*Warning: spoilers ahead for “This is Us” 2.14.18*
Fan or not, it was impossible to make it through this past weekend without seeing a fiery commercial for the much anticipated and dreaded episode of “This is Us” that would follow the Super Bowl. Prior to its airing, I scrolled through the comments on a picture posted by none other than Milo Ventimiglia, who plays Jack Pearson. Even in the midst of jokes and jests, almost every single comment was about sadness: promises to cry, feeling of being unprepared, and even pleas for Jack to return. But, why this unanimity of sadness? I mean, I am still trying to recover from a certain “Jane the Virgin” death that didn’t gain nearly as much attention or sympathy as our pal, Jack. So, why are we all so devastated by Jack’s death?
If we could describe Jack in two words, I’d argue they would be “dad goals” or “husband goals.” We praise him as an empowering father figure, and for the unconditional love he has for his children. There was nothing that he wouldn’t do to make Kevin, Kate, and Randall feel loved. He would look them in their eyes to remind them of their capability, their worth, and their importance. He promised to go the extra mile, and perhaps this is his hamartia. Jack vowed that he would be the hero his family deserved, and even as his home burned and smoke billowed, that cape flew behind him on his mission to save Kate’s dog. Until his dying breath, he held fast to the belief that fatherhood is a vocation, and this is the Jack that amazes me.
And then there’s Jack and Rebecca. It’s no secret that love and marriage are hard to find, even harder to keep. Yet somehow, we have a contemporary show telling us that it is completely possible through the narrative of Jack and Rebecca. As Miguel says in 2.12, “they were one. There was no Jack, there was no Rebecca. There was just Jack and Rebecca.” They have supported each other with the pursuit of their dreams. They suffered the loss of a child and then proceeded to raise triplets. They struggled with Jack’s alcoholism, a reoccurring problem throughout their 20 years of marriage. It is undeniable that Jack loves Rebecca deeply and passionately. Between his little surprises, campouts in their hallway, and laughter, Jack pursued Rebecca because love is a choice – always.
However, here’s my issue with Jack. We love him, we praise him, we applaud him, but we also idealize him. We have chosen to see Jack as a goal rather than realistic. The writers of “This is Us” have consistently sought to hold a mirror to the realities of life.
Jack is admirable in many ways, but he is also flawed. He isn’t perfect, nor is he meant to be – he is meant to be real. But with this realness comes the responsibility, as viewers, to recognize this. Jack is not the model of perfect partnership or fatherhood. No, Jack is the reminder of what we are capable of and called to pursue. Like Jack, we have to be the heroes and role models for the young ones around us. Like Jack, we have to choose to love in both triumph and trial.
Our lives are our stories, and how we choose to write them comes down to who we want to be. Perhaps we can use Jack to remember that we are brave, that we are capable of achieving the good. Though Jack has died, his legacy and exquisite facial hair will not be soon forgotten.
Featured Image via Screengrab from This Is Us