The episode, titled “The Train,” takes viewers inside an elderly Rebecca’s mind as she’s guided through a train as a young woman by the late William Hill (Emmy winner Ron Cephas Jones). In each car, she shares brief exchanges with family and friends before ultimately reaching the caboose, which holds her literal death bed. There, she’s reunited with her husband Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), whose untimely death also wrecked fans when it aired in 2018.
While Rebecca is in “the in between,” her family members, including sons Randall (Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown) and Kevin (Justin Hartley) as well as daughter-in-law Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), say their goodbyes — and she can hear each one. But Rebecca doesn’t officially let go until her daughter Kate (Chrissy Metz) finally arrives home: “I’m waiting for someone,” Rebecca mutters throughout the episode until Kate bids her final farewell.
“Hey mom, it’s me. Bug,” Kate says through tears. “I’m here. I’m here. I love you, Mom. I love you so much.”
“OK,” Rebecca nods to William as he escorts her to the train’s end.
And with that, fans lost it.
“I've developed a way of creating a little bit of a forcefield around myself so I can do the job properly and look at it as a piece of work rather than letting myself just fall to pieces and not have any perspective,” creator Dan Fogelman told People of the emotional episode. “That being said, yeah, the first time I saw it, as we started getting into the train and Beth was starting to say her goodbye to Rebecca, I was starting to go, ‘Oh wow. This is about to start bubbling out of me.’ I think we really executed this device the way we talked about for so long, and it's really effective, and it feels really special. So yeah, it definitely got me.”
The Beth moment he’s talking about began at the 10-minute mark, kicking off the tears for a lot of fans at home as she reassured her mother-in-law that Randall would be taken care of. It was an honest, raw and touching speech about motherhood that hit every. single. feel:
“So much of being a mom is about faking it, isn’t it? We don’t know what the hell we’re doing. Not when they’re young, not when they’re older. So we fake it. We imitate what we think a mom should be. I had a good mom, but we were complicated. I just want to say, all these years, so many times when I was faking it, I was doing my best impression of you, Rebecca. I’ll take him the rest of the way, mama. Thank you for helping me with that complicated, incredible, beautiful boy that you raised. But I got him now.”
This Is Us will wrap up its six-season run next week in a finale episode that Fogelman hopes longtime viewers will appreciate.
“I feel we've answered those questions now, and we can live in the simple experience of being a family with this family. That was the goal here,” he told People, “and I think we set out to make an ending that felt like when you close a big giant, sprawling family novel. You feel sad because you realize the end of the book is getting thinner and thinner, and you're running out of pages to read, because you've been so absorbed in the book. But hopefully when you close it, you also feel you've had a complete meal.”
But, is there any dessert?! How are we going to say goodbye to the Pearsons? Ugh. Get those Costco-sized tissue boxes ready everyone.