During the January 24 episode, fans — who have long wondered about Jack's fate — got a glimpse at his funeral for the very first time. Although it's still unknown what happened to the beloved dad (played by Milo Ventimiglia), the Big Three appeared to be teenagers when he passed.
"I've always known when Jack died. The how is going to take much longer to reveal. To me, even when you’re watching the pilot, long before you knew Jack may not be in the picture in the present day, this family always felt loving and good but broken," Fogelman explained to EW. "There’s still — and there’s going to be for some time — a lot of unanswered questions. What was going on in their marriage whenever this happened? How did it happen? Those questions aren’t going to be answered for some time. It’s something that, like many of the great tragedies in our lives, might not be talked about all the time or easy to talk about."
Kate (Chrissy Metz) had a flashback about Jack's funeral while taking an exercise class at a weight loss camp. The montage showed a priest speaking at the service, the funeral program and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) wearing the necklace that Jack gave her.
Kate was the first to reveal to the audience that Jack was dead when she showed her boyfriend, Toby (Chris Sullivan), her father's urn in a previous episode.
"It's certainly going to take the rest of our season for her to even be opened up enough to really talk about it, and it’s going to take even longer for the audience to get the story of what happened in full," Fogelman said. "I think you get the sense, watching the episode and watching the show that, listen, something happened. And it’s something that broke this family apart, not irreparably. They all love each other. The Big Three is amazing together. But there’s stuff here, and I think a lot of it is held with Jack."
"In terms of the detail of how he died, was it illness? Was it something tragic? Was it something else?" he added. "You're not going to know that for a little bit because we want to show that in the show. So that’s going to take a minute."
Jack's story line won't be the only heartbreaking part about the series, though. Fogelman described the finale as a "doozy" and hinted that other problems will arise for the Pearson family and their loved ones.
"The back half of the season — it's heavy, and it’s not just heavy on an emotional level. It's dark, and there’s some darkness that creeps into the show because that’s what happens in life," he said. "We're not trying to be edgy or cool, but perfect people act imperfectly. A wonderful marriage faces serious tests. People get sick and die. So we can’t just do a show where every week is this kind of emotional but very safe release. We also have to dive into the heavy stuff. So [in] the back half of the season, people are going to have to put on their seat belts a little bit."
This Is Us, which was just picked up for two more seasons, airs Tuesdays on NBC at 9 p.m. ET.
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