Oh hello, This Is Us fam. Don’t mind me, I’m just over here scooping my eyeballs back into my head because those last few minutes of the season five finale were wild (relative to This Is Us, obviously). Ugh, lord, I feel so alive! Maybe that’s more of a referendum on me than the show, but big! things! happened! just as we are about to embark on the final season of the Pearson saga! We all know this show can meander, but the finale was a whole lot of decisive plot capped off with a surprise ending that gave us just enough information so that we’re not spending our hiatus time wondering who it is that [redacted] marries in five years. Instead, we can attempt to predict how the show is going to use its last 18 episodes to fill in the blanks between where we leave the Pearsons in the present day and the two major time jumps forward that we’ve now been privy to. And friends, there are going to be a lot of major blanks to fill in. Let’s get into the meat of it, okay?
First stop: We have to talk about Dynasty. Honestly, kudos to This Is Us for not only finding a TV series from the ’80s with a wild wedding finale but one that has a wild wedding finale to close out its fifth season. That’s parallels, baby. We get a small story line back in 1985 that is really about the Pearsons having a family wedding in their living room to assure the tiny Big Three that Mom and Dad love each other after a fight. (It’s a little weird, but also this is the Pearsons, so we’ll go with it.) But since the Jack-and-Rebecca fight starts when Rebecca realizes Jack has caused her to miss the Moldavian-wedding-massacre episode of Dynasty, all I could think was, Is someone going to die at Kevin’s wedding? It feels like something This Is Us would do, but thankfully things are only metaphorically killed! Things like Kevin and Madison’s relationship!
That’s right: The wedding of the century never happens. It’s the day of the big event, and as the Pearsons gather at the hotel Kevin’s rented out, the groom is running around frantically trying to make this wedding perfect for Madison. Meanwhile, Madison, who has clearly been thinking things over since examining that Newlywed Game video, is so checked out. She’s thinking about several defining moments in her life: the day her mother left and gave her earrings as a parting gift; that time before an eighth-grade dance when her father told her to just go with whoever is willing to take her and not expect more from life (yikes, dude!); a breakup with a boyfriend who informs her that he doesn’t have the same feelings for her that she does for him and how she still, embarrassingly, wanted to stay with him. All of these moments add up to a realization that Madison has lived her life being “grateful” for the “scraps of affection” people have given her and now, thanks to her relationship with Kevin, she knows she deserves more than that.
So Madison goes to Kevin’s room, two hours before they are supposed to say “I do,” and asks him point blank if he is in love with her. Kevin looks like he might vomit. He says some very nice things to her about how he loves the life they’re building and he loves their family and he thinks she is incredible, but he never brings himself to say that he is in love with her the way she is with him. He doesn’t want to call it, though — he believes their relationship can grow with time— but Madison doesn’t think this is how they should get married. She wants more than settling for this.
The wedding is off, and it leaves us with a lovely little scene between our core four Pearsons — have we gotten many scenes of just the four of them? It’s very good — in which they tell Kevin he’ll be okay and talk about what Jack would’ve done if he were here, which is mostly what they are doing: Not leaving Kevin’s side, making sure he doesn’t drink, and keeping him busy. In fact, Rebecca has an idea to help Kevin keep busy — a request, really: She asks Kevin to build her the house next to the cabin that Jack had designed for her, the one he was going to build for her but that he never got the chance to take on. Kevin says yes. He looks moved and honored to do this for her and this feels very, very good for him! The four of them hold hands as Rebecca says she would marry any of them if that sort of thing were allowed, because moms love to make things weird and it honestly feels so on brand for this family. Anyway, I’m crying over it and I hate myself for that. It’s been a long year, okay?!
Rebecca has a big moment with her other son, too. Friends! We finally get what feels like closure in regards to the rift in Randall and Rebecca’s relationship after her William-sized lie was outed, something that’s been dangling there begging for a Big Conversation for some time. With her time so fleeting, Rebecca is really making moves to say what she needs to say to each of her children. As much as Randall — excuse me, Randy P — tries to avoid her, Rebecca keeps cornering her son in hopes of hearing more about his trip to New Orleans.
