (Justin Hartley), and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) -- through the highs and lows of their lives in the past and present, every episode following a themed but non-linear structure. The show is famous for making its audience weep, but this week’s post-Super Bowl episode was the mother of all cry-fests. According to creator Dan Fogelman, the aptly named “Super Bowl Sunday” would be “inarguably our saddest episode.” He wasn’t lying.
As promised, the episode picked up where the last one left off, with the Pearson home ablaze after Jack accidentally left a faulty crockpot on high. After helping Rebecca, Kate, and Randall escape (Kevin wasn’t home), Jack went back into the house to save Kate’s puppy. It looked like that was going to be it for Jack, but then he emerges from the front door with the dog and a bag full of family heirlooms. It was a clever subversion of expectations, and brought some temporarily relief. Bu then the audience is reminded, in present time, that he did indeed die that night, and so began a painstaking waiting game. What would be the thing to kill him, if it not the fire?
In the end, it was still the fire. At the hospital, Jack’s burns were tended and the doctor (played by guest star Bill Irwin) warned him that he’d need to take it slow because of how much smoke he inhaled. Rebecca, relieved that her husband was alive but stressed about the loss of her house, stepped into the lobby to make a few calls and get Jack a snack. But behind her, the doctors rushed to Jack’s room, signaling something went wrong. Moments later, the doctor finds Rebecca and tells her that Jack suffered a fatal “widow maker” heart attack as a result of the smoke in his lungs.