News

This Is Us Series Finale: Remembering the Show's Biggest Twists and Tearjerker Moments

Say goodbye to the Pearson family with a look back on the NBC drama's most unexpected twists and sob-worthy scenes, including, yes, "Memphis," "Super Bowl Sunday," and "The Train."

by | May 24, 2022 | Comments

Since its very first episode, This Is Us has been known for its mind-blowing twists, a phenomenon this writer (and her group chat pals) have dubbed “Fogelmans” (after creator Dan Fogelman). The pilot for the series, which was initially described to reporters as a drama about a group of people who share the same birthday, revealed that the people were, in fact, all related — siblings Kevin (Justin Hartley), Kate (Chrissy Metz), and Randall Pearson (Sterling K. Brown), and their father, Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) — and the storylines were actually taking place in different decades.

After six seasons of being the biggest show on broadcast television — three of those seasons are Certified Fresh — Fogelman tells Rotten Tomatoes that the pilot reveal is actually his favorite “Fogelman” of all.

“The reaction to the turn at the end of the pilot was one of the more rewarding moments of the show for all of us, I think,” he says, explaining that “people weren’t waiting for them at that point and not trying to [guess] them.”

Of course, the series, which followed the Pearson family throughout the generations — from the birth of the Big Three siblings to the death of their parents, flashing back to dad Jack and mom Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) childhoods along the way, and even forward to the birth of the siblings’ own grandchildren — became known for its tear-jerking moments as well. If you weren’t being shocked by a This Is Us twist, you were likely crying at a particularly emotional monologue. Below, Rotten Tomatoes rounds up our eight favorite This Is Us moments as the series says its final goodbye.


THIS IS US -- Season: 3

(Photo by NBC)

1. Season 1, Episode 1: Jack and Rebecca Are the Big Three’s Parents

The first episode of This Is Us featured scenes of a very pregnant couple celebrating the father’s birthday intercut between the three Pearson siblings celebrating their own 36th birthdays. But as the mom goes into labor, we realize that the children to whom she is about to give birth are those now grown-up siblings. The very first Fogelman, and Fogelman’s own favorite.


2. Season 1, Episode 2: Rebecca and Miguel Are Married

Not to be outdone by the premiere, in the second week, Fogelman dropped another bomb on the audience: In the present day, Rebecca was happily married — not to Jack, but to his best friend, Miguel (Jon Huertas).


3. Season 1, Episode 15: Randall’s Anxiety Attack

This was not the first tear-jerker moment on This Is Us, but it’s one that resonated for seasons to come. Randall, stressed about his biological father’s cancer, spending time with his family, being a high performer at work, and everything else he’s juggling, notices the signs of an anxiety attack and cancels on his plans to see Kevin’s play. Through flashbacks, we learn that Randall has struggled with anxiety and panic attacks his entire life, which makes it even sweeter when Kevin comes to his brother’s rescue — something he didn’t always do throughout their childhood and young adulthood.


4. Season 1, Episode 16: William Dies

“Memphis,” which follows Randall and birth father William (Ron Cephas Jones) on a road trip to his birth father’s hometown, is the first of this type of episode that the series would come to perfect: a close-up look at a singular story or person. Sometimes the subject would be unknown to the Pearsons, like the person who invented video chatting, and others would be intimate glimpses into the lives of important Pearson figures, like Randall’s birth father. We learned about his life just as the man took his final breaths.


5. Season 2, Episode 14: Jack’s Death

We’ve known since the beginning that Jack was dead in the present day, but the actual circumstances of his death were unknown to all until the show’s big post–Super Bowl episode. It began with faulty wiring on a Crock-Pot, but it ended with a heart attack in the hospital due to smoke inhalation.


6. Season 3, Episode 9: Nicky’s Alive

This whopper of a Fogelman was actually three major moments in one: Kevin and then-girlfriend Zoe (Melanie Liburd) realizing that Kevin’s Uncle Nicky did not actually die in Vietnam despite what Jack had told everyone; Kate and Toby (Chris Sullivan) learn they’re expecting a baby boy; and a flash-forward to the future sees what Beth, Randall, and their daughter Tess are doing in the future.


