Jack is too perfect no more...sort of.
Tonight's first season finale of This Is Us did not show us how Jack dies, or reveal anything in particular that we had been waiting for. It didn't really tie up loose ends or give us anything solid to hold onto for the next six or so (!!) months before season two arrives. It did, however, paint one hell of a picture of the marriage of Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) as we learned how they met and, we're assuming, what happened just before they were torn apart.
Despite the fact that drank the entire way, Jack made it to Rebecca's show in one piece, and continued to drink. He sat at the bar, having his own imagined crisis while Rebecca was in the middle of a real one. Sam from True Blood tried to comfort her nerves with a kiss, and she realized Jack had been right about Sam from True Blood's real intentions.
She and Jack deftly avoided noticing each other as Rebecca went to the back of the theater to call home and leave a message for her husband, saying she loved him and wished he was there.
Meanwhile, Jack wandered backstage, where Sam from True Blood let it slip that he "crossed a line." So Jack punched him in the nose, and that's when Rebecca returned, furious. She quit the tour then and there and drove Jack home.
Back at home, before Rebecca could even change out of her sparkly dress, they had it out. She was upset that she didn't know Jack was drinking (and driving) again ("That would be some way to leave us."), and then even more upset when Jack's response was that she hadn't been around. All she wanted was something for herself that did not involve her kids or her husband, and it hurt that he had so little respect for her career.
Jack laughed at the word career, saying that a 40 year old woman playing covers in pubs did not constitute a career, and Rebecca certainly did not take that well. She asked if he even loved anything about the real her, as opposed to the magical version of her he had in his head.
She went to bed, sad and angry, and was a little sad to find that he wasn't sleeping on the floor outside her room this time. Instead, he was on the couch, but she wouldn't let him say he was sorry.
"We both meant the things we said," she told him. She asked him to stay at Miguel's for a while, just so they could get some air. Before he left, he said they should tell the kids the truth, and that at the end of the day, after years of a strong marriage, this would be a blip on their radar.
He also told Rebecca all the things about the real her that he loved, including the way she laughed and the way she danced, just like the best, most sorry guys in romcoms always do. And then he left as Rebecca cried and clutched her moon necklace.
On the other side of things, that finale also told us the story of how Jack and Rebecca met. He was a 28 year-old Vietnam vet who was still living at home, taking odd jobs in order to make any money he could. She was singing at open mics and recording demos while her friends married bankers and bothered her for not having a date to their wedding, and tried to set her up.
His dad berated him for not having a job or any money, and Jack lamented his money troubles to his friend Darrell. They wanted to open their own auto body shop, but friends and neighbors paying them $5 a job was never going to get them there.
They tried a shady and nerve-wracking poker game and won, but then got beat up and had their money stolen when they tried to leave after one round, leaving them with even less than they started with.
On the same night that Jack and Darrell decided to steal their money back by plotting a low-key heist at a bar, both Jack and Rebecca had friends set them up on a date. We were left to assume they were being set up on the same date, with a pang of sadness that came from thinking that if Rebecca's date was Jack, they only met because she decided her own dreams weren't enough, and that she did, in fact, need to "diversify." That would make what was happening with Rebecca's tour in the 90s feel even more hopeless, and even more painful.
But in fact, Rebecca was waiting for an investment banker who was passionate only about stocks and bonds and other such investment banker-y phrases. She bailed on the date because she had to sing, and that's where she found Jack—distracted from the robbery he had planned and the blind date he forgot about by the vision on stage in the same bar he was about to rob.
And that was the story we got tonight—the beginning of Jack and Rebecca's relationship, and the beginning of the end of it. We also saw a glimpse of present day, with Kate (Chrissy Metz) deciding she wants to be a singer, like her mom, and Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) deciding together that Kevin should fly to LA to audition for Ron Howard. Randall (Sterling K. Brown), meanwhile, decided he and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) should adopt a baby.
Nothing was finished, and we're still waiting to see the end of Jack, but it sure is comforting to see that there are still so many beginnings to be had on this show.
This Is Us airs on NBC.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBC Universal family.)