The first time they sit down to chat, Randall gets through two photos and Rebecca breaks down into tears after seeing that Randall has Laurel’s eyes. Randall tries to change the subject and then mercifully is called away. Rebecca tracks him down again later and tells him that she “let [him] let [her] off the hook too many times.” They need to have this conversation, she needs to atone for what she knows she did to him by not just lying about William, but not allowing him the room to ever talk about his birth parents. She’s not jealous or hurt when he talks about William and Laurel, and she needs him to understand that those aren’t the reasons why she starts crying. “I know what I robbed from my favorite person,” she tells him, both of them in tears. There are hugs and more crying and then Randall starts to tell his mom about his birth mother. It is a scene, folks.
But what of our other member of the Big Three? The Theodore of the group, if you will. Kate is spending most of Kevin’s wedding day thinking about the news Toby just dropped on her: He got a job offer, but it will mean three days a week in San Francisco. She doesn’t want to give up a job that she loves, but then she thinks about her wedding vows and how she promised to put Toby’s needs above hers (not super healthy, but we don’t have time to unpack that). She makes a decision. She calls up Phillip, the surly teacher she’s been assisting — you know, the guy who told her to her face that he didn’t want to hire her, but she was forced on him — and tells him she’s resigning so that her husband can go back to work. Phillip says no. She may have come to him with zero qualifications or skills, but it turns out she’s amazing at her job. And “on rare occasions,” she’s funny. He refuses to accept her resignation and hangs up the phone.
When Kate sees Toby next, she’s processed Phillip’s words. She is freaking great at her job, plus she loves doing it. She isn’t going to quit. And Toby should still take that job in San Francisco because it makes him happy. They’ll make it work because they are Kate and Toby and they love quoting movies to each other and have weathered many a storm before. They can do this together. In fact, Kate and Toby seem to be in a better place than they have been in a long, long time.
But one should not get too comfortable in regard to Kate and Toby’s relationship. For one thing, we know from the flash to the way, way future that Toby and Kate aren’t together. But there is a much bigger, much more imminent reason to worry: The episode ends by returning us to Kevin in a tux working on a wedding speech in the bathroom mirror (this is how the episode begins), but it is not a speech for his wedding. Hold on to your butts.
We are five years in the future, and Kevin busts into a room where Madison and Beth tell him “no boys allowed” and try to push him out, but he would like to talk to the bride about his speech. The bride comes out into the room … and it is Kate. She looks beautiful and radiant and seems beyond happy about getting married again. Kevin leaves the room and then bumps into the groom in the hallway. Kate is getting married to grumpy teacher Phillip. PEOPLE. I don’t know how to describe the sound that left my body in that moment, but it was one of me being very into this development. Uh, season six, you have a lot of explaining to do.
This Is the Rest
• More important tidbits from the flash-forward to Kate’s wedding in five years: Kevin’s speech is written on Big Three Homes stationery, there is makeup in his bathroom that looks like it belongs to a lady, Randall was written up in the New Yorker under a “Rising Star” profile, Kevin and Madison seem to be on great terms, and, uh, Uncle Nicky is delivering stockings to his wife.
• No update on the flash into the way, way future: We still don’t know where Kate or Miguel are at that point in time, who Kevin and Nicky are married to, or who the father of Deja’s baby is.
• Oh, buddy: Malik tells Deja that he got accepted to Harvard, and how can you turn that down? Deja’s first love moving to Boston while she’s in high school in Philly is hard enough, but please remember that the mother of Malik’s daughter also lives in Boston, so this is complicated.
• Listen, I get that Tess has had a tough, life-changing year, but that child should know something: NO ONE FEELS COMFORTABLE IN A BRIDESMAID DRESS. It’s, like, the law. That being said, I’m very glad she and her mother made amends.
• Uh, guys, where’s Carol?
• Very sad to think that today’s youths won’t understand the specific tragedy that was realizing someone recorded over your show. God, Jack, she clearly labeled it “DO NOT TAPE OVER.”
• Rebecca yelling at Jack over Dynasty because she spent a week avoiding spoilers and the whole country is talking about it? We see you being extra-meta, TIU.
• This Is Us can be funny when it wants to be, and that moment when Beth yelled at Randall for looking at her even though she isn’t the bride was great. R&B Productions, baby.
• “I’m gonna need you to go ahead and interact with me as little as humanly possible today, okay?”