7. Season 5, Episode 16: Kate Marries Phillip — and Kevin Doesn’t Marry Madison

You might’ve thought as you started watching that the fifth season finale was about Kevin’s wedding to Madison, the mother of his twins; in fact, that’s what they wanted you to think — until the Fogelman came. That wasn’t Kevin’s wedding, it was Kate’s second wedding. She was actually marrying her curmudgeonly new boss, Phillip (Chris Geere), and Kevin didn’t marry Madison (Caitlin Thompson) because she backed out at the eleventh hour (she knew he wasn’t in love with her).


8. Season 6, Episode 17: Rebecca’s Farewell

A metaphor came to life in the penultimate episode of the series, as a young Rebecca boarded a train headed to the afterlife while future Rebecca lay in her hospice bed. She was met by many of the show’s most important figures, including Dr. K (Gerald McRaney), who delivered Kevin and Kate and who gave the show its most enduring metaphor about never meeting a lemon so sour you couldn’t turn it into lemonade. It was a culmination of all six seasons, bringing the Pearson family story to a close as Rebecca passed on — but not without all three of her children present.


On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

Tag Cloud

venice Stephen King romantic comedy Toys Musicals ESPN YouTube Red Holidays BBC Music Comedy Fox Searchlight Best Picture indiana jones south america child's play President renewed TV shows APB quibi Valentine's Day women AMC Cannes Marvel American Society of Cinematographers Sundance WGN Polls and Games VICE TruTV superhero hidden camera canceled TV shows TCM french Christmas 90s Lionsgate Brie Larson Pop hispanic heritage month CNN mob crime drama leaderboard classics Sundance TV TIFF DC Universe Comic Book feel good Black History Month politics Oscars El Rey Comedy Central comics 2018 based on movie YA serial killer CMT all-time Summer cinemax 2020 TV One LGBTQ crime Image Comics dreamworks Writers Guild of America comic book movie boxoffice facebook space Native werewolf Vudu The Walt Disney Company Election cats psycho Pacific Islander finale Pride Month video Mary Poppins Returns Rocketman Mudbound Turner Classic Movies TCA 2017 scary summer TV Mary poppins spanish language green book documentaries heist movie 4/20 007 AMC Plus See It Skip It game show Paramount Network YouTube Premium harry potter book OneApp monster movies Western Grammys dexter Disney streaming service Amazon MCU 79th Golden Globes Awards 93rd Oscars dceu 2015 trophy universal monsters CBS All Access spain art house rom-coms 21st Century Fox Tomatazos toy story ABC USA black comedy king arthur Quiz marvel comics hist Apple spider-man Comic-Con@Home 2021 Animation kong Trailer dc emmy awards boxing rt labs Red Carpet anthology Turner The Academy lord of the rings stand-up comedy Tubi Creative Arts Emmys Instagram Live versus posters Paramount Best Actress Hallmark police drama BAFTA psychological thriller Best Director superman A24 Ellie Kemper DirecTV comedies cancelled TV series vs. indie Nickelodeon Pixar Schedule docuseries comic book movies The Purge crossover prank blockbuster a nightmare on elm street Awards Tour Geeked Week hollywood Holiday reviews SDCC golden globes suspense slashers television comic strong female leads news animated PBS halloween sitcom Black Mirror Star Wars Celebration archives Spring TV Netflix Christmas movies Reality Competition 1990s Acorn TV young adult live event james bond films Classic Film asian-american spider-verse Prime Video Academy Awards Television Critics Association Hallmark Christmas movies marvel cinematic universe Reality best canceled National Geographic Winners natural history romance die hard golden globe awards summer preview Awards Walt Disney Pictures Best Actor historical drama aliens RT21 Tokyo Olympics HBO Go obi wan Fargo Dark Horse Comics Tarantino sequels NBA CW Seed teaser satire parents DC streaming service cartoon christmas movies SundanceTV telelvision Tags: Comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Paramount Pictures Ovation Amazon Studios ID 24 frames game of thrones First Look target scene in color Columbia Pictures Mystery E! sopranos Shondaland Amazon Prime book adaptation DGA Adult Swim Fox News series Thanksgiving Martial Arts Rock dark Anna Paquin Captain marvel San Diego Comic-Con Video Games festival Legendary new star wars movies nfl Marvel Television Warner Bros. transformers YouTube 71st Emmy Awards Year in Review VOD wonder woman interviews BET Horror cops History zero dark thirty aapi TV thriller independent 45 Broadway VH1 summer TV preview GLAAD MTV jamie lee curtis Lifetime what to watch video on demand toronto ghosts comiccon jurassic park movies joker justice league E3 Mindy Kaling 2021 The Arrangement free movies critics zombie Pet Sematary IFC Films vampires dogs 20th Century Fox Endgame razzies black cancelled TV shows Certified Fresh 72 Emmy Awards Chilling Adventures of Sabrina HBO directors Spike A&E RT History mockumentary witnail SXSW 2022 ratings action-comedy dragons halloween tv miniseries discovery mission: impossible Disney Channel nbcuniversal Teen Disney Plus Neflix italian critic resources Epix The CW Pirates true crime science fiction Travel Channel First Reviews Rom-Com elevated horror slasher Super Bowl Syfy Shudder Trophy Talk spanish Spectrum Originals foreign scene in color Hulu Country 2016 Alien Paramount Plus ABC Family Family Mary Tyler Moore Winter TV Emmy Nominations Peacock Apple TV Plus MSNBC Women's History Month Sundance Now Set visit streaming movies rt labs critics edition live action TV Land Biopics remakes social media TLC Wes Anderson FX rotten movies we love Disney FX on Hulu Star Trek New York Comic Con king kong GIFs BBC America batman supernatural Indigenous Showtime new zealand Arrowverse streamig worst movies obituary Television Academy BBC One trailers TV renewals Sneak Peek TCA Awards Rocky BET Awards blockbusters Masterpiece Pop TV name the review biopic Heroines binge spinoff USA Network Exclusive Video Infographic Oscar ViacomCBS Musical medical drama football Fall TV theme song Cosplay FOX Calendar WarnerMedia Britbox Film Festival tv talk deadpool OWN hispanic period drama Opinion scorecard Esquire Netflix mcc Freeform olympics The Walking Dead target nature 73rd Emmy Awards scene in color series doctor who genre japanese TCA 99% royal family festivals Song of Ice and Fire mutant sports diversity CBS SXSW Nominations japan Binge Guide reboot IFC Box Office adenture Premiere Dates twilight gangster Superheroe Photos crime thriller Lucasfilm Tumblr Film international docudrama sequel kids Disney+ Disney Plus singing competition Interview legend franchise GoT debate ABC Signature anime Avengers 94th Oscars chucky Countdown spy thriller Ghostbusters cooking Action Extras Chernobyl Crackle Sony Marvel Studios Sony Pictures talk show MGM PlayStation DC Comics revenge war comic books Apple TV+ biography HBO Max pirates of the caribbean stoner new york TV movies robots Superheroes award winner disaster Best and Worst cars screenings Funimation 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards casting Podcast FXX streaming Watching Series children's TV travel HFPA popular Hollywood Foreign Press Association Universal Pictures rotten latino basketball cults cancelled television Drama rt archives blaxploitation technology The Witch TNT Universal composers saw Discovery Channel Emmys Bravo Nat Geo Trivia movie concert richard e. Grant zombies fast and furious broadcast PaleyFest documentary sag awards Baby Yoda NBC Comics on TV Food Network scene in color film series Starz Star Wars criterion godzilla Crunchyroll dramedy 2019 know your critic X-Men cancelled screen actors guild scary movies Logo NYCC adaptation Kids & Family fresh 2017 TCA Winter 2020 LGBT South by Southwest Film Festival adventure stop motion Elton John high school ITV Hear Us Out worst Amazon Prime Video Lifetime Christmas movies laika Focus Features Character Guide Fantasy Marathons australia political drama breaking bad unscripted TBS Cartoon Network kaiju IMDb TV Sci-Fi