SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details about the Season 4 finale of This Is Us.
When This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman was writing tonight’s Season 4 finale, no one from the show had any idea that it would air during a global pandemic that has claimed the lives of 19,000 people worldwide.
Yet, the show’s signature uplifting tone struck the right note in the finale, which provided some much needed optimism in dark times, from the welcome return of Dr. K, who reassured us that “Life does have a way of shaking out to be more beautiful than tragic” to the very last line of dialogue in the episode, “Hope, her name is Hope” uttered by grown-up Jack as his wife was cradling their newborn baby daughter.
That line brings us to the cavalcade of surprising twists served tonight, a This Is Us finale tradition. It was directed to a new character, Hailey, Jack’s Sister (Adelaide Kane), whom Kate and Toby decided to adopt on Jack’s first birthday earlier in the episode.
In another sibling twist, Kevin’s son whom we saw in last season’s finale flash-forward, also has a sister. They are twins, and their mother is Madison (Caitlin Thompson), who dropped the shocking news to Kevin that he was going to be a father (x 2) after their one-night stand. He took it well, assuring Madison that he is “all in” and acknowledging that his children may be the love his life.
Fogelman, who acknowledged that he felt “hesitant and a little worried” to talk about a TV show amid a health crisis, moved in to reassure any fans worried that Kevin has given up on love. “There are many more chapters in Kevin’s romantic story,” he said. Listing all the great love stories on the show, Jack & Rebecca, Randall & Beth, Toby & Kate, Fogelman noted, “It felt like an interesting time to have a character to embark upon parenthood with a partner who is a virtual stranger to him.”
Featured for fleeting seconds toward the end of the finale were two women from Kevin’s romantic past, Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) and Cassidy (Jennifer Morrison). The way they were introduced into the finale was carefully thought out, Fogelman said.
“As Kevin is contemplating giving up on the idea of great love, and cutting to these women whom he had very intense relationships with, there is a reason for that,” he said. “These characters, we are not done with, whether or not it’s related to Kevin, I can’t say.” Fogelman also would not provide any clues about the identities of Kevin or Nicky’s future wives.
In addition to two Pearsons, Hailey and Kevin’s daughter, the finale introduced three other new characters, including Madison’s OBGYN Eli (Josh Hamilton) and his horse whisperer teenage daughter Sadie (Glory Rose). We will see more of Eli next season, and there was special context in the way he was introduced too.
We saw what triggered the fallout between Randall and Kevin, revealed in the Season 4 midseason finale flash-forward to the Big 3 40th birthday, which had Kevin and Kate celebrating sans Randal because, as Kevin reminded Rebecca, “We’re not speaking.”
In tonight’s finale, Kevin realized that it was Randall who made Rebecca change her mind about doing the clinical trial in St. Louis and went after him in an all-out verbal brawl, which ended with one of the most hurtful things one Big Three member has ever said to another. “Hand to god, Randall, the worst thing that ever happened to me is the day they brought you home,” Kevin said.
Fogelman revealed that the scene was difficult to write and to watch.
“It had to be something that would really separate these two for a period of time In this family,” he said, noting that Kevin and Randall had been estranged for a large part of their lives and had only gotten close over the past 2.5-3 seasons. “This is Cain and Abel type stuff between these two; this is a fight that goes back to literally their inception, through them, as alpha males, growing up during exactly the same period of time, both with widely different skillsets.”
While exiled from the rest of the Peterson clan, Randall will hold incredibly tight to his immediate family who will rally around him, Fogelman said.
As bad as the falling-out was, the good news is that the brothers eventually will repair the rift. Tonight we saw the continuation of the flash-forward scene in the Season 3 finale. To recap: last year, we saw Toby (with no wedding ring) coming to Kevin’s house for some sort of family gathering, saying of Jack that “they are on their way,” which could be referring to Hailey, Kate or both. (Fogelman would not say who.) We also saw Kevin’s son before Randal went up to a room where Rebecca was lying in a hospital bed with Nicky by her side.
Tonight, we saw Kevin join Rebecca and the two men for a touching moment of brotherly love between him and Randall, as well as both of Kevin’s twins. But we are yet to find out: what is Nicky doing by Rebecca’s bedside, why is Miguel MIA and most importantly, where is Kate?
Fogelman declined to reveal when we will get answers. “I can’t tell you if it happens next season or the season after, but definitely the answers will come by the end of the series,” he said.
As to when the end of the series is, Fogelman indicated that the plan remains for This Is Us to wrap its run with Season 6. “That’s when the Pearson story will basically come to a close,” he said.
Until then, the series may introduce new future time periods as it starts to rely more on flash-forwards and a little less less on flashbacks. “The series will be tilting into different timelines that go past present time a little bit more as we move forward,” Fogelman said. “More of that is coming, and not just in that deep deep future.”
He hinted that there may be a big flash forward-related reveal in the Season 5 premiere, which he already has written.
Next season will be about birth and rebirth as a main theme. “I’m very excited, especially with where the world is right now, about the uplift and rebirth, as I call it, that come next season,” Fogelman said.
Parallel to that, “It’s going to be a challenging chapter for Rebecca moving forward,” he said. “We have a big story arc planned for Mandy (Moore) next season as an older woman with Alzheimers in present time and a past timeline.”