“This is Us” viewers are getting closer each week to learning the full truth about Jack’s absence from his children’s lives. During Season 1, episode 5 it was confirmed that the father of three was dead, but his cause of death, as well as when he died, remained a mystery.
Episode 6, titled “Career Days,” began with an early focus on Kevin (Justin Hartley). After quitting his stable acting job on fictional sitcom “The Manny,” he is seen gearing up for a new role that required him to tap into previously unexplored feelings of grief and sadness. Unable to do so, Kevin finds himself at a funeral for a stranger during which he connected with the deceased man’s widow while he scoured her kitchen for alcohol. Kevin revealed to her that he lost his dad at a young age and reminisced about the model planes they used to build together.
He connected to her 15-year-old son’s struggle to cope with his loss, telling her that he too had issues with it at that age. Rather than facing his feelings, Kevin said he threw out the model planes he and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) built together. This revelation brought he and the widow together in an embrace that forced him to face his grief once and for all. Many “This is Us” viewers walked away from Season 1, episode 6 thinking that Kevin’s plane story was an indication that Jack died when he and his two siblings — Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Randal (Sterling K. Brown) were young. A definitive answer has yet to be provided, but the signs seem to be pointing that way at this point on the show.
In time, the truth will be revealed about the deaths of both Jack and William (Ron Cephas Jones) according to “This is Us” creator Dan Fogelman. In an Oct. 25 interview with Entertainment Weekly, he said that Jack’s death was originally slated to be included in the first episode of Season 1. He made the decision to hold off because he felt it fit better in later episodes and provided more heartbreak for viewers. Fogelman said he knew early on in writing the “This is Us” script that if he wanted to elicit a response from viewers, he would have to connect Randall, his wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) and their children with both Jack and William.
“The biggest reason I pulled it out was at the end of the second episode, Miguel (Jon Huertas) is showing up at the door, and I wanted people to have the reaction that people had, which is: ‘What the hell?’” Fogelman said. “And I thought by announcing that Jack was no longer alive it would ease that in a way that was not good for the show.”
When asked about having been killed off the show so early in his own interview with EW, Ventimiglia said that he was as surprised by the news as viewers. The actor was apparently in the dark about Jack’s death until the pilot was picked up by NBC. Fogelman revealed to him that although he was going to die early on, Jack would continue to play a part in the show through flashbacks. Additionally, Ventimiglia claimed Fogelman wanted to use both his and William’s death to explore the belief that kids never stop learning from their parents, even after their death.
“Honestly I hadn’t any idea that Jack was gone until after the pilot had been picked up and Dan started explaining more to us actors the idea where he wanted to go in the series,” Ventimiglia said. “When Dan told me, he goes, ‘Yeah, Jack dies.’ He of course told me when — I know when it all happens — but he said, ‘But it doesn’t mean you’re not on the show, Milo. You’re still here, but what we want to do is explore that idea of when the lessons of the parent stop. When you have given all you can to those kids and they move forward in the life of their own making.’”
For more details on Jack and William’s deaths catch “This is Us” on NBC Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EDT.