This Is Us Season 2 Finale Recap

Culture


Through most of tonight’s This Is Us season 2 finale, I was thinking “Hmm, this seems like it’s going to be an uneventful but emotionally cathartic hour that ends with Kate and Toby getting married and everybody mostly being happy.” After that devastating initial surprise where we see Old Jack and Old Rebecca renewing their vows on their 40-year wedding anniversary (just fuck me up, sure, it’s fine), everything seemed to be going along smoothly enough. Despite Kate’s brief pseudo-Runaway Bride act, it was clear she was going to come back after her healing moment with Jack’s urn, and Kevin was going to make a beautiful toast, and the Pearsons were going to have a well-earned happy ending after a rough year.

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Then the last five minutes happened, and we flashed into the future once again, and…excuse me? Deja is smashing Randall’s beloved car? Kate is taking care of a very sick Toby? Randall is saying ominous things to Tess that make me deeply concerned for Beth?

Let’s break down what we saw in those insane final moments, so that we can all try to get some goddamn sleep tonight.

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1. Deja destroying Randall’s car.

As the rule goes: If you introduce a baseball bat in the first act, it’d better be used to smash something by the third. While trying to find a possession of Jack’s that Kate could use as her “something old,” Kevin and Randall dig up a baseball bat, which they veto for obvious reasons. But the bat is just sitting around in the cabin, and Deja—who has had a radical personality change since last we saw her—picks it up and puts it to use on Randall’s beloved car.

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Why would Deja do this? Her last scene with Randall was such a sweet moment that this is a really jarring shift, and although there’s some perfunctory dialogue to try and explain why Deja has become so surly and withdrawn, this never really clicked for me. “As soon as she heard her mom say to the judge that she wanted to terminate all parental rights, it’s like something switched in her,” Beth said early in the episode, which is absolutely understandable. Deja taking out her anger at her mom on Beth and Randall makes sense, but this felt extreme and unearned. On the other hand, I’m glad that Beth’s cousin wasn’t able to just fix Deja with one magical conversation, as seemed to be the case earlier in the episode.

Now that Deja is actively destroying property, what does this mean for her future with Beth and Randall? This leads us neatly into…

2. “It’s time to go see her, Tess.”

In the most “WTF?” of a trio of flash-forwards, we see Older Randall sitting with 20-something Tess, both of them looking grim. “It’s time to go see her, Tess,” Randall says. “I’m not ready,” Tess replies. “Me neither,” he admits. Who do they mean?

There’s already been some intense fan speculation about Beth’s fate on the basis that she wasn’t in the initial Randall/Tess flash-forward, and that Randall’s ring wasn’t visible in that scene. So the natural conclusion to draw here is that “she” means Beth, and that Beth is either very sick or dead, and I am absolutely not okay with either of these options. “It’s time to go see her” could either mean that Beth is in hospital—and Randall is trying to persuade Tess to visit before it’s too late—or that she’s dead, and they’re both trying to steel themselves to visit her grave. To me, the latter seems more likely; if Beth were really sick, I don’t believe for a second that either Randall or Tess would be anywhere but by her side. I’m now going to choose to forget this, because in my head Beth is fine forever.

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But it’s also very possible that Randall means Deja. This flash-forward happens very shortly after we see Deja smashing Randall’s car, which might indicate that this is the beginning of a pattern of criminal behavior. That’s a really, really bleak and dark road for her character to go down, but based on what we’ve seen in this episode, it’s a distinct possibility. Randall’s words imply that there’s an estrangement, which would make sense if Deja has done something even worse than smashing a car.

It’s also possible that Rebecca is sick, but this feels like the least likely option; Tess and Rebecca haven’t been shown to have enough of a relationship for this to make sense.

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3. Kevin is going to Vietnam.

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Kevin and his new girlfriend (Beth’s cousin, played by Melanie Liburd) are on a plane to Vietnam, and Kevin is holding that photograph of Jack in his army days that we’ve been seeing throughout the season. And it’s not just Jack who’s in that picture—it’s also his mysterious brother Nicky, who was introduced earlier this season and remains a huge dangling plot thread for next season.

We know that Jack told Randall about his time in Vietnam, when they took that trip to Howard University, but otherwise Jack didn’t really talk about it. Given how thorny Jack and Kevin’s relationship was, it’s likely Kevin never knew much about this side of his father’s life. And it doesn’t seem as though anyone really knows anything about Uncle Nicky. Having finally reached some kind of closure with his father’s death, maybe Kevin is going to Vietnam to try to unravel more mysteries from his past.

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4. Toby is sick, and Kate is his caretaker.

Toby’s parents are introduced for the first time in this episode, and while they are mostly terrible—constantly fighting about alimony, badmouthing Kate the day before her own wedding—they do serve one purpose in bringing up Toby’s history of depression. He’s mentioned this once to Kate, and also revealed that he tried to commit suicide once before.

In this flash-forward, Toby is lying in bed looking checked out and almost catatonic, while Kate gently tells him that she’s been talking to the doctor, who wants to try switching up his meds. It’s not absolutely clear that this is depression—in fact, given how much this show loves misdirection, I wouldn’t be surprised if Toby’s illness turns out to be something physical. In any case, he seems sick to the point of not functioning, which will clearly lead to a complete shift in his relationship dynamic with Kate.

So many unanswered questions to get us through the long, long hiatus until This Is Us returns for season three in the fall!



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