9 Theories About Jack Pearson’s Death on This Is Us

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Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson. Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

NBC’s weepy family drama This Is Us returns Tuesday night, and with it, fans are hoping to finally get an answer to the show’s biggest burning question: When will Mandy Moore and Chrissy Metz sing together? Just kidding! Everyone wants to know how the family’s patriarch, Jack Pearson, will meet his untimely death.

This Is Us showrunner Dan Fogelman told Variety that the season premiere will offer up a “giant piece of the puzzle” on the details of Jack’s death. It sounds like we’ll have a whole new mess of theories regarding Jack’s demise, but until then, let’s discuss some of the current theories about the tragedy that breaks the Pearson clan. What’s most popular guess? What’s most likely? Will sentient facial hair play a role? Vulture takes a closer look.

Jack Dies Saving Someone Else

Jack Pearson always has to be the hero. Throughout season one, we witnessed him go the extra mile for his family. (That whole Pilgrim Rick thing? Swoon.) Although we’ve also seen his temper, it is clear that Jack is a good man down to the core. It is safe to assume, if only based on the fact that he fixes a sweet old lady’s car for just five dollars, that he’s the type of guy to go out of his way to help others. Since we know that Jack’s death was a shock to the entire Pearson family — in season one, Beth and Randall had a conversation about how neither was prepared for the death of their fathers — it seems plausible that Jack inserts himself into an emergency and winds up dead. We also know that Kate feels immense guilt for her father’s death: Was she in trouble and Jack came to her rescue? A house fire theory is making its way around the interwebs, and if anyone would run into a burning building to save his kid, it’s Jack Pearson. Or could it be more of a “wrong place, wrong time” situation? Maybe Kate asked her father to pick something up at the store and he walked in on a robbery? We all know Jack would try to talk a gunman down. Whatever the specifics may be, it would be befitting to have Jack go out as the best version of himself: a man trying to do right by others.

Jack Dies of a Disease

This one makes sense for such a weepy show: If Jack knew he was on borrowed time, he’d have a whole heap of touching good-bye chats. There’s nothing Jack Pearson loves more than close, direct eye contact and moving people to tears with his words. There are some major hits against this theory, though. First, why didn’t this come up while William died from an aggressive form of cancer? Beth mentioned her father’s cancer multiple times as she came to grips with losing William, so why wouldn’t Randall? Second, although Kate’s belief that she is responsible for Jack’s death (probably) isn’t meant literally, it seems a bit unbelievable that she would feel as much guilt as she does if Jack died this way. Unless this is some sort of reverse Mischa Barton in The Sixth Sense thing, I’m not buying it. The entire Pearson clan seems so broken when it comes to the loss of their patriarch, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t something more sudden.

Miguel Murders Jack

Though I applaud the creativity of this popular fan theory, I cannot endorse it. Yes, we all know that nobody likes Miguel: He married his late best friend’s wife, he thinks it’s cool to wear a fedora, and he hates Hamilton. (Also, he took Jack golfing even though Jack is clearly not a golfer.) On the plus side, the guy understands the appeal of Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park. Our feelings about Miguel might be confusing, but one thing is clear: He is no killer. Also, what show are these theorists watching? This Is Us is no murder mystery. Based on Miguel’s heart-to-heart with Kevin in “Jack Pearson’s Son,” it’s clear that at the time of Jack’s death, he and Miguel were still best friends and Miguel misses his buddy. This theory is bonkers. However, I wouldn’t mind reading a little fanfiction about it, should that be a thing that exists.

Jack Dies in a Car Accident

The drunk-driving theory is an easy one to bet on, especially since Jack reignited his penchant for boozing after Rebecca reignited hers for singing next to handsome men. This Is Us promos leaned heavily into this theory ahead of the season-one finale, in which we saw Jack driving two hours to make amends with his wife while extremely inebriated. Since a crash obviously did not happen, and Rebecca even vocalizes her concern over the possibility, it’s doubtful This Is Us would revisit a drunk-driving story line. The finale felt like the writers crossing that one off their list. However, what if Kate needs to be rescued from some terrible party and a sober Jack hops in his car only to meet his demise? Even Jack dying in a car accident that was not alcohol related would seem repetitive at this point, so probably not. After the way things ended last season, it seems like you should take your betting money to more viable theories.

Jack Commits Suicide

No. Just no. This is another theory that makes one wonder what show people are watching. Jack is optimistic and hopeful and persistent to a fault. He repeatedly talks about how much he wants to be there for his family. His parting words to Rebecca before taking off for a separation stint in MiguelLand (trademark pending) were about how their love story was just getting started. It would take a real deep downward spiral for Jack Pearson to consider suicide. Additionally, remember how Toby mentions he knows the basics of Jack’s death, just not the details? If he knew Jack committed suicide, it would’ve surely come up as he opened up about his own depression and suicide attempt. So, no. I reject this theory. Try again.

Jack Is Murdered by His Own Facial Hair

That facial hair is nobody’s sidekick! Maybe it got sick of pulling all the weight for Jack’s handsomeness levels and his constant need to change it, so it did something drastic. There are crazier theories on this list.

Jack Dies in a Plane Crash

This theory cropped up early and gained traction throughout the run of season one. First, Kevin talks about smashing the collection of model airplanes he used to make with Jack after learning his father was gone. This is easy to doubt, though: Kevin smashing his biggest connection to his father likely has nothing to do with what those items are, and more to do with his anger over losing his father. The second piece of evidence theorists point out is the fact that Kate seemed extremely upset during her flight from L.A. to see the family for Thanksgiving. I mean, the plane did hit a huge pocket of turbulence in which everyone on that plane got upset, but what do I know? There are theories that Jack’s death is tied to a real-life event, like the crash of USAir flight 427 that took place in the Pittsburgh area in 1994 — however, we already know the kids were at least 15 when Jack died, which puts his death no earlier than 1995. The same evidence, paired with an explanation of how both adult Randall and Rebecca end up in the New York area, led to a theory that Jack died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That seems way too emotionally manipulative, even for this show, plus the cast dismissed the idea during their PaleyFest panel.

Jack Dies of a Heart Attack

Around the time we’ve been led to believe he dies, our boy Jack is under a lot of stress. That stress, mixed with increased drinking and maybe some type of fight with his teenage eyeliner-enthusiast daughter could lead to a heart episode. This theory would certainly add meaning to Kate’s emotional reaction when Toby contemplates foregoing heart surgery even though it could save his life. Jack going out all alone on his kitchen floor? I’m getting misty-eyed just thinking about it. This Is Us does seem like the type of show that might relish in making us weep as we watch the man with the biggest heart die because of it.

Jack Dies From Fan Outrage About Being Kept in the Dark About How Jack Dies

Seriously, just tell us so we can move on.

9 Theories About Jack Pearson’s Death on This Is Us