The two most recent episodes of This Is Us have delved into such intense topics as race, class, identity, parenthood, and, sure, golf. What they did not address was a mystery that was dropped into the final seconds of the Oct. 22 episode.
Finding a set of decades-old Polaroids in the piano bench — taken at a family dinner a year after the death of Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) — Kate (Chrissy Metz) fixated on a photo of herself with her then-new boyfriend and record store boss, Marc (Austin Abrams). She showed the Polaroid to her mother, Rebecca (Mandy Moore), who was equally unsettled. “I wanted to believe so badly that you kids were happy, I didn’t see what was happening,” Rebecca (Mandy Moore) told her daughter. Kate’s unnerving reply? “I didn’t see it either.”
So, what exactly happened to teen Kate (Hannah Zeile) back in that time period? Did Marc — who seems genuinely (but perhaps too) interested in Kate — soon turn into an unsavory individual and somehow do harm to Kate, who was still recovering from the trauma of Jack’s death? Right after the episode ended, fearful fans went into hypothesis overdrive, tossing around theories involving stalking and sexual assault. “Fans should have a healthy amount of concern,” This Is Us executive producer Aptaker told EW two weeks ago, adding, “I mean, there’s something ominous looming there.” Asked about Marc’s questionable decision to show up unannounced at Kate’s house to “rescue” her, executive producer Elizabeth Berger hinted: “That will definitely prove to be symbolic of Marc’s larger personality. He’s obviously somebody that goes for what he wants and feels entitled to show up to a place even when he’s not invited.”
With speculation building in the aftermath of the episode — and with no new intel dropped over the last two weeks — the producers agreed to spill a bit more intel about Marc. Their quotes may have you recalibrating your very darkest thoughts, but they confirm once again that you should be highly concerned about this record store employee. Just how dangerous is Marc, you ask? “Kate is now 39 years old and a highly functioning woman, so she got out of the relationship somewhat unscathed in the long run,” Berger tells EW. “But I think it was definitely a formative relationship and it was a relationship that left serious emotional wounds.” Adds Aptaker: “We’re actually writing the climax of that story right now and it’s definitely an intense episode. There are some really intense scenes. Yeah, it’s a lot.“
How toxic will this relationship prove to be? “It definitely goes to a unhealthy place that’s going to make a real impact on Kate and stay with her over the years,” answers Aptaker. “I don’t want to say much more than that because I want people to experience it.”
Viewers have so far experienced him as someone charming and sensitive, but also a little off and presumptuous about boundaries. “Someone who just shows up like that is a little bit controlling and impulsive — and there’s a charm and a darkness that he’s doing simultaneously,” says Aptaker of Abrams. “He came in on day 1 and just nailed the characterization of this guy. So once people see the whole thing, when they look back it will all feel very… of a piece.”
Marc will make his return on Tuesday, and he’s slated to appear in at least a handful of episodes. “This is a real arc for teen Kate,” says Aptaker. “It’s not a quick in and out.” And as for all of those fan hypotheses so far, Aptaker quips, “Oh, man, I was hoping for something more outlandish, like he’s Jack’s illegitimate son.”
We’ll let you work out the math on that one.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.