This review contains spoilers about the "This Is Us" finale.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Last week, just as she died, Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) were supine on a bed, face to face. "Hey," she said to him. "Hey," he said to her. Tuesday's finale picks up after that second "hey," as the Pearson family's surviving Big Three — Randall (Sterling K. Brown), Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley) — come to terms with the huge hole now at the center of their lives.
MY SAY Perhaps deciding that viewers were cried out after "Miguel" (May 3), "Family Meeting" (May 10), and "The Train" (May 17), "This Is Us" used Tuesday's series finale ("Us") to remind them what all the crying has been about. Full of "moments," and flashbacks, and character wraps (Randall might run for president! Kevin is going into nonprofits! Kate is opening more schools for the visually impaired!), "This Is Us" went gently into that good night of its own making. There were no shockers, or fireworks — nor, thankfully, anything to suggest or threaten some future reboot, either.
In aeronautical terms, "This Is Us" made a soft landing, then headed straight for the gate. For planes, that's what we expect, but for the finale of a beloved series ending six emotional (and lachrymose) years? For the finale of this particular show, that's what was expected and maybe actually necessary. Last week's "Train" was the true finale anyway, while "Miguel" was the series' emotional high-water mark. As the series' coda, Tuesday's "Us" was left to pick up the various pieces, then reassemble them one last time.
If "This Is Us" could be faulted at times for mawkishness, its sincerity was abiding right up to the end. All "we're doing is collecting these little moments," explained Jack. "We don't recognize them when we're in them because we're too busy looking forward, then spend the rest of our lives looking back, trying to remember them, trying to be back inside them."
Those "moments'' from Tuesday night included a long-ago incident on a swing (Rebecca's), Kate's youthful and unerring success at "Pin the Tail on the Donkey," a childhood rhyme that the Big Three recalled as adults, and Randall's (also Kevin's) first shave. Insignificant on their own, they were the summa of a whole series — the little things that make up the whole thing, the fabric of ordinary life and of a prime-time series itself.
"This Is Us" couldn't quite face eternity without that one final comforting shot, and did not. Looking into each other's eyes for the last time, Jack promised Rebecca that, while "hard to explain," she'll be around to experience the lives of her children in the future. Hard to explain, indeed (as ghosts? In a reboot?), but somehow that was necessary to hear as well. There's no perfect way to wrap a cherished series but there are plenty of ways to mess it up. Giving Rebecca hope gives fans hope, too. Maybe that's not the perfect wrap, but it is a lovely way to go out.
BOTTOM LINE A sweet farewell, indeed.