NBC’s award winning drama This Is Us has finally revealed how Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) died. The show has been teasing the life-changing event since its first season, always leaving fans just short of the truth. There was plenty of speculation surrounding the death of the beloved character – everything from being killed by Miguel (Jon Huertas) to dying in a drunken car accident. However, it turned out the answer was a simple one: he died of cardiac arrest after inhaling smoke during a fire.
Jack’s death had a lasting impact on his wife Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and children, Kate (Chrissy Metz), Kevin (Justin Hartley), and Randall (Sterling K. Brown). He was the rock of the family and often kept everyone together with his words of wisdom and grounding presence. Despite battling his own demons, he was able to overcome his alcohol addiction and strengthen his bond with his wife in the process. His death has been teased throughout the series, but never revealed other than the fact that each Pearson kid somehow feels responsible for causing it.
Leading up to Jack’s death, This Is Us starting giving fans clues about a fire. In the first episode of season 2, “A Father’s Advice”, it was revealed that this fire would destroy the family’s home and was somehow connected to Jack’s death. Rebecca was seen crying outside of the burnt ruins of the house with a bag of Jack’s things on the car seat beside her. This was the first real hint about how Jack could have died. In episode 12, “Clooney”, the closing shot revealed that Rebecca and Jack forgot to replace the batteries in their smoke detector. Then in the next episode, “That’ll Be the Day”, a faulty Crock-Pot was shown starting that fateful fire. All the pieces were falling into place.
Then there was the dog. Teenager Kate (Hannah Zeile) was devoted to the family’s dog, Louie, in a way that the way other members of the Pearson clan were not. Many fans speculated that Jack would perish going back into the burning house to rescue the dog. Of course, being the hero dad that he is, Jack did go back inside the house – but managed to get Louie out with only some 2nd degree burns and smoke inhalation. He also managed to save the family’s photo albums and Kate’s audition tape for music school.
Jack was taken to the hospital to get his burns checked out, and that is where he died. He suffered a cardiac arrest from smoke inhalation. It was a surprising twist because it wasn’t a twist at all. It was something fairly simple. And despite knowing what was coming, it was still very emotional.
This event changed the Pearsons forever. They are still reeling from the effects of their loss in the present day timeline, especially Kate who blames herself for her father’s death knowing he would do anything to make her happy. However, this episode did also show the family getting a measure of closure. Kevin was finally able to spend some time connecting with his mother. Kate was able to let go and celebrate her love with Toby (Chris Sullivan). And Randall was able to embrace his own role as a father and the strength it brings him. The end of the episode showed an older Randall with an adult Tess, fittingly bringing the story full circle to the next chapter of fathers and their children.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 PM on NBC.