In the very same way that the cause of Jack's death became a huge focal point in Season 2, the story of what happened to Jack's brother in Vietnam has been looming at the forefront of our minds ever since Season 3 premiered back in September. While we still don't have an answer to that question, theories about Nicky's death on This Is Us prove that there are a couple of different ways this could all play out. But since the midseason finale promo promises to clear everything up, it shouldn't be long until we can finally start to fill in those blanks. Let's hope so, at least.
Now, given that the general goal of This Is Us is to make its fans cry as often as possible, you better believe that Nicky's story is going to be one full of heartache and soul-crushing sadness. Ever since Jack reunited with his brother in Vietnam, he could tell that the war had changed him and not for the better. And as much as Jack wants to be the Superman that Nicky always considered him to be and protect him from any danger, there's only so much he can do. So what happens that prompts Jack to not ever really speak of his brother again — not even to his family or Rebecca, who he loved so much? Here are some fan theories currently floating around out there...
The Promo Holds The Answer
In the promo for Tuesday's midseason finale, titled "The Beginning Is the End of the Beginning," Jack is shown diving headfirst into a body of water. Whatever he's doing seems pretty serious, so could this be a clue as to how Nicky dies? Perhaps he goes for a swim and gets caught on something that drags him down, but when Jack tries to save him it's too late. It would definitely be a random, unnecessary death, which would make the whole thing even more heartbreaking than it already is. Which, let's face it, is kinda this show's MO.
He Dies In Combat
They are currently fighting in the Vietnam War, so if Jack's brother was going to die, the most likely reason for it would be while in combat. But since This Is Us rarely does the expected, it seems unlikely this will end up being the cause.
He Dies Saving Jack's Life
One interesting twist would be if Jack found himself in danger and Nicky was the one who saved him for a change. In that way, he'd become our Superman — because without him there would be no Jack Pearson for us to fall in love and no family for him to create with Rebecca. Making Nicky the hero would be a fitting way for him to go. It would still be heartbreaking, of course, but then at least he died saving someone he loved.
Nicky Is Still Alive
Then again, there's always the possibility that we've been lied to this whole time. Esquire's Dave Holmes came up with the following theory about how this plot twist could make sense:
"I think instead of leading him into harm’s way, Jack helps him go AWOL. Jack will have to pretend that Nicky is dead, which will lead his father to drunkenly resent him, but will keep the elder Pearson’s image of Nicky as a hero intact. It will undo Jack's guilt for having failed to protect his brother the first time around, but also give him a painful secret that will send him deeper into the bottle. Maybe he’ll tell Rebecca in the '80s, who will tell Kevin in the present, who with Zoe will do what she has failed to do, which is turn the story into art. Maybe they can find him."
It would certainly prove to be quite the elaborate lie, but given that Jack would go to any lengths to protect the people he cares about, it's definitely a possible outcome. Viewers will just have to tune in on Tuesday, Nov. 27 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC to see how the midseason finale unfolds.