Caution: Spoilers for the This Is Us season three finale ahead.
This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman was spot-on when told us the last five minutes of the season three finale are as "big and sprawling and epic as we get." After much back and forth, Randall and Beth were finally on the same page with plans to move to Philadelphia, where Beth will open a dance studio and Randall will continue his political career. Kate and Toby brought baby Jack home from the NICU. Rebecca and Miguel were preparing to move to Los Angeles. And Zoe and Kevin broke up when it became obvious they'll never be on the same page about having kids.
Then things got really interesting. In the future, we learned that Beth and Randall are still together (thanks for the season-long anxiety about that, writers!) and Kevin has a preteen son. Kevin's also seemed to be doing well for himself, as evidenced by that sprawling house the Pearsons gathered at to visit an ailing Rebecca.
Speaking of Rebecca, she looked like a fraction of her 60-something self, complete with long white hair and an emotionless expression. When Randall entered her room, he heartbreakingly had to remind her who he is. (Does this mean she's suffering from a form of Alzheimer's disease?) At her bedside wasn't her husband, Miguel, but Jack's estranged brother, Nicky. (Who, by the way, was looking much better in this future timeline.)
Oh, and future Kate? She was nowhere to be found. When Toby mentioned Jack, he said, "They're on their way." But that doesn't mean he was talking about his wife. And if Kate is alive, it doesn't sound like Katoby are an item still. (Anyone else notice that Toby wasn't wearing a wedding ring?)
Glamour: Let's start with the basics: How many years in the future are we when we see Rebecca lying in bed?
Elizabeth Berger: We haven’t decided exactly how many years in the future we’re at, but we’ve imagined it as roughly 12 to 15 years.
Yes or no, Rebecca has a form of Alzheimer's or dementia?
Isaac Aptaker: Possibly. Or possibly this is someone near the end of their life experiencing a lack of awareness and confusion that comes with extreme old age.
EB: We can’t say exactly what’s going on with her, but we will be learning exactly what’s going on with her as we move forward in our story.
How close to death is she? Is it a matter of hours, where everyone is gathering to say goodbye?
IA: I think it definitely feels like she’s very near the end of her life and that her passing is imminent and that’s why everyone has decided to descend upon Kevin’s house.
We see Nicky sitting at her bedside. Does Rebecca think Nicky is Jack? If she does have a form of Alzheimer's, a lot of people remember the past better than the present day.
EB: It’s a totally cool theory and totally possible. Obviously we can’t say what’s going on until we learn more of what is going on with Rebecca, but it's a very interesting take on it.
Nicky has also aged better than anyone else!
IA: That wasn’t an accident. We wanted the read on Nicky to be that though he is older, we’re seeing a guy in a better place than when we last left him. The fact that he aged really well shows he’s in a much better place mentally and physically than when we left him in that trailer.
Obviously the big question is where is Miguel, but since you won't be able to say, can you reveal when we might get those answers?
IA: Those, not for a while. That’s more of a long-term question. Perhaps more of a deeper season five or season six kind of question.
Is this your attempt to get everyone to love Miguel by the end of the series? He'll be everyone's favorite character by that point.
IA: [Laughs.] I think, yeah, the tides are already turning in a big way.
Let's talk about Beth. It’s not quite established in the future that her dance academy is in Philadelphia, but one would assume it is. So if future Beth is in the same clothes at her dance studio in Philly as she is when she’s later at Kevin’s house, does that mean Kevin now lives in Philly? And why?
EB: Wow, interesting. No one has asked us that! We are remaining purposely vague of the exact location of Kevin’s house, but obviously it’s safe to say it’s a place Beth would be able to get to in those clothes. I don’t know if I can say anything else.
IA: To be fair, 15 years in the future, who knows how fast it will take anyone to get from one place to another? She might have a self-driving car with a superspeed button and Kevin lives in Australia. But you’re right: I think it’s a safe assumption that Kevin lives a relatively close drive to wherever Beth’s dance studio is. That was some Nancy Drew-level reporting right there.
How excited were you to show the audience that Beth and Randall are still together in the future? You're not so sure when he walks into the house and sees Beth, but when they kiss and embrace it's a huge moment.
EB: We were very excited for people to see that moment, mostly so they will stop being so angry at us and writing mean things online. [Laughs.] We were very excited. It was difficult for us as writers to see Randall and Beth [like that] because we love them so much when they're united and killing it as a team. We know it was difficult for viewers. We wanted to tell the story as truthfully as possible, and we wanted to share that even the strongest of marriages go through incredibly difficult chapters. We also wanted to show that you can come out on the other end. It was very meaningful for us. We all exhaled when we saw the cut of that scene and saw them kiss and then panned down to the shot of Beth’s wedding ring. We’re hoping people feel a big sigh of relief when they finally get to that moment.
Also in the future, Kevin has a kid—a 10-year-old son, give or take a few years. This means that in the present timeline it won't be too long before we see him become a dad. Since it’s doubtful the mother is Zoe, what does this mean for Melanie Liburd (Zoe) next season? Will she be back in the same capacity?
