Jack Deserved Better Than His Super Bowl Sunday Death on This Is Us

From TIME - February 4, 2018

This Is Us answered the question its been building to since it started. And the answerthat Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) died of cardiac arrest after inhaling smoke during a Super Bowl Sunday house firewas both movingly depicted and, because it seems to bear no consequences for the shows future, more than a little hollow. It was a misstep thats long been in the offing for 2018s signature TV hita killing, foreshadowed clumsily for more than a year, that felt unworthy of the moments on the show that do work.

Perhaps the moment most illustrative of all that This Is Us does well and all of the base instincts that scuttle the good came when Rebecca (Mandy Moore) first saw her husbands corpse. As Moore depicted, with startling realism, a woman in full collapse, NBC sent a chyron flaring across the screen: SHARE THE MOMENT: #ThisIsUs. The show, hamstrung by market demands even while delivering the most broadly appealing content available, isnt allowed to get out of its own way long enough to let a moment land. The moment hadnt even happened before NBC was instructing viewers how to share it on social media.

That presentation should have come as no surprise. The buildup to this episode had featured offscreen interviews with various cast members about how devastated the audience would be when they finally saw what This Is Us had cooked up.

Its just an absolute soul-crushing event, Ventimiglia said in an interview, adding that you may get some hopeand then its all going to go away. Leaving aside whether or not bragging about upsetting an audience is in good taste, Ventimiglia seemed off on one important particular: How much hope could there have been? We knew going in that Jack died on Super Bowl Sunday. That he was briefly hospitalized after a house fire (rather than burning to a crisp in said fire) was less false hope than delaying what even casual viewers knew to be inevitable. After all, the show has made rigorous and unyielding work of reminding us of Jacks death. The events taking place in the past on This Is Us lack real dramatic tension in part because we know how they turn out. They could only be parsed for hope if they were unfolding with the future unknown.


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