[DISCLAIMER: There are no major spoilers ahead; however, if you’re like me and don’t want to know anything that happened before you watch, you may want to be caught up before you read this.]
I hadn’t planned to watch This Is Us, despite the endless positive reviews I saw every week on my newsfeed, if not because of it. It annoys me when people start overhyping a show, which inevitably leads to a letdown. The previews for the show were admittedly intriguing, but they had emotional vibes. I don’t like being sad while I’m watching TV (this is my relaxation time!), so I fully intended to forgo this one.
But I got hooked.
As a writer, I have serious plot envy right now. I really, really wish I’d thought of this first, even though this isn’t the kind of writing I do. The details of the story are so intricately woven together. It’s really a work of art.
Also as a writer, I can’t help paying attention to things like foreshadowing. And simply because I’m one of those annoying people who guesses her way through mysteries and thrillers in a race to call the ending before it’s revealed, I can’t help using those little details I pick up to speculate about the moment we’re all dreading — Jack’s death. The finale left us to wonder what’s going to happen, but I couldn’t resist developing a theory of my own. I think Jack’s death is going to be a suicide.
I began to suspect Jack would die from suicide back when Toby admitted going through a dark time after his divorce, causing Kate to shutdown. When she finally talked to him about it — around the same time she revealed her dad was dead — she asked him about whether he still battles depression and suicidal thoughts. With the show’s heavy emphasis on how their upbringing made them who they are today, it doesn’t seem like a giant leap to think Kate’s fear was born from her own father not being able to pull himself out of his downward spiral after his marriage became rocky.
My suspicions were heightened after the show revealed that, indeed, he and Rebecca had been having trouble. Couple that with Jack’s own troubled childhood, his struggles with alcoholism and some of his statements in the season one finale about how the good guys never win, and you’ve got all the makings for someone who is likely to become depressed and suicidal. Assuming Rebecca doesn’t chase him out the door to stop him in season two, we also know he’s headed to stay with Mannie, who’s recently gone through a divorce of his own. That would certainly cast a cloud over Jack’s optimism that things will turn around.
It also seems to fit the progressive spirit of the show, which hits on issues that so many others have missed or made light of or danced around because they’re hard. Suicide is a tough one, arguably tougher than if Jack had died in a drunk driving accident even (which is a popular assumption right now). Suicide is often associated with the perception that the victim was selfish, even though the reality is often far more complicated to understand.
America loves Jack. America knows Jack is husband and father of the year. How far would it go in terms of helping people understand mental illness if, in fact, Jack’s death is a suicide? I am far from being a mental health expert, but I believe it could make a profound impact on the de-stigmatization of mental illness and encourage people to get help if America sees Jack’s story unfold this way. Thank goodness we have far more resources available today than someone in his shoes would have had in the 70s or 80s.
This is one of those times when I hope I’m wrong, but even if I am, you’re going to need tissues for season two because we know his death is coming.