This Is Us’ Eight Moments to Make You Ugly Cry: It’s the Death You Knew Was Coming

Help! This Is Us has us drowning in our own tears! The Tuesday, February 21, episode of Mandy Moore (Rebecca) and Milo Ventimiglia‘s (Jack) drama had Us completely and utterly devastated. Spoiler alert: We cried. Actual spoiler alert: The episode revolved around our dearest William’s (Ron Cephas Jones) final days and eventual death. And while fans knew it was probably coming, many were probably not prepared to be so incredibly devastated by it. Watch the biggest moments in the video above, and read on for more!

The entire episode revolved around flashbacks to William’s early life, along with present-day scenes of him and biological son Randall (Sterling K. Brown) on a father-son road trip. Here are eight moments from This Is Us that had Us crawling into a fetal position and sobbing until we were completely drained of tears.

Randall Was Hospitalized for Anxiety

After a short flashback montage of William as a baby, with his father heading off to war and dying, and his mother (Amanda Warren) cradling him and singing “You Are My Sunshine,” the episode kicked off with Randall at the doctor’s office. Randall, who suffered an anxiety attack in the previous episode, was attempting to get the OK to go on a road trip with William to his dad’s hometown of Memphis. A nervous Beth revealed, “You’ve only been out of the hospital for five days,” which was a shocker! Randall was hospitalized? Suddenly, Randall received the all-clear from his doctor and was hitting the road with his dying biological father.

William and His Mother

In a series of flashbacks, we saw that William grew up in Memphis and was extremely close with his single mother, Dorothy. In a tear-jerking scene between a young-adult William (Jermel Nakia) and Dorothy, who was embarking on a journey to Pittsburgh to take care of her dying mom, the mother-son duo shared a meaningful goodbye. Through tears, she told him, “Focus on your art, your music. You have a gift, baby.” She continued, “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.” She quickly turned away and headed for her train.

William and Randall Visit Jack’s Resting Place

After William threw the road maps out the window, he and Randall were in free-spirit road trip mode. William asked Randall about his emotional breakdown: “Is it OK to call it a breakdown? … It’s hard to fathom — you seem to have it all together.” Randall then opened up about his anxiety by saying, “It’s always been like that. … My father, he kept it in check. Whenever I’d get too in my head … we’d just sit there breathing together until it passed.”

William then asked Randall if they could go and visit Jack’s resting place — his favorite tree in a park where they had spread his ashes after his death. At first, Randall said no, but William wore him down and demanded, “Take me to meet your father.” While there at the park, William sat on a bench alone and spoke to the spirit of Jack. “Thank you for doing what I couldn’t … for raising him to be the man he is,” William said. “I would have liked to have met my son’s father.” Aaaand we cried forever.

William’s Beautiful Song About His Mother

In flashback, William was a young musician playing in a band in Memphis with his cousin Ricky (Brian Tyree Henry). Young William handed his cousin a sheet of lyrics for a new song, leading Ricky to boast of their soon-to-be-hit single, “You officially ended our days as a cover band.” The band played the gorgeous song, which featured lyrics about William saying goodbye to his mother at the train station. One line that brought Us instant tears was, “Mother, don’t you cry. We’re gonna be all right.” This was especially heartbreaking because “We’re gonna be all right” was what his mother told him as a baby after his father died while away at war.

William Shows Randall His Hometown

After arriving in Memphis, William’s first stop was his childhood home, which he shared with his mother. There was a quirky little scene in which William entered the house and found his old “treasure” under a brick in the fireplace — the treasure being some toys and spare change. William admitted, “After all these years later, they’re still here. Isn’t it strange how the world sticks and moves like that?” What a poet! Randall and William then traveled around and saw the city’s sites, including a trip to the barbershop. Our hearts swelled when they both took a ceremonial sip from the segregated drinking fountains in a local shop.

William Takes Care of His Dying Mother Before Getting Into Drugs

Back in the ’70s, a young William traveled to Pittsburgh to take care of his mother, who was now dying herself. So much death in this episode! We then saw a montage of William meeting the gorgeous but troubled love of his life, who would eventually get caught up in drugs and give birth to Randall. In a beautifully haunting scene, William’s dying mother asked him to recite her a poem. He did so while his gorgeous but drugged-up girlfriend stumbled into the room. After his mother passed away, the montage continued, this time with William getting deeper into his own drug problem. Heartbreaking.

William’s Final Night

Back in present day, William was reunited with his estranged cousin Ricky, who at first was not happy to see him. Eventually, William told his cousin he was dying and confessed, “I was ashamed of what I had become. … And now I’m dying, and I just needed to say I’m sorry. You were good to me, cuz.” William even paid Ricky back the money he borrowed for the train ticket to Pittsburgh. Ricky warmed up to William and asked, “Hey, William, you too sick to play?” The duo then got on stage and began cranking out the tunes while Randall sat nearby and got to know his second cousins. Randall even got drunk and joined them onstage, singing his inebriated heart out!

William’s Beautiful Last Moments With His Randall

The episode came to a screeching halt when, the morning before Randall and William had planned to visit a duck pond, Randall found William shaking in bed. At the hospital, the doctor told Randall, “It was a miracle that he even made the trip. … He’s looking at hours here. Maybe a day or so at best. … His organs are shutting down rapidly.” We were devastated.

A close-to-death William then handed Randall a book of poems entitled “Poems for My Son,” which he was writing in during an earlier episode’s flashback. William then said to his biological son, “Man, that was a hell of a thing you did, knocking on my door that day.” He turned to Randall and gave him some sage advice, saying, “Roll down the windows, Randall. Crank up that music. Grow out that ‘fro. … You’ve deserved the beautiful life you’ve made. You deserve everything, Randall. My beautiful boy. My son. I haven’t had a happy life. I had breaks. I had choices. A life of almosts and could-haves. Some would call it sad, but I don’t. ‘Cause the two best things in my life were the person in the very beginning, and the person at the very end. And that’s a pretty good thing to be able to say, I think.”

At this point, we were inconsolable. When William then confessed that he was scared, Randall borrowed a page out of Jack Pearson’s book and touched his face with both hands as they took deep breaths together. William passed away after Randall soothed, “Just breathe. Come on now, breathe with me.” Randall then drove home, with William’s childhood toys resting on the dashboard. At one point, a family of ducks crossed the road in front of Randall’s car — a beautiful metaphor for the day they never got to spend together. Randall cranked up the music, rolled the windows down and kept on driving.

Tell Us: What did you think of this beautiful episode about William’s life and death? 

This Is Us airs on NBC Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET. 

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