“This Is Us” employed some alternate history on Tuesday’s episode when it imagined what life would’ve been like had Jack not died in the house fire.
In the episode, Randall went to his therapist to discuss the guilt he felt for not convincing Jack to leave the house after the blaze erupted, a move that ultimately resulted in his death. Randall admitted he always thinks about what would’ve happened had he acted differently and Jack lived.
Randall believed Rebecca would’ve felt immediately compelled to reveal the identity of his biological father, William, and that he would’ve formed a meaningful relationship with him that would’ve included them catching the cancer that killed him, leading William to be present for the birth of his granddaughters.
While Randall initially painted a rosy picture of how life would’ve turned out had Jack lived, his therapist ordered him to open up about how things could’ve gone wrong, so Randall envisioned a reality where he became a professor and ladies’ man who grew estranged from his family after learning that Rebecca failed to tell him about William. He also never met William and threw out his belongings after they were sent to him following his death.
In both scenarios, Jack, played by Milo Ventimiglia, lived and we saw him older, getting to be there for the birth of his grandchildren and toasting his kids at their respective wedding rehearsals.
“I like taking on another persona and another side of Jack, really embracing it. From the makeup and the clothing and the slight little belly that he has, I love it,” Ventimiglia told People.
He also says it was gratifying to explore what could’ve been with the patriarch of the Pearson family.
“It’s a question that everybody really may think about often,” he said. “It crossed over into our own lives. There’s always desire again to have the things that we can’t have, or to want the things that we can’t have. So knowing that we only have limited time with Jack in Jack’s lifetime, getting a glimpse of what could have been, I think it’s going to be pretty satisfying to a lot of people.”
The backbone of the NBC drama has always been Jack’s death, so it was interesting to see this timeline of events.
“When you have a family who's so defined by one tragedy and one day in their lives, as writers who have spent countless hours talking and thinking about these characters, it's only natural for our brains to go, ‘Well, I wonder what would it be like if that had panned out differently,’” “This Is Us” executive producer Isaac Aptaker told Entertainment Weekly.
Randall learned in therapy that he was harboring some unresolved issues toward Rebecca for not revealing William's identity, so Randall called her up to persuade her to change her mind and enroll in the Alzheimer’s trial in St. Louis, even though she had decided not to participate. It was a tactic that is sure to have consequences.
Was Randall right in getting Rebecca to change her mind? That’s a question that should stir debate among fans of the show.
“So our intention and our hope is that people will really be divided on it,” Aptaker told Entertainment Weekly.