At this point, we know what we’re getting into with This Is Us. The first season took us by surprise with how much it could make you cry. But as season two wraps up, you might as well admit it: If you’re still watching, you don’t mind the weekly appointment weepies.
It’s also a good thing if you live for what This Is Us hath wrought, since the NBC drama doubled down on tearjerking moments this season. This is the season that told us, in great detail, the story of Jack’s death. Just thinking about the Pearsons’ mustachioed patriarch biting it — because he just had to save the family dog! — can elicit some welling up. But there were plenty of other things to cry about, too. Ahead of Tuesday’s finale, let’s take a quick trip down waterworks lane to rank the weepiest moments of This Is Us season two.
11. When Jack teaches Randall and Kevin how to tie their ties
The episode “The Car” has so many tiny devastating moments as the Pearsons mourn Jack, but the part that wrecks me most is Randall and Kevin both remembering when their dad taught them how to put ties on. For Randall, it was his first day of private school, and it became their shared morning ritual. For Kevin, it was just a few weeks prior to Jack’s death, right after he had just learned how much Jack sacrificed for his kids. Kevin thanks his dad for the tie lesson and, well, everything else. And now, these memories are all the more poignant because of their loss. How does anyone put on a tie without crying now? Way to ruin ties, This Is Us.
10. Every time Jack has a heart-to-heart conversation with his kids
A one-on-one between Jack and one of his kids is a ringer in the “Will This Scene Make Me Cry?” game. Regardless of the subject matter, they are all sad, because we know the talks will stop when the kids are 17. Each one is meaningful in some way, and the best from season two include the conversation Jack has with Randall at the Vietnam Memorial about making hard decisions in life, Jack telling his Katie-girl that she is his most favorite-looking person in the world, and, of course, the moment when he gives Kevin his necklace from Vietnam. That last scene, in which we see Teen Kevin realize all of his football dreams are over and Jack is helpless to do anything about it, is a stunner.
9. The wedding montage
Watching Kate walk down the aisle with her two brothers was always going to make us cry — partially because we’d be so happy for her, partially because it would be a reminder of losing Jack. But did anyone guess we’d be crying because of how much Jack is a part of that moment? Yes, Kate’s walk toward Toby is accompanied by your standard sappy indie-folk song, but more important for our purposes, it is accompanied by the wisdom and prescience of Jack Pearson. Kate walking down the aisle with Kevin and Randall, Toby smiling like an idiot who is very much in love, the two exchanging vows, and Ka-Toby being named husband and wife — it’s all cut together with a conversation little Kate had with Jack a long time ago: Jack told Kate that one day she would marry someone even better than her father, and that whoever that man was, he would be the luckiest man. He promised her that when she did get married, he’d be there to make sure the guy was good enough. He’d be there to walk her down the aisle. And he’d probably cry. The day isn’t exactly as Jack described it, but it’s pretty close. What can I say? This Is Us does bittersweet like nobody else. Plus, Jack calls her “Katie-girl,” and tears always seem to freefall from my eyes when that happens.
8. When Deja says good-bye to the Pearsons
At the time, we didn’t know if we’d see Deja again. Seeing just how much she bonded with Beth and Randall in the short time she lived with them was emotional. From Beth reminding Deja to take care of her big, thick head of hair and her big heart to Deja letting Randall give her a hug, there wasn’t a dry eye to be found. We didn’t see Social Worker Linda in the scene, but she was probably in the corner wiping away some tears. When Sterling K. Brown’s single tear comes out to play, you know This Is Us isn’t messing around.
7. Rebecca comforting Kate after her miscarriage
This scene from “Number Two” is moving on multiple levels. First, two women who suffered a complicated loss find comfort in one another. Second, these aren’t any two women — we’re talking about Rebecca and Kate, a mother-and-daughter pair with a notoriously prickly relationship. In this moment, as Kate is suffering, they are both able to put aside their issues. Rebecca knows exactly what her daughter needs, so she goes to her. As soon as Kate opens the door and sees her mom standing there, Kate knows she needs this, too. She breaks down in her mother’s arms. Mom hugs heal all.
6. “The happiest moments will also be a little sad”
Bittersweetness is ingrained in the fabric of This Is Us, no more so than when Rebecca describes the birth of her granddaughter Tess as one of the happiest moments of her life, but also a sad one because Jack wasn’t there with her. To see Rebecca confront that feeling for the first time is pretty emotional. As if that isn’t weepy enough, Rebecca really lets it out when she goes to see Tess in the nursery: Her speech to Tess about endings in life sometimes being beginnings is intercut with her speech to baby Randall as she introduced him to the Pearson clan — another example of an ending actually being a beginning. Plus, the whole montage showcases once again that Mandy Moore has “heartfelt speeches delivered to babies either in utero or just born” on lockdown. Oh, is that not a thing? Well, it is now.
