This Is Us: Is Jack running out of things to do?

THIS IS US -- "In The Room" Episode 508 -- Pictured in this screen grab: Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: NBC)
THIS IS US -- "In The Room" Episode 508 -- Pictured in this screen grab: Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: NBC) /

When I watched the premiere of This Is Us back in 2016, I was fully invested in following the story of Jack and Rebecca Pearson.

Of course, by the end of the premiere, I’d be surprised to learn that Jack and Rebecca were no longer together. By Episode 5, I’d be at the edge of my seat when I found out Jack wasn’t even alive.

It quickly became clear This Is Us is a show about a family trying to live with scars from their past.

Of course, the biggest scar was left by Jack, a man whose presence loomed large in life. Over five seasons, The Big Three and Rebecca have dealt with the hole he left behind, and given what we’ve seen of Jack’s relationship with his family, it’s understandable that Jack’s absence is felt deeply, even 20 years later. However, we already know Jack’s ending, so is he really needed anymore?

This Is Us: Is Jack needed anymore?

As Kevin would tell the man he rescued in Season 5, Episode 7, Jack was the most “there” father.

However, is Jack really present in the show at this point or just taking up screentime?

Although the show built Jack up so that the audience would feel the loss of his death, he has remained on the show long past his demise in Season 2.

Since then, we’ve seen the years following his death as Rebecca and Kate moved into a derelict apartment and then a new house, Kevin headed to New York City to pursue acting, and Randall stayed close to home, going to Carnegie Mellon.

While the audience can feel the effect of Jack’s death in the episodes where he doesn’t appear, it can be a bit jarring when he shows up in the following episode. However, I don’t think Jack’s appearances lessen the impact of his death.

The show is rooted in the idea that the relationships and experiences we have, impact us while they’re occurring and long after they’ve passed.

In Season 5, Episode 7, Jack would tell a pre-teen Kevin that parents have a way of sticking with us long after they’re gone. It’s a conversation reminiscent of a conversation Kevin had with Annie and Tess in Season 1 when the girls worried about William’s impending death. Kevin would tell them about his own struggle with grief, saying:

"“[…] My dad he’s not with us anymore. He’s not alive, but he’s with us. He’s with me every day. It all just sort of fits somehow. And even if you don’t understand how yet, people will die in our lives, people that we love.In the future. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe years from now. I mean, it’s kind of beautiful, right, if you think about it, the fact that just because someone dies, just because you can’t see them or talk to them anymore, it doesn’t mean they’re not still in the painting. I think maybe that’s the point of the whole thing. There’s no dying. There’s no me or you or them. It’s just us.”"

Knowing Jack, and even Rebecca, allows us to know The Big Three better because we’re all the sum of our parts that get created through our experiences with other people. As they come and go through our lives, people change us, and This Is Us allows us to see the little ways in which that happens. Jack does not need some grand sendoff to be an important character because each moment he’s on-screen, we’re learning a little something about Rebecca and The Big Three.

While not every moment he’s on-screen is grand, it’s these little strokes, these little moments, that will allow us to see the full painting when all is said and done.

This Is Us airs on Tuesday nights at 9/8c on NBC