SPOILER ALERT: The story includes details about the May 17 episode That’s us, “The Train”. It was played at the Landmark Theater on Monday night as part of Deadline’s Awardsline screening series, followed by a Q&A with series creator and executive producer Dan Fogelman. You can watch a two-part video of him dissecting “The Train” (above) and previewing next week’s series finale (below the story).
The flash forward scene This is us For years, fans have been looking forward – and dreading – that tonight the Pearsons and their families will gather at Kevin’s house to say goodbye to Rebecca on her deathbed.
Tears shed as the significant others of the Big Three – past and present – took turns at Rebecca’s bedside to tell her how much she meant to them. Randall and Kevin were the last to enter as Kate sped up from London. She arrived in the morning just in time for the trio to say her final “I love you” to Rebecca as she breathed her last.
Paralleling Rebecca’s final hours, a younger version of her found herself on a train, a nice throwback to the “Caboose” episode earlier this season and flashbacks to her train rides with her father decades ago. She was shown through the carriages by William and spent time with the train’s bartender, who was none other than Dr. K, who literally made lemonade out of lemons.
There was also a surprising third parallel story involving a new family with two sons and a daughter that we hadn’t seen before. The father Kenny, played by Dulé Hill, lost control of the family car and one of the sons, Marcus, was taken to the hospital in critical condition. For a while, it seemed like adult Marcus could be Deja’s future boyfriend. Turns out she was still with Malik, who was revealed to be the father of her baby, while the car accident and Pearsons fire happened on the same day, with Marcus and Jack being treated by the same doctor, Dr. Spencer, played by the same actor, Bill Irwin, in which he guest-starred This is us‘ Super Bowl episode.
Kenny met Jack at the hospital, where Jack was Dr. K’s wisdom of making lemonade out of lemons, which Kenny then made his own family motto. Marcus, miraculously given by Dr. Spencer was revived when Jack died a few houses down, later became a top researcher. He was honored for his contributions to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s, with the man who presented him with the award playing This is us Director/EP Ken Olin, who directed The Train.
As young Rebecca and William walked the train, with some memorable ones This is us Moments unfolding around them, including Jack and young Randall’s karate scene, the two reached the galley.
“It’s pretty sad, isn’t it, the ending?” she said. “Oh I don’t see it that way, if something makes you sad when it ends it must have been pretty wonderful when it happened,” William replied. “You’ll see that the ending isn’t sad Rebecca, it’s just the beginning of the next incredibly wonderful thing.”
In real life, as her younger version entered the galley made up as a bedroom, Randall whispered in the dying Rebecca’s ear, “Tell him ‘Hey.'” Rebecca squeezed his hand as if to confirm that she heard him and Moments later, her young Rebecca lay down on the bed on the train, turned to young Jack and said, “Hey.”
In the first part of his video interview (you can watch it above), Fogelman talks about filming that final scene that required a reshoot, as well as the emotional episode as a whole. He explains why the train was chosen as the setting to tell the story of Rebecca’s death, why it brought William (Ron Cephas Jones) and Dr. K (Gerald McRaney) brought back and why we got Mustache Jack in that final scene.
Fogelman also explains the plot with Kenny and Marcus as he eventually convinces something thirty Alum Olin for making a cameo on the show, which he has EP and directed for six seasons, and why Deja ended up with Malik.
“It’s about the weird dichotomy of trauma and joy in our lives,” Fogelman said of the juxtaposition of Marcus and Jack’s story, which was an idea they’d had on the show for years.
During the conversation, Fogelman also gets personal, talking about how the sudden loss of his mother, without a proper goodbye to say goodbye to, influenced the writing of the scene where the Big Three spoke to Rebecca for the last time.
In the second video (you can watch it below), Fogelman talks about it This is us’ upcoming series finale next week, “Us,” which he also wrote.
He teases the plot for the final episode, explaining how the new footage was mixed up with footage he famously filmed four years ago.
Fogelman’s been calling for the last two hours This is us “very different episodes that speak to each other.”
“In the final episode, we’re going to try to capture something simple that, while sad, is sort of a day in the life that the show is so much about, as opposed to Rebecca’s funeral,” he said.
The show intentionally solved all the big mysteries ahead of time “so that the final episode would be the easiest way for people to sit down with family,” Fogelman said. “While it will make you cry, it will make you sad, but the ending of the finale moves me in a different way. I think the cast and crew captured something about the human condition and the condition of being a person in the family that I’m really proud of.”
He also jokingly teased another death, sharing a line from the finale: “I wish I’d enjoyed it more while it was still happening instead of worrying about when it’s going to end.” and revealed which character is saying it .
Additionally, earlier in the day Fogelman responded to Seth Meyers at NBC and interjected This is us reboot, They wereand says if he would do a spin-off or anything else This is us-related series.