[Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers for the “This Is Us” Season 2 finale as well as the preceding season.]
“This Is Us” wrapped up a season dominated by speculation with one definitive, and much-needed, ending: no more doting on Jack’s death. The untimely demise of Milo Ventimiglia’s Pearson family patriarch stole a lot of focus in Season 2, but that’s over: Kevin (Justin Hartley), Kate (Chrissy Metz), Randall (Sterling K. Brown), and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) all said a special ceremonial goodbye during Kate’s wedding reception.
“We wanted to give closure to the storyline of the family moving past Jack’s death and tell other stories about Jack and his family,” creator Dan Fogelman said, speaking at a SXSW screening of the finale on Monday afternoon. “We’re going to go for it in Season 3. It’s going to be our most ambitious [season yet].”
Fogelman said he and the writers have been breaking Season 3 for the past few weeks, and it’s “almost fully formed.” Big picture, he said they know what they’re doing over multiple episodes, including a plan for the big three (“The Big Three”?) questions raised in the finale. Here’s what Fogelman, co-showrunner Isaac Aptaker, Justin Hartley, Mandy Moore, and Milo Ventimiglia had to say about what’s coming up on “This Is Us.”
The Future (a.k.a. Gray-Haired Randall)
In the much-hyped Super Bowl episode, a shot of an older, gray-haired Randall sparked new fan theories as “This Is Us” jumped forward in time instead of backward. Where was his wife, Beth? Why couldn’t we see Randall’s wedding ring? Is trouble afoot?
The finale will likely drive even more theorizing, as Randall and a grown-up Tess built up the courage to “go see her.” Who’s her? The writers aren’t saying, but they did debunk a few guesses.
When asked if he was consciously avoiding Randall’s wedding ring — implying problems in his marriage — Fogelman said that was never the plan. (“But the internet is a wild place,” he said.) He also confirmed the time jump is 13 years in the future and said the story will be prominently addressed in Season 3.
“By the end of next season, you’ll have a pretty good sense of where it’s going,” Fogelman said, after confirming the scene will be addressed in upcoming episodes. “I think it will be rewarding when it’s done.”
Kevin’s New Relationship and What’s Next for Jack
In a twist for the future that relates to the present, it was revealed that Kevin will be dating Zoe, Beth’s cousin, in the future, and they’re serious enough to be taking a trip to Vietnam together. But during the episode, it looked like Kate’s unofficial maid of honor Madison, played by Caitlin Thompson, who had her eye on Kevin.
Well there’s a behind-the-scenes reason that coupling didn’t happen: Back in the real world, Thompson is Fogelman’s wife.
“So I had to watch in editorial as she put the moves on Justin here,” Fogelman said. “So, yeah, that’s never going to happen again.”
As for Kevin’s new relationship, the cast and creator were tight-lipped on how it develops, but they did say the couple would face a “racial dynamic,” and the end of the finale gives a glimpse of their first meeting at Kate’s wedding.
“I’m always up to anything new they want to do with Kevin, be it a relationship or a job,” Hartley said. “As an actor, that gives you the opportunity to sink your teeth into things. […] I’m at the point where anything they write, I’m into it.”
As for Kevin’s bout with alcoholism in Season 2, Fogelman said they’re looking to move past that, too.
“He’s moving in the right direction [now],” he said. “He’s in a good place.”
Toby’s Depression and Jack’s New Journey
“Wait, hold on a second — Toby’s bummed and he’s on meds?”
That was Milo Ventimiglia’s reaction to what he considered the biggest final twist of the episode. Toby (Chris Sullivan) has a history of depression, as his parents alluded to in the finale, and the cast and creator said he’d be facing that in Season 3.
Ventimiglia was quieter about his next chapter: an extended stay in Vietnam, but also a romantic “origin story.”
“Next year is going to be a real showcase for the younger version of Jack,” Fogelman said. “And a lot of it relates to Jack and Rebecca’s origin story, so we’re going to get into that.”
“This Is Us” has already been renewed for a third season. Season 3 is expected to premiere this fall.