This Is Us Series Finale Recap: All Over But the Crying — Plus, Grade It!
So, how did the Pearsons’ story end?
Silly! If you’ve been watching This Is Us for the past six seasons, you already know the answer: The Pearsons’ story will never end! After all, as Kevin told us in Season 1, “I think that’s maybe the point of the whole thing. There’s no dying. There’s no you, or me, or them… it’s just us. And this sloppy, wild, colorful, magical thing that has no beginning, no end, that’s right here? I think it’s us.”
The NBC drama’s series finale serves as a quiet epilogue to its gorgeous penultimate episode, “The Train,” which witnessed the death of Pearson matriarch Rebecca. Together, the two installments serve as a very fitting send-off for a show that stayed true to itself throughout its six-season run.
And without further ado, let’s review what happens in “Us.”
HYMN FOR THE WEEKEND | In a flashback, Rebecca is sleeping on a Saturday morning, and Jack is watching her. He notices a scar under her eyebrow that he’s never seen before; she says she’s had it since she was a child, and it tends to become more prominent when she’s had some sun. She sleepily tells him about how, when she was little, her father used to take her to a playground and push her on the swings. One day, his watch accidentally made contact with her face as she turned her head, leaving the cut that would become the scar. She muses that being pushed in that swing by her dad “was my favorite thing in the entire world,” but that she often found it hard to be present, because she’d get preoccupied about when they’d have to stop and go home. “I really wish that I had spent more time appreciating it when it was all happening rather than worrying about when it would end,” she says softly.
When she’s done reminiscing, they realize that they have a very rare, completely commitment-free Saturday ahead of them. “What should we do?” she wonders. “Nothing,” Jack says. “Nothing sounds so nice!,” she replies happily.
Then, we get a montage of Jack and Rebecca pushing the elementary-school-age Big Three on swings, followed by Randall and Beth with Tess and Annie on swings, and Kate and Toby with little Jack on swings, and Rockstar Jack (aka Jack Damon, all grown up) and Lucy pushing their daughter, Hope, on a swing. Though we don’t know it at the time, this is the flash-forward-happy series’ final peek into the future.
SLOWING IT ALL DOWN | At breakfast, however, Jack and Rebecca’s joy at a free day is met with apathy from Kevin and Randall. Kate comes up with the idea of playing Foursquare and drawing on the driveway with chalk, which they do for a while, but then rain interferes with the outdoor plans. Before the Pearsons move inside to watch old family movies, Jack notices Kate sitting on the front porch, wistfully staring out into the storm. She says she wishes she could just slow life down, and he agrees.
Inside, Kev barely lasts five minutes before he’s stomping out of the room in a huff; Randall, too, doesn’t seem super into watching footage of The Big Three as toddlers. Rebecca follows Kevin upstairs and susses out that he’s really upset because he couldn’t do a pull-up in the President’s Physical Fitness Test. (Side note: Full transparency here — those four words still strike horror in my sedentary-as-a-kid heart.) Rebecca bucks him up by telling him that it’s OK if not everything in life comes easily, and that the big victories will be more special “when you have to work a little harder for them.” Then Kevin, in a rare moment of not being a pain in the tush, tells his mother she’s good at this kind of pep talk. It pleases her.
Meanwhile, Jack checks in on Randall, who quickly confesses that his extracurricular event didn’t get cancelled — the whole reason the Pearsons wound up with a free day — but that he lied to get out of it because he got suspended for retaliating when his fellow Mathletes were calling him “Fuzz,” making fun of the nearly nonexistent hair on his upper lip. Jack realizes that Randall is punishing himself worse than he or Rebecca ever could, so instead he takes a different tack and asks his son if he wants to learn how to shave.
Eventually, Kevin joins in. As the boys lather up and gingerly scrape their baby faces, Jack starts talking about how the first half of your life, you want to be older. But when you’re older, all you want to do is slow things down. Randall and Kevin tell him he’s being weird. “One day you’ll get it,” Jack says. When they come downstairs, showing off their new, manly mugs, they join Kate in playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey. And then, in the LAST FLASHBACK EVER, we go back to the moment when the kids were babies, and Rebecca and Jack saw the game on the shelf in the toy store. Rebecca is struck by the racial diversity of the kids on the cover (“Maybe there’s another family out there like ours”), and she demands that they buy it, because “When the world puts something this obvious in front of you, you don’t just walk away from it.” He relents, but sighs that they’re not going to use it much. (Heh.)
EULOGIES AND DEEP-FRIED OREOS | In the present, on the morning of Rebecca’s funeral, Randall hasn’t been able to prepare much in the way of remarks aside from “Mom was magic. Mom was…” Still, he maintains to Beth, he’ll be fine. She doesn’t believe him. “I think we need to bang out a Worst-Case Scenario,” she says, ribbing him about a future in which he feels the need to buy an RV and/or travel to Puerto Rico to go swimming “with Miguel’s great-grandmama’s ghost.”
Randall chuckles and reassures her that he’s appropriately sad, but he’s looking forward to their “quiet next chapter.” Then she asks him a seemingly odd question about deep-fried Oreos, but we’ll get back to that in a moment.
Outside Kevin’s house, the young cousins play Foursquare as Kate watches. Toby finds her, asks permission to cross ex-husband lines (does he do this every time they talk?), then says that Rebecca was/he is “extraordinarily proud of you.” Then he adds that he loves her, and that even though their marriage didn’t go the distance, he’d do it all over again. Later, at the church, we watch Nicky — in very Nicky fashion — tell Kevin that the moment he showed up at his trailer was the moment he started caring about living again. “You really effed up my life, kid,” he jokes.
Rebecca’s funeral takes place, and all three of her children speak, though the way the episode is edited means that we don’t hear what they say. Afterward, back at Kevin’s compound, Randall’s daughters find him sitting on the cabin’s front steps, and they wonder if he’s OK. He was up all night writing his eulogy, he says, a little dazed, “and I can’t remember a single thing I said.” What’s more, he’s realizing that he worried about losing Rebecca his entire life, “and now she’s gone.” All in all, he adds, it just feels pointless.
A BRIGHT SPOT | Annie and Tess decide to give Déja some alone time with their father; of COURSE, she says exactly the right thing. “It’s not pointless, Dad. Hey, you’ll be a grandfather, remember?” But that just makes him reminisce about the morning he and William left for their trip to Memphis in Season 1. We watch as William says goodbye to Tess and Annie (they are BABIES here!), then reflects in the hallway outside the girls’ room about how being a grandparent is ironic: You have “unconditional, easy, pure love” for someone whose life you probably won’t share for long. He wonders how much Randall’s girls will remember about him after he’s gone. “A lot,” Randall says. (Side note: Nope, that’s not CGI at work in this footage; the scene was shot years ago, was never used, and was trotted out for the finale.) Also: Of all the tender moments in this episode, William’s speech and Randall’s reply was the one that hit me hardest.
On the porch steps, Déja happily announces that her baby is a boy. “You’re going to have a grandson,” she says, asking if it’s OK if she and Malik name the kid William. “Your grandson is going to be named after a man I never met, but I know him, because I know you,” she says. So wise, that one! Randall, who has been leaking tears steadily throughout the episode, now bursts out in happy ones and leaps to his feet to celebrate the imminent arrival of another male in his very female-filled life. God, Sterling K. Brown is a GIFT.
WHAT’S NEXT? | “You have a creepy glow about you,” Kevin tells his brother when he and Kate join him on the cabin’s steps later. It’s true, too, but Randall doesn’t give up Déja’s big news. They ramble about what they’re going to do now; Kate says they’ll go on doing what Rebecca wanted them to do, living big lives full of purpose. For instance, she’s going to open up a lot of music schools for visually impaired kids. Kev is going to focus on his nonprofit and “be home more. I like my home. It took me a long time to get it.”
And Randall? The Democratic National Committee wants him to make an appearance at the Iowa State Fair (hence the deep fried Oreos thing earlier), a common precursor to a formally announced run for president of the United States. If Beth is on board, “yeah, for Mom, I might go,” he says. They do a very glurgey reenactment of their Big Three chant — in the whole episode, it was the only thing that felt unrealistic to me — and then the guys reassure Kate that they’re not going to drift apart, something that brings tears to Randall’s eyes once more. “People don’t like their presidents all weepy and stuff,” Kev teases him, but it’s good-natured.
Then they recall how Rebecca gripped Randall’s hand right before she died, and they wonder what that was all about…
‘YOU DON’T JUST WALK AWAY’ | Which brings us back to Rebecca’s midnight train to the afterlife. She and Jack are in bed in the caboose, and he remarks that he “missed that little scar” on her brow. She whispers that she’s scared, and he reassures her that she doesn’t need to be. “Hey babe, we did good,” he says. “You did so good.” She laments that there was so much more she wanted to do with their kids. “You will,” he promises.
As scenes from the post-funeral gathering show The Big Three interacting lovingly with each other and their kids, Jack tells promises Rebecca that she’ll be around for everything that matters. “I mean, it’s not like I want to be there for anything weird,” she quickly amends. “I don’t want to watch them shower or anything.” (Ha!) He smiles and says that won’t happen, “but you’ll be there.”
Here’s how it ends:
JACK | Quite a thing, isn’t it? Us finding each other in the bar that night.
REBECCA | Yeah, well, I mean… when the world puts something that obvious in front of you, you don’t just walk away.
JACK | You ready?
REBECCA | I don’t want to leave them.
JACK | You don’t. You’ll see.
REBECCA | I love you.
JACK | I love you.
Then they clasp hands — just like she grabbed Randall’s — and that’s that.
Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the series finale? Grade it — and the season as a whole — via the polls below, then hit the comments with allllll of your reactions!
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