Or this: “It’s almost like that drink is a bit of a truth serum and a relaxer to the way that he thinks, ‘I’m going to go get my wife back.’ And it’s a poor decision on his part that may lead to his death.”
Or definitely this: “Papa Pearson is very concerned for the audience right now.”
But the season finale — which was co-written by series creator Dan Fogelman and focuses primarily on the Pearson parents — also takes us deep into the past, specifically the year 1972, right before Jack meets Rebecca (Mandy Moore). “It’s an episode that goes beyond the Jack and Rebecca that we know,” says Ventimiglia.
Indeed, Jack returns from Vietnam and is having trouble making a living, and living at home with his parents. “That was a tough era for Vietnam vets — coming home from war, they weren’t welcomed with open arms,” says Ventimiglia. “A lot of them were spit on, and coming back troubled, having seen some pretty bad things. Even though it may appear that Jack was unscathed by it, I think there’s a deeper understanding to what Jack experienced that we may only see the surface of it and not know what lies beneath. He comes home from a war and ultimately, quietly, there’s a bit of a war at home. It’s no surprise that Jack has had a bad relationship with his father, and that continues.”
Rebecca, meanwhile, is pursuing a music career that hasn’t taken off, and she’s facing societal pressures to settle down with a husband. “All of her girlfriends are married, the eye on their prize is meeting marriage material, and Rebecca’s eye is on her music that isn’t quite going the way that she was hoping,” he says. “But at the same time that’s what she’s interested in and that’s where her focus lies …. It’s always about singing and being on a stage for her. “
Ventimiglia hints at a pair of scenes late in the episode that should have fans talking. “They change the game of what the show is,” says Ventimiglia. “They’re two incredibly impactful moments — one’s seeking conflict, and one’s seeking resolution. You may not completely disagree with the conflict, and you may not agree with the resolution, but they sit on complete opposite sides of one another.”
And how would he describe the overall vibe of the episode? “It’s definitely heartbreaking, but it has the Fogelman wink and a smile that will keep you thinking about what just happened. That’s been always the best part about – you can call them cliffhangers — with our show. There might have been only one, where you really have to know what happened, and that was: What happened to Toby? That was the one where you go, ‘Oh my god, I gotta wait four weeks? This is horrible! Screw you people!’ This one feels like it could potentially be a little more reflective. But I don’t think it diminishes the capacity of it in any way.”
Milo Ventimiglia Reveals the Funniest ‘This Is Us’ Blooper and Cast Secrets
The 39-year-old actor stars as patriarch Jack Pearson alongside Mandy Moore, who plays his wife, Rebecca Pearson, on the critically acclaimed NBC family drama. He told Us that their onscreen chemistry is so dynamic because they’re friends in real life. “She is as nice as she presents herself to be,” Ventimiglia assured Us. “She is one of the kindest people, actors, I’ve come across in the business. She’s a little hard on herself. She’s a remarkable, remarkable woman.”
The Gilmore Girls alum revealed that one of the all-time funniest moments on set was when a bird pooped on Moore’s hat during a serious scene with Sterling K. Brown (who plays the adult version of Rebecca and Jack’s son Randall Pearson). “Oh, my God, Sterling is such a pro,” Ventimiglia gushed. “It was an emotional moment for Mandy’s character, and Sterling goes, ‘Hold on, I know you’re in the zone, but a bird just defecated on your hat. Can you guys see that? Can the cameras see that?’ And then she stopped and she goes, ‘Oh.’ He ushered her away, and then she came back and they popped right back in the moment.”
Ventimiglia gave his costars a lot of credit for holding it together during such an LOL-worthy moment. “I would have lost my mind,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, a bird just s--t on her, we’ve got to cut.'”
The This Is Us season finale airs on NBC Tuesday, March 14, at 9 p.m. ET.