Admit it: you were doing fine during the Season 2 premiere of This Is Us. You were thrilled for the show’s return but were pleasantly surprised that you weren’t having a huge emotional reaction to it. “Great!” you thought. “They’re easing us into the sad stuff this year.”
Cue the episode’s last two minutes, which revealed a heartbreaking key detail in Jack Pearson’s greatly discussed death. Presumably several months after Rebecca coaxed Jack to come home after their fight, she pulls up to their house alone to reveal it's been completely destroyed from a fire. If Rebecca’s gut-wrenching reaction to the sight doesn’t get Mandy Moore an Emmy nomination, there’s no justice in the world—just saying.
However, this reveal isn’t as black-and-white as we would have hoped. The scene included several little details that point to Jack’s death being far more complex than just him passing away in or from a fire. Who is that dog Kate was cuddling? Why does Rebecca have some of Jack’s spotless possessions with her? Who is that girl comforting Randall? Why is Kevin’s leg broken? Why are the kids with Miguel?
Since the truth will definitely be drawn out as long as possible this season, here are four possible circumstances of Jack’s death to keep us guessing.
1. Jack starts the fire in a drunken stupor
Jack confessed to Rebecca at the end of the premiere that he was currently drunk and that he has been more reliant on alcohol than ever before in the past few weeks. We saw that the Big Three are busy, social teenagers at this point in their lives, so it would be totally plausible for them to be out one night away from their parents. Perhaps Rebecca goes to pick them up and Jack accidentally starts a fire in his fog. As evident in that reveal, the house is completely charred, so whatever caused the fire was no joke.
2. Kate forgets her dog when the fire breaks out and Jack goes back to rescue it
When the triplets are 10, Jack is so in love with family life that he wants either another kid or a dog. Neither panned out, but perhaps in the ‘90s, he convinces Rebecca to get a dog to rekindle the family’s closeness after the couple’s blowup. In present day, Kate has admitted that she feels responsible for Jack’s death. People have guessed that the redhead comforting Randall at Miguel’s house is his girlfriend, and since Kevin is with Sophie, Kate could become the closest to the dog with both brothers invested in relationships. Jack may successfully rescue the dog for her, which explains its presence in the episode, but he is critically injured, which could be why Kate says that she killed her father.
3. Jack and Miguel accidentally cause the fire during construction work
Jack and Miguel work together, and Miguel is there for his friend at his lowest points. It would be totally feasible for the men to be working on the Pearson home—perhaps to distract Jack from drinking—and accidentally cause some kind of electrical fire. Perhaps Miguel escapes, but Jack isn’t so unlucky, which deepens the former’s distraught face when Kate and Randall are grieving at his house. Miguel feeling guilty about this could also explain how he grows closer to Rebecca and they eventually marry.
4. The fire was totally random, but Jack’s life was in limbo as a result, and he passed away right before the closing scene
A TIME piece pointed out that in the first season’s flashback to Jack’s funeral, Kevin doesn’t have a cast on his leg, suggesting that some time has passed between his dad’s death and the funeral. Perhaps Kevin and Jack were both injured in the fire, and Jack’s condition had been steady enough for Kevin to feel comfortable leaving his family and hanging out with Sophie. Given the severe-looking aftermath of the house fire, I wouldn’t be surprised if legal matters prevented a funeral from occurring sooner, hence why Kevin is without a cast in the flashback.
You can likely find even more creative, complex theories to hold you over until the show’s ultimate reveal. Perhaps if we all keep theorizing, Jack won’t actually die?