This Is Us isn’t exactly known for being easy on the emotions. Making fans cry is beyond a joke at this point, it’s a lifestyle. And, the next episode of the NBC drama has snagged a coveted time slot — post-Super Bowl. However, if Jack dies during the Super Bowl episode of This Is Us, it’s the meanest thing the show could ever do.
Post-Super Bowl episodes are notoriously extra. They’re trying to grab new viewers, and have to follow up one of the year’s most exciting sporting events. Who could forget “It’s The End Of The World,” the Grey’s Anatomy episode that aired after the Super Bowl in 2006, in which a man came into the hospital with a bomb inside of him. (It also starred Kyle Chandler, because of course.) When The Office aired after the game, it snagged guest stars Jessica Alba and Jack Black. So it’s no surprise that This Is Us fans are expecting the most (aka the worst for Jack).
“By the end of the episode,” creator Dan Fogelman said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, “you’ll see that this show and Jack’s story was much bigger than his death, or this fire. It will be very rewarding for fans in a different kind of way. There is a bigger story here than just how Jack dies — and you’ll ultimately find something really meaningful and powerful in the episode.”
I can’t, and neither can anyone else.
Does that mean Jack will definitely die in the episode? While the show has teased this out for a long time, don’t get your hopes up for a reprieve. “We know we’re going to have a big audience,” Fogelman said in the same EW interview. “We know that people are braced for this and want it to be really good — and I think we’ve got it. The performances are extraordinary.”
Cool motive — still rude. Jack’s death is coming, and the pain of losing him on Super Bowl Sunday it’s too much. One of the very first things we learned about Jack is that he loves football. Watching football is how he and his wife and his family bond. Kate watches games with his ashes now. It’s a whole thing. He is the kind of guy who, to quote the musical Groundhog Day (also appropriate for February) “gets drunk and existential every time the Steelers lose a game” — and that passion is partly why fans love him.
Look up any GIF of Jack Pearson or think of any pivotal moment in the patriarch’s life and the Steelers aren’t far behind. Hell, two of the Big Three were conceived right after the Super Bowl. The significance is undeniable.
In fact, fans are overwhelmed with the significance.
In a recent episode, Jack mourned the “last [game] with the kids,” talking about the Super Bowl and the fact that the Big Three are headed to college. The fire starts after that game, so most likely he literally dies after the Super Bowl in 1997, and we’re all going to watch that happen after the Super Bowl in 2018. It’s positively soul-crushing, and the fact that none of the kids watched the game with their parents just lays on the guilt.
In the promo for Sunday’s episode, Randall says, “This is my Dad’s favorite day, so I celebrate him.” Presumably he’s talking about Super Bowl Sunday. This is like a convergence of the most evil dramatic irony imagined.
“[Fogelman] may have written his best hour of television,” said actor Sterling K. Brown to Entertainment Weekly, calling the episode both intense and satisfying. “It is cinematic, it’s epic in scope. He is able to take the mundane and turn it into a superhero movie.”
As a member of the star-studded cast of Marvel’s Black Panther, he’d know. So, at least the episode will be good — but at what cost to everyone’s nerves?
The only saving grace is that it’s a different Pennsylvania team, the Eagles, that is playing this Sunday. If it was the Steelers up against the Patriots this year, This Is Us fans might have have literally dissolved into their puddles of tears.