How I think Jack died on ‘This Is Us’
Jersey's own Dan Fogelman knows how to tell a story and keep you hanging on. Last night was the return of This Is Us. The beginning of season 2 finally gave some major insight into how Jack Pearson died. The story, which has always jumped back and forth on a timeline, left a lot of dropped jaws in its last five minutes Tuesday night. If you recorded it and haven't yet watched, don't let me spoil it for you.
STOP READING NOW if you don't want it ruined.
The final minutes of the show has Jack as a temporary houseguest of Miguel. He insists Rebecca will be calling before the night is even through. This was after they had sat all three kids down and told them that they were basically taking a break. They stressed they weren't getting a divorce, but it hung thick in the air because you knew Rebecca really didn't know where it would all ultimately take them.
That phone call never came. Instead a knock on the door did. Rebecca tells Jack that it was a mistake to have any time apart. Jack shocks us all when he confesses to Rebecca that he's got a drinking problem. A worse one that Dan Fogelman ever let the audience in on. That he had been drunk every day for weeks. That he'd been hiding it from everyone. The bigger shock is that it's Jack who is the one who says he's not coming home. That he needs to fix himself. Rebecca doesn't let him. She insists if he has a drinking problem that they will work on it together like they always have worked on everything together. She coaxes him into the car.
Then there's one of those pesky time jumps the show loves to do. Suddenly Rebecca is driving alone, clearly a later time. Instead of Jack in the passenger seat now there's only a Ziploc bag of his personal effects. At first we think it's probably been provided by the police. We have been teased with Jack's drinking to the point we have all assumed it has to play into how he dies.
We see Kate and Randall crying hysterically at Miguel's home. Kate says they have to find Kevin who hasn't been told what we realize as an audience, that we're seeing the night Jack died. Then they cut back to Rebecca pulling in front of what had been their home. Their name on the mailbox out front. But the house is a burned out shell with police tape still draped everywhere.
So now we know Jack must have died in a house fire. But how? Did he get so drunk that he accidentally started it? Was he so drunk that he was the only one who didn't get out? Was he home alone when the fire broke out with the rest of the family safe and out someplace, but he was too drunk to wake up?
Here's my theory.
We knew many episodes ago that Kate blames herself for her father's death. She told Toby it was her fault her father died. All along we have been surgically led to believe it ties in to his drinking. As last season wrapped up the night came when Jack drove drunk out of state to the club where Rebecca was performing with the band to surprise her. We all were waiting for the crash to happen. It didn't. He finds the ex-booyfriend and bandmate making a move on Rebecca and a fight breaks out. We thought it might end with Jack dying in a drunken bar brawl. It didn't.
Tuesday night I finally thought of the kind of story teller Dan Fogelman is. He has surprised us plenty along the way. We didn't know Kevin was married before is just one example. We didn't know William was gay was another. What if the drinking is a part of Jack but has nothing to do with the way he died? Think of this character America loves so much, this man who has an epic love for his wife and children represents the best parts of all of us when we are having our best days. The man all men want and try to be. Would alcohol be the thing that kills him?
I think I finally have the answer. My theory is Jack moved back to the house that night with Rebecca. Things are still strained. He's working on his drinking problem. In the episodes that follow some story line develops with Kate involving a friend or a boy or depression; something that leads her to sneak out of the house the night of the fire. Everyone has gone to bed. They know Kevin is out on a date, but Jack and Rebecca have no reason to believe Kate isn't home. The fire is swift, and Jack, Rebecca, and Randall barely make it out in time. Amidst the confusion they realize Kate hasn't come out. Of course no one realizes she's not even there. Jack, being Jack, runs back into their burning home to save their daughter.
He never makes it out alive.
This would account for her inability to speak of his death to Toby and for her telling him her father's death is entirely her fault. In this Fogelman will shame us just a little for focusing on a man's one weakness instead of his many strengths in assuming all along it was the alcohol that killed him. Instead it was what he held most dear. His love for his family. I think I'm on to something here. We'll see.
More from New Jersey 101.5