5. Every scene with Jack’s Tree
Is the Tree the secret top-scorer of tear-inducement on this show? It first worked its tearjerking magic in season one when William went to meet Jack. Now it has popped up not once, but three times in season two, and each moment has been cry-worthy. First, we watch as the legend of the Tree is born: It was something Jack simply made up to keep Rebecca calm during a cancer scare. He says dreamy things in front of it like that she can’t die, because then how would the snow fall? It might look dumb all typed out like that, but I promise, it is very swoony coming from Jack.
Then, Rebecca and the kids go to the Tree on the day of Jack’s funeral to scatter some of his ashes. Rebecca tells Kate she can’t spend the rest of her life blaming herself for his death because Jack was a grown man who made his own (dumb) choice. It is especially sad because we know Kate does, in fact, spend years blaming herself. As if that’s not enough, Rebecca promises Jack that his family will be okay as they spread his ashes. Ugh, must we continue? I’m misty just thinking about it.
But continue we must, because the third time the Tree pops up in season two might be my favorite: when Kevin visits it for the first time since the funeral to talk to his dad on Super Bowl Sunday. He finally unloads about failing his father and wanting to work to make him proud. The scene is punctuated by a call to his mother and a confession that he isn’t even sure if he’s at the right tree. It makes Rebecca laugh so hard, she’s sure that Jack — who sends Rebecca a laugh every year around the anniversary of his death — sent her Kevin this year. I’m not crying — you’re crying. Just kidding! Obviously, I’m crying.
4. The last five minutes of “A Father’s Advice”
The second season opened with a one-two punch: Less than 24 hours after Rebecca and Jack decide to separate, Rebecca tells her husband that they aren’t going to stop fighting for each other. They are Jack and Rebecca. Quitting is not what they do. When Jack makes the incredibly painful confession that he is drinking again and has been hiding it from his family, Rebecca doesn’t want to hear his pleas to figure it out on his own: He’s getting in the car, and they are going to figure it out together. In a few months, everything will be better, she tells him. The Jack-and-Rebecca connection is stronger than pretty much everything else in this world, and we mere mortals needed to be reminded of that. But this scene also functions as the setup to the cruelest punch line yet: Just as Rebecca tells Jack that this, too, shall pass, we jump a few months ahead to discover that Jack is dead, their kids are sobbing, the house has burned down, and Rebecca is wailing in the car. We’re crying because of the tragedy. We’re crying because of the futile hope. We’re crying because everything is not going to be okay. I thought everything was going to be okay, Rebecca!
3. The fire montage
There are so many scenes in “That’ll Be the Day” that make me well up, simply because we know that each of the interactions Jack has with his kids — whether he’s arguing with Kevin, trying to get Kate to see herself the way he sees her, or talking to Randall about his first kiss — will be his last. Everything is shaded with that sadness. Still, the moment that really gets me weeping is the final montage, as that pesky slow cooker ignites and we cut back and forth between happy memories in the Pearson house and the house being engulfed in flames. It doesn’t help that it’s set to the Cinematic Orchestra’s “To Build a Home,” one of the most emotional songs ever performed. Upon first viewing, as the first few notes played over Jack and Randall’s conversation, I actually said out loud, “No, no, no. What the hell is this?” Because This Is Us knew exactly what it was doing. A good montage typically pumps you up or tears you apart, and this show is an expert at the latter. This one might be its best — or its worst, depending on how you feel about having your heart metaphorically ripped from your chest.
2. When Rebecca finally realizes that Jack is gone
I did not want to rewatch this harrowing scene, but I did it for all of you. That’s how much I care. Watching the worst moment of someone’s life is terrible, and the only slight reprieve is that the focus is on Rebecca processing the sight of her dead husband: We only see Jack’s lifeless body as a blurry reflection. We don’t need more than that. Rebecca’s evolution from disbelief to gut-wrenching horror — cut with quick shots of Jack as she knew him in their 20-plus years together — is more than enough, thank you very much. Okay, I need to go hug someone or eat a pint of ice cream or something.
1. Kevin’s breakdown
Obviously, everything surrounding Jack’s death is tragic and unbearably sad. But at least we were warned. We didn’t know exactly what was coming, but we knew Jack would die and his young family would have to grapple with that loss. We could somewhat prepare ourselves. What pushes Kevin’s emotional breakdown beyond those moments is the surprise factor. We knew Kevin was spiraling; his lowlight reel on his old high-school football field is an unbearably dark moment. But no one could’ve predicted he would end up weeping on the front lawn of a woman he only slept with so that he could steal her prescription pad to get fentanyl. For all of season one and much of season two, Kevin is closed off and superficial in every sense. To see him this vulnerable and exposed — voice cracking as he begs for his father’s necklace and calls out for someone, anyone, to help him — is alarming and uncomfortable and heartbreaking. It’s hard to watch. It’s especially hard to watch through all the tears.