When last year's biggest new show returns for its sophomore run, viewers will be expecting to finally receive an solution to its biggest lingering mystery: how did Jack die on This Is Us? Season 1 of the NBC weepy family drama dropped the bombshell that the Pearson patriarch had passed away pretty early on in its run, revealing that his wife Rebecca had remarried to his best friend Miguel at some point during the intervening years. But the exact manner of his passing has remained a mystery, with the writers only giving fans a smattering of clues about Jack's death in This Is Us Season 1 to sate their appetite for answers.
Now, per Entertainment Weekly, the cast and crew are promising that the Season 2 premiere of This Is Us, coming Sept. 26, will provide a huge "piece of the puzzle" about how Jack died — and that the mystery will be solved definitively at some point during the show's second batch of episodes. So, before the writers pull back the curtain on their biggest ongoing cliffhanger, take a little time to look back at all the breadcrumbs they dropped along the way during Season 1. These details may have seemed minor at the time… but when the truth is finally revealed, they may very well prove to have been huge, flashing signposts, the significance of which are only understood in retrospect.
Which of these details are clues and which are red herrings? You decide:
1. The Big Three Were Teenagers When He Died
The single biggest fact that's known about the circumstances surrounding Jack's demise is the timing. The Pearson children have been seen in flashbacks at various stages of their lives, but they were very firmly shown as being teenagers at their father's funeral. That means he must die relatively soon in the timeline compared to when we saw him last, moving out of the house for a mutual separation period after a huge blow-out fight with Rebecca. The fact that Jack died while his kids were still relatively young explains the huge impact his passing had on them — especially his daughter. Speaking of…
2. Kate Blames Herself
Whatever happened to Jack, it appears that Kate was somehow involved; or at least she thinks she does, based on how she told Toby that her dad's death was her fault. Whether that means she was directly involved in whatever event took his life — or whether she simply feels responsible in a tangential way — remains to be seen. But keep an eye on whatever teenage Kate is up to in Season 2, because her storyline must dovetail with Jack's passing in some way.
3. Don't Drink And Drive
As Jack's alcoholism reared its ugly head towards the end of Season 1, it seemed more than likely that his death would involve some fatal traffic accident while inebriated. Indeed, things seemed to be moving in that direction when he took off into the night at the conclusion of the penultimate episode — at Kate's urging, no less. Since that scenario didn't pan out as expected, many fans have moved on from this theory. But perhaps the writers wanted fans to discount it so that it will feel all the more shocking (and also sadly inevitable) when Jack does die in a car crash in Season 2.
4. It Could Involve An Airplane
It's specifically mentioned that Kate is afraid of flying, and that young Kevin destroyed all his model airplanes after Jack's death. Is that just an irrational — but totally normal — fear, and the distraught lashing out of a grieving boy? Or could the many mentions of airplanes be more than mere coincidence? Some viewers think these references are clues; especially considering a real-life plane crash occurred in Pittsburgh (where the show takes place) in 1994 (right around the time Jack would have died), claiming all lives onboard.
5. Christmas Party Foreshadowing
If he didn't die while driving drunk or during a plane crash, could Jack Pearson have committed suicide? That would help explain why his family has such a hard time talking about his death, if part of them felt like their father had abandoned his family. But such a fate would almost feel too random… if it weren't for the episode in which Randall had to talk a colleague down from committing suicide at a Christmas party. That coworker had never been seen before and has never been seen since; what was the purpose of the scene, if not to foreshadow that Randall's father had taken his own life?
6. Rebecca Is Still Wearing His Necklace
Could Rebecca's necklace be a clue? If so, it could disprove the aforementioned suicide theory — because the fact that present-day Rebecca is still wearing the crescent moon necklace that Jack gave her could indicate that her husband passed away while they were still on good terms, and that she remembers him fondly. It's comforting to think that Jack and Rebecca might have reