Tuesday night’s penultimate episode of This Is Us, brought the long-anticipated moment in the lives of the Pearson family, when their mother, Rebecca (Mandy Moore, the matriarch, the heart and soul of the family, dies due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. And, if come Emmy time, after all of the performances she gave this season, Mandy Moore, does not take home the Lead Actress in a Drama Series prize, something is amiss in the awards system.
That said, here we go. I hope those who followed the Pearsons journey over six seasons had the hankies nearby for this. In story, the focus was Rebecca’s passing, while meeting a new family, and then as viewers trying to figure out how this interconnects throughout the episode; something the show has stayed true to throughout its run; with a payoff of how they tell a themed-story when the sum of its parts is revealed.
As Rebecca takes her final turn on this earth, everyone is notified the end is near and to say their goodbyes. While Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Kevin (Justin Hartley) were present, Kate (Chrissy Metz) was in London trying to get back to her mom. She then receives a devastating call from her brothers that Rebecca is running out of time.
When Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) goes to say her goodbye to Rebecca, in tears, she tells Rebecca that she does not have to worry. She will take good care of her son, Randall. While the family is gathered and trying to just hang and be with each other through tragedy, when all the noise stops and everyone leaves for the night, it’s just brothers Kevin and Randall who go sit with their mother in heartbreaking and realistic scenes for anyone who has gone through the death of a loved one due to this horrific disease.
To illustrate what is going on in the mind of Rebecca in her final hours, a younger version of herself is on a train, which brings into play how she loved train rides with her own father years ago. Taking her to the afterlife, Rebecca is guided through the cars by none other than William (Ron Cephas Jones). She also spends time having a drink with the bartender, who turns out to be the doctor (Gerald McRaney) who saved her life and delivered her children. He recounted that fateful night, when Rebecca lost one of her triplets. As Rebecca and William get to the caboose, back in the present, it’s morning.
Now, Rebecca is still alive but waiting for someone, which, of course, is her daughter, Kate. As Randall and Kevin look on, an emotional Kate arrives and runs to her mother’s bedside, and holding Rebecca’s hand, tells her how much she loves her. Cutting back to Rebecca’s journey on the train, she says to William, “This is quite sad, isn’t it, the end?” Willam replies: “That’s not the way I see it, if something makes you sad when it ends, it must have been pretty wonderful when it was happening. You will see that the end is not sad, Rebecca, it’s just the start of the next incredibly wonderful thing.”
It’s then, that Rebecca lets go and passes away with the Big Three all at her bedside. Back to the train, Rebecca goes to the caboose lays down on a bed, and is met, in bed, by her beloved Jack (Milo Ventimiglia). In the present, Randall had whispered to his mom shortly before his death, “You tell him, hey”, and so when Rebecca lays down next to Jack, she says “hey”.
The other element to the episode was the new family we had never met before. After a car accident, one of the sons, Marcus. is taken to the hospital in critical condition. In the present, we think Marcus is the grown-up boyfriend of Deja, especially after she reveals to Randall that she is pregnant.
In the flashback, Marcus’ father, Kenny played by Dulé Hill, bumps into Jack at a vending machine at the hospital and we realize we are back in time when Jack went to the hospital following the Pearson family home fire. Turns out, that Jack and Marcus were being treated by the same doctor, Dr. Spencer (Bill Irwin). While Marcus survived after flatlining, that is when Jack suddenly didn’t, and died. We later learn Malik turns out to be Deja’s baby daddy and boyfriend, and Marcus grows up to become a top researcher in Alzheimer’s disease and wins an award for his accomplishments. The person who handed him the award was none other than This Is Us director and executive producer, Ken Olin.
So, what did you think of the penultimate episode of This Is Us? Did you reach for the hankies? Comment below.