IA: We love Melanie, and she’s part of the family of this show. Not just with Kevin, but her and Beth go way back [as cousins]. So while this is the end of this chapter for Kevin and Zoe right now, romantically, she’s definitely still a part of the Pearson family. We love writing for her, so we’re always going to be looking for ways to bring her back into the story and into the fold. But we will not be watching week-to-week storylines between her and Kevin next year.
Does it annoy you that fans might automatically assume or wonder if the mother is Sophie? I say that because if she is, that would mean her engagement didn’t work out with her current fiancé. Perhaps it’s an entirely new character.
EB: It definitely doesn't frustrate us, and it’s a totally valid theory. We’d be unfair to be frustrated after we brought her back toward the end of this season and reminded people that these two had this epic love story that spanned the decades. It's a total valid theory, and it’s obviously not the only way it could go. It’s 100 percent on the table. We completely understand why some people would think that it ends that way or they end up together. That theory is totally in play.
IA: Although Sophie’s fiancé probably does not love that theory. [Laughs.]
Let’s move on to Kate, Toby, and baby Jack. Is it fair to assume that Kate is alive in the future?
IA: You’re assuming that. Maybe you’re right or maybe you’re wrong.
EB: I think it’s wide open at this point what has become of Kate.
Toby doesn’t mention Kate by name, but he does mention Jack and says, “They’re on their way.” It would seem as if that refers to Kate. My guess is they are either separated or divorced because we also saw Toby in bed by himself.
EB: That's also a great theory. I think there’s no way of knowing at this point who Toby is exactly referring to when he says “They’re on their way.” It could be Kate, it could be someone else. I think it’s really wide open at this point, but we’re excited to fill in those blanks as we move forward.
Will we see future Kate next season? Is that something we’ll get answers to?
IA: We’ll get answers to that, but I can’t promise next season. But we know that in terms of the rank of people’s burning questions, that one is probably working its way up there. We’ll be mindful of that. We do wonder what people are going crazy about, because we don’t ever want to frustrate but we also don’t want there to be nothing left for us to tell. So it’s about deciding when to give out information.
Getting into the present day, Beth and Randall are moving to Philly and selling the house. How much is this going to uproot Tess’s life? She looks so anxious as she helps her parents pack up the kitchen.
EB: I think it’s going to uproot everyone’s life, but to be Tess’s age and already be in the middle of coming to terms with your sexuality and then to throw in a move is only going to make things feel more complicated and more overwhelming. We’re definitely going to be exploring that as soon as we come back next season, but we’re also going to be seeing how the move affects everyone else in this family. Obviously Deja will have feelings about it. Annie will remain, for a little while at least, [unaffected], but even she will have feelings about it.
IA: God bless Annie!
EB: But as you can see from Tess’s facial expressions, this move is already having an impact on her, and it will continue as reality sets in.
I think I was most upset about losing Beth and Randall’s gorgeous home next season.
IA: That’s funny, you sound like our line producer who was like, "This set costs a fortune! We’re taking it down?" [Laughs.] Because our show jumps through time and everything’s on the table, that will not necessarily be the last you’ve seen of that beautiful red kitchen with the great island. But we will certainly not be there every week. Randall and Beth's new life in Philly will be a big part of what these early stories are about: this family adjusting to their new routine. What do those iconic breakfasts look like when they’re in a much tighter urban space?
In the present day, is it accurate to say Kevin and Rebecca and Miguel all move to Los Angeles while Randall, Beth, and family start anew in Philly?
IA: Yeah, which we’re really excited about. It’s a new chapter, a little bit of a reboot for the present-day stories of the show, to have everybody in this big time of transition and physically changing places. Kevin is out in Los Angeles with his mom and Kate and new nephew, and it will be fun to see more stories about what Kate and Rebecca’s new repaired relationship looks like when it’s put to the test of living five minutes away from each other.
Speaking of Rebecca, how much could her car accident in the early '90s be related to her physical ailments later in life?
EB: For us, that story is not about there being a physical correlation between that time period and our future time period. It really was about that first time as a kid when you see your parent in that really vulnerable state and how scary that can be; obviously, the way we’re playing that up against them entering her room at this somber-like period in life. Also, Jack gets a lot of the glory of being the rock of this family, but in a quiet way we think Rebecca serves that purpose as well. We’re seeing her kids and her husband feel it in that past story, and in a way we’re starting to feel it in our future time period too. Everyone is assembling to sort of say goodbye to the grounding force of this family.
And finally, heading into next season, Dan Fogelman has already written the season four premiere. What can you share?
EB: We’re excited to get back to the seventies with Jack and Rebecca when we return. It’s a really romantic period, and we’re going to be seeing what happens when they come back from that amazing road trip and reality sets in and what happens next. We’re excited to see our 12-year-olds explore meatier stories about adolescence, and we’re excited to meet some new people that haven’t yet been introduced.
IA: We haven’t told anyone this, but when Dan went [out of town] to write the season premiere, he texted us and was like, "Oh my God, this is going to be so great." He sent us the script a couple days ago, and we just read it. It is a really, really exciting way to come back for season four. We’re just continuing to find new forms of storytelling and blow up sort of what a network TV drama is. I hope that people love it as much as we do.