If you are anything like me, Tuesday mornings usually require a trip to CVS to stock up on your tissue supply, because you know that the evening's showing of This is Us means nothing other than a 40-minute sobbing session. And if you are up to date (spoiler alert), then you know that these past Tuesday's episodes have been a special kind of emotionally traumatizing--even for this tearjerker of a show.
Yes, these past Tuesdays our long-awaited questions were answered: we watched Jack Pearson's death play out in all of its mundane glory. And I don't mean mundane in a bad way, but rather as another example of how this show continues to prove that it is not above its audience in any way, shape, or form.
Jack Pearson is undeniably the most adored character on the show - every other character loves him to the point of worship. In fact, Miguel, his longtime friend, summarized it perfectly in a recent episode when he explains that Jack is the best man that any one of his family will ever know.
So as a viewer, one would expect his TV death to come in a dramatic or heroic fashion, as TV death often does - maybe he dies to jump in front of a bullet for his wife or trying to save his children from drowning.
However, This is Us, staying true to form, gives Jack a death as old as time - he dies as a result of a house fire.
Not only is his death simple, but it was preventable. If only he had remembered to get batteries for the fire alarm, or if only he didn't go back into the house, or if only he unplugged that damn slow-cooker, he may have gotten the chance to live to be a grandfather.
But none of those things happened, and he did not get to be a grandfather. His death was gut-wrenching (despite the fact that we have known he was dead since about the second episode of the entire series) and a painful reminder that life is not fair, and the worst things can happen to the best people.
No one is deserving of a fate so cruel, but the saint that is Jack Pearson is just about as far down on that list as one can get. The Pearson family is one that we have invited into our homes weekly. We laugh with them, we get angry with them, and boy do we cry with them. And through it all, one thing is abundantly evident: Jack Pearson was, is, and always will be the entire heart and soul of their family.
In many ways, the fact that the show exists in many separate time periods acts as a metaphor for the fact that even though Jack is dead, he is still such a prevalent force in all their lives. The patriarch has been dead from the moment the show hit the air, yet every Tuesday his love and goodness fill our homes. It is in this way that he, no doubt, lives on in the minds of his family.
The fact that he does not vanish from our screens symbolizes the fact that he does not vanish from their minds.
Those we love who leave us are never truly gone. We remember them in moments, in memories, in heart-wrenching aches when we hear their favorite song, or smell their cologne, or see a picture of them. Before this episode, we knew Jack was dead, but didn't FEEL it. And revealing this piece of the puzzle allows us to identify just a bit more with Pearsons. Now, those flashbacks of Jack will ache, in the same way that they no doubt would for his family, because just as we watched him live, we felt him die.
It allows us to put ourselves more in Rebecca's shoes, in Kate's, Kevin's, Randall's. It allows us to more fully embrace the title of the show: This is US. It's not called, "This is the Pearson's". Jack's death is a shared burden that, as of two weeks ago, both the Pearson's and the viewers share.
Jack Pearson was not perfect. He had issues with alcohol, and was overly-ambitious at times, he could be a pushover with his children. But he embodied what it is to love. He was a gift to his family, and a gift to the viewer's, and his loss is one that we feel profoundly. No, Jack Pearson was not perfect. But, in the words of the love of his life, Rebecca, to their son, Randall "Your father wasn't perfect, but he was pretty damn close. As close as they come."