"This Is Us" wrapped its fifth season Tuesday night, and viewers were anticipating the finale just as much as Rebecca was the "Dynasty" wedding in the episode's '80s flashbacks.
During the present-day storyline, the Pearsons gathered for the wedding of Madison and Kevin — and all did not go according to plan. (Warning: Major spoilers ahead!)
During a call with reporters Tuesday, "This Is Us" creator/executive producer Dan Fogelman addressed the episode's most surprising revelations — including Madison's decision not to marry Kevin and what appeared to be Kate's future wedding to her current boss.
"Ultimately, it's an optimistic show, and I think one of the things I loved about this finale and the execution when it was all done was that despite two reveals of marriages not quite working out, when you cut to that period in the future, everyone feels good," Fogelman said. "On first viewing, you're registering the kind of twist and the shock of what you're seeing. But, on second viewing, you can see the feeling and the smiles that exists in that moment, and I think that was something we were trying to capture."
Kate's second wedding
After Toby (Chris Sullivan) told Kate (Chrissy Metz) he was offered a job at a startup that required working in San Francisco three days a week post-pandemic, she attempted to quit her beloved job as a teaching assistant at a music school. But her previously unimpressed boss Phillip wouldn't accept her resignation, telling her, "The students love you. You're talented, you're useful and, on rare occasions, your jokes are funny."
In a flash-forward scene at the end of the episode, Kate appeared in a wedding dress and Phillip (Chris Geere) addressed Kevin as his "future brother-in-law," raising a lot of questions about how Kate and Phillip's relationship will progress in the series' sixth and final season.
“Obviously, Chris (Geere) is going to be a big part of the show next year," said Fogelman. "This was obviously a plot point that we've known was coming for quite some time, Kate's second wedding. And we knew it would be coming and revealed at the end of this season. We’d actually had Chris come down and meet with Chrissy much earlier in the season under severe testing protocols and everything, so we could kind of put them together, and feel them out between such an unusual season of shooting."
Fogelman also acknowledged that Metz and Sullivan have known about the demise of their characters' relationship "for quite a while."
"There's so much love there, both between the actors in real life, and between the characters on camera that it’s difficult when you're trying to tap into this type of stuff," he added. "Our actors are beautiful in that, even if they don't always love a choice I make for their characters, they don't express it to me. And so I think that, I just go back to all the times I've been at the most beautiful and loving weddings, where nothing can go wrong, and then there you are, years later, at that person's second wedding.
"The journey from A to B is something we really haven't done on this show yet. And I think these two actors are going to have some really meaty stuff to dig into next year. And I think, like everything in our show, I think we're going to be able to find something difficult and find something beautiful."
Kevin and Madison's future
After wrestling with painful memories of her parents and a previous bad breakup, Madison (Caitlin Thompson) ultimately told Kevin (Justin Hartley), "I can't marry someone who's not in love with me," effectively calling off their nuptials.
However, the pair appeared playful with each other in the flash-forward, where Madison was dressed as one of Kate's bridesmaids and Kevin was working on a wedding toast. So, is there still hope for the couple?
"Yes, despite the heartbreak of that beautiful scene between them and the unusual breakup between them, clearly something is very right with them in that future timeline at the end of the episode," said Fogelman, who wouldn't go into further detail, but added, "There’s genuine affection or maybe something more there, but outside of that is for next season to reveal."
As for Kevin, Fogelman said fans are "hoping he finds his romantic center."
He added, "And whether that's in a marriage, whether that's in a relationship, whether that's in finding his center internally and just single, I think that's one of the looming questions on the show: Will Kevin find that happy ending in whatever form it takes?"
Randall's 'rising star'
The flash-forward scene also gave a glimpse of a magazine story on Randall (Sterling K. Brown), with the headline "Rising Star," prompting questions about the details.
"I can't say much, but I can say that obviously when you get a profile like that written, something is happening with his career, with his star,” Fogelman said. “We do have a plan. I think we've kind of built it successfully with his early rise and slight indications of his local and even borderline national profile just growing in small doses, so that's a journey we owe, and in traversing time a little bit, we'll be able to tell that story.”
What to expect from season 6
Fogelman said season six will be "even more ambitious than other seasons" in terms of the time jumps.
"Because our audience has been so devoted, and I think because hopefully we smartly set up the contained areas, where these future timelines live, I think you're going to have a real sense of resolution and completion for this family," he said.
"It's where the mixed-up VHS tapes of this family's existence will kind of all coalesce and speak to one another in completion. And so, we have been working tirelessly to kind of set up this rewarding final season to make all the pieces fit together. We know what we owe, we know what our plan is. And that's been part of the great benefit from the very beginning in the success of the show, allowing us to kind of know our endgame has allowed us to build for what we hope will be a very rewarding final season."