[Warning: Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the Season 2 premiere of “This Is Us.”]
“This Is Us” fans finally know how Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) dies. Well, sort of. They discovered in the show’s Season 2 opener that there was a fire, and that the Pearson family patriarch passed away in 1997 — when the kids were 17.
Jack’s death is connected to the fire — but the “how” and “why” of it all is still a mystery. “This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman told IndieWire on Tuesday night that it will become clear by the end of this season what truly happened to Jack and how it impacted Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and “big 3” kids Kate (Chrissy Metz), Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Kevin (Justin Hartley).
“All the answers about how Jack died, it’s all going to happen this season but through the course of the season,” he said. “It was part of our pitch from inception that we were going to do this ‘Breaking Bad’ thing in the beginning. You saw the image in this moment and in the course of the season you’re going to see how we got there. And we’re going to actually get there and see what transpired. So there’s still more to find out; hopefully now it allows people to focus on other things but keeps the intrigue.”
Here’s a roundup of what you need to know for Season 2.
The season premiere’s final two minutes is filled with clues.
As seen in 1997, on the day of Jack’s death, Kate is holding a dog, Randall has a redheaded girlfriend, Kevin has a broken leg and Rebecca is wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey.
“I think our closest fans can watch every moment of the last two minutes, like the Zapruder film. Nothing has been done accidentally,” Fogelman said. “Whether it be Kate feeling responsible for her father’s death, things we’re going to reveal about Kevin, or things we’re seen in the final ending of the show in the last two minutes. We’re not doing this willy-nilly. Everything has a point and a reason. Every little detail, and it will match up.”
That ending was only shot less than two weeks ago, in order to keep it a secret.
Fogelman and his team are so eager to prevent spoilers that they built the burnt-out home, as seen at the end of the episode, in a hush-hush location five hours away from Los Angeles. They used fake signs and code words to keep the set under wraps. And even NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke had to visit the “This Is Us” edit bays to get a sneak peek.
“It took six months of planning,” said Fogelman, who admitted it was a lot of work for what amounted to 30 seconds of filming.
“I wanted those who watch the show in real time or quickly on DVR without things being spoiled to have that experience,” he said. “It’s meant to be one of those television moments that hopefully provides an answer and takes your legs out and is a cliffhanger and an answer all at once. I wanted our fans to have that experience and if it slowly starts leaking online, it becomes a different thing.”
The idea to link Jack’s death to a house fire was part of the plan from the very beginning.
“There was never another idea,” Fogelman said. “Day One, I said I had this image in my head of what had happened to him. I told it when I delivered my script to NBC. I said, ‘You have to know what happens in Seasons 1, 2,, 3 and 4; you have to know what happened to Jack; and you have to know when we’re going to show it and how we’re going to show it.’
“I pitched what we’re seeing right now, and I told the cast so they knew how to execute their characters,” Fogelman said. “They’ve known all along too. There was no other ending. We have these characters in our minds’ eye and this is what happened to them.”
Yes, that means the Jack really did die because of a fire; no surprise twist is coming.
“We’re not misdirecting, he didn’t die four years later,” Fogelman said.
Fogelman is just as surprised as you about the timing of this week’s Kardashian joke.
In this week’s episode, Kevin joked about how the Kardashians are multiplying — just as, coincidentally in real life, Khloe Kardashian and Kylie Jenner this week have been revealed to be pregnant.
“We’re a fan of the Kardashians in my household,” Fogelman said. “It’s a line said with love because she wants to come out and visit the Kardashians to see where they go. We watch it. It’s our guilty pleasure at home. I have friends who work on the show. But I had no idea they would be having another child right as the show released. There’s a lot of them on TV.”
Keep your tissues handy: This is going to be an emotional season.
“It’s going to be a heavy ride, filled with equal parts comedy and sadness. And some really heavy, devastating stuff,” Fogelman said. “By the end of the season, I think we will all have gone through something together and come out on the other side. In this day and age and this show, our goal is to never just brutalize people and leave them brutalized. It may happen in an episode from week to week, but it’s not our long-term plan. Our belief is even in tragedy, despair, loss, there’s a way to come through it. That’s what we’ll be exploring throughout the season.”