There’s no doubt about it: This Is Us was the biggest new hit of the year, and it’s easy to see why. This was a heartwarming, touching and all-around lovable show that featured top-notch performances and surprisingly epic twists. But how does the season finale compare to the rest of this mesmerizing season? Honestly, it was kind of underwhelming.
Maybe I just have way too high expectations when it comes to finales, but I always want my seasons to end with a mindblowing cliffhanger (and this show’s done a lot of them this year), or at least an emotional gut-punch to keep me reeling until the show’s return. The all-out battle between Jack and Rebecca was admittedly moving (and beautifully performed), but this episode felt like it could have aired at any point throughout the last few weeks. It didn’t feel like the explosive culmination I wanted from the final hour of the season (and no, I don’t mind that Jack’s cause of death has yet to be revealed, I just wanted more).
Maybe it’s the fact that the rest of the cast was barely featured apart from one little montage. The show tried something similar with Memphis, and while many hailed it as the single best episode the show’s ever done, I found that hour tedious. The reason I watch This Is Us is for the ensemble, so episodes like this one are bound to disappoint me. It doesn’t help that the show devoted a lot of screen time to Jack’s poker shenanigans and a brand new character (Darryl) we’d never seen before. I get what they were going for, but it kind of fell flat on its face.
On the bright side, Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore both delivered series-best work. The former in particular broke my heart with his final monologue (found below), and if he’s not nominated for an Emmy this year, it would be a grave oversight. Moreover, the finale wisely contrasted the roughest period in the couple’s marriage with the incredible moment the two first locked eyes in a bar years ago. The cherry on top is that Rebecca’s voice is the twist of fate that stopped Jack from basically setting off a life of crime. Yup, it’s all kinds of heartwarming and beautiful!
– I really enjoyed the flashbacks with a young Jack working on Mrs. Peabody’s car, and Rebecca juggling her marriage-obsessed friends.
– Jack punching Ben repeatedly was extremely satisfying wasn’t it?
– I loathe Jack’s dad with every fiber of my being. What an ass!
– As he gets ready for the big “heist,” Jack puts on his magical Daytona Beach shirt. This is the same shirt he told Kate he was wearing the night he met Rebecca.
– There’s a great moment with Rebecca deleting the voicemail as soon as she gets home (with Jack in tow) because she doesn’t want him to hear it.
– It’s interesting to note that Rebecca tells Jack he’s not an alcoholic. Do you really believe that ma’am?
– Jack calling Rebecca’s career “ridiculous” is probably the harshest thing we’ve ever heard him say, and it really shocked the hell out of me. Absolutely vicious.
– Notice that the fight is all one uninterrupted take. I can’t begin to imagine how draining it must have been for Moore and Ventimiglia.
– There’s a nice nod to the show’s second episode with Rebecca walking out of her bedroom and expecting to find a sober Jack outside her door. But nope, he’s still downstairs (and she swiftly asks him to move in with Miguel).
– In the small montage we get of the kids, we learn that Kate wants to follow in her mom’s footsteps and sing (cool), Kevin is going to the interview in LA and potentially hurting his reunion with Sophie (not cool), and Randall wants to adopt a baby (a fitting move for his character arc).
– Notice that Jack omits the part about the almost-robbery when he brings up the night they met. It’s a devious touch that I didn’t expect from the character. Will Rebecca ever find out?
– Jack winks at Rebecca at the end before he leaves. Can you say awww?
– The necklace that Rebecca is clutching is the same one that Jack gave her in the second episode in memory of their “song”. We finally discover what that song is (Moonshadow) as we hear Rebecca singing it in the bar when Jack spots her. Moonshadow is also the title of the episode.
Darryl: Yeah, well, you know what the bad guys never see coming?
Jack: The good guys.
Jack: For me, you know I tried to go the other way. Be respectful to women, do my part in ‘Nam, just be a good man. And look where it’s gotten me. When am I gonna get my break, Darryl? When? You know, ’cause they just make this too hard, man. It’s just too damn hard.
Rebecca: What do you love about me? Tell me. The me as I am right now, not the me that you’ve conjured up in your mind over the years what do you love about me right now, Jack? So the next time you tell me that you love me, make sure you’re not doing it just out of habit.
Jack: You know, I was supposed to have another date the night that we met. I ever tell you that?
Jack: The woman that sold me the Chevelle, she set me up. But then I saw you and I stood the other girl up.
Rebecca: I wonder who she was.
Jack: I never have.
Jack: You asked me a question before. What is it that I love about you now.
Jack: So I’m gonna start with the obvious. I love the mother that you are. I love that you are still the most beautiful woman in any room and that you laugh with your entire face. I love that you dance funny and not sexy, which makes it even sexier. But most of all, I love that you are still the same woman who, all those years ago, ran out of a blind date because she simply had to sing. You’re not just my great love story, Rebecca. You were my big break.
The performances and emotion were on point, but I expected a bigger and more powerful finale after such an impressive debut season.