After six seasons, more than 100 episodes, and far too many tissues to track, This Is Us bid fans a moving farewell.
Since the penultimate episode of Season 6, “The Train” — which was so devastating it actually made Mandy Moore throw up — fans have long feared what the series finale would have in store. In a refreshing, much-needed twist, rather than more flashy grand gestures or cutting tragedies, the May 24 finale, titled “Us,” was a simple celebration of life, an ode to the people and moments that make it worth living, and a reminder of the highs and lows we encounter along the way.
In present-day scenes, the episode follows the Big Three and their families on the day of Rebecca’s funeral. Meanwhile, flashbacks put the focus on a lazy Saturday in the Pearson house when Jack was still alive. The day is spent teaching Kevin and Randall how to shave, having heart-to-hearts, watching home movies, and playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey as a family.
Credit: Ron Batzdorff / NBC
“When you’re young, you’re always trying to be older. Then, when you get old, you’re always trying to go back — be back,” Jack tells his kids in a flashback. “I mean, that’s what we’re doing, just collecting these little moments. We don’t recognize them when we’re in them because we’re too busy looking forward. Then we spend the rest of our lives looking back — trying to remember, trying to be back inside them.”
In a sense, that message is what This Is Us has been preaching all along. On the surface, it’s a story about family. But the constant juxtaposition of timelines also serves to remind viewers how crucial their time on this Earth is — that days should be spent savoring life, loved ones, and little moments.
While the penultimate episode was a wrecking ball of grief, the finale helped characters and viewers alike pick up the pieces and move forward. In its final hour, the show reminded us of the importance of having people to lean on — family and friends with whom you can share love, pain, anger, mess, and joy. It showcased the immense legacy a single human leaves behind after parting from this Earth. And it proved an easily forgotten truth: Even when it all feels pointless, a piece of very good news on a very bad day can give you purpose again. The finale was simple but effective; by peeking into the past it brought everything full circle.
Credit: Ron Batzdorff / NBC
In addition to a stellar creative team, a talented cast, a creative format, and a crushing score, one of the things that’s always made This Is Us so great was its ability to celebrate and seek out the unexpected, often hidden, meaning in everyday life. Like so many other shows, the NBC drama nailed the emotions around big milestones like births, deaths, weddings, and more, but it also mastered the art of small storytelling, which is no easy feat.
This Is Us was such a TV triumph because it understood how to make little moments feel big. By stringing together years’ worth of everyday conversations, trips to the park, shared meals, fights, makeups, games of Pin the Tail on the Donkey played, tears cried, and unexpected formative experiences, the series gave viewers a rare look at life’s big picture. By the time we got to Rebecca’s funeral, This Is Us had more than achieved its goal. And the powerful decision to drown out Rebecca’s service, the speeches, the eulogy, and the Pearson’s grief in that highly-anticipated scene was far from lazy storytelling. It was a moment of great self-awareness amongst the writers. We didn’t need more Pearson speeches or tears; we needed to heal, reflect, and say goodbye.
Though the story lines in This Is Us at times veered into cheesy, eye-roll territory, the storytelling was always beautiful. This series and its complex, kindhearted characters comforted people through two presidential elections, a pandemic, and countless other tragedies since 2016. And as someone who regularly cried on her couch come This Is Us Tuesdays, I know how cathartic those releases could be.
The series was something special, and it will forever remain a touching portrait of humanity. But much like the Pearson’s tough matriarch, This Is Us earned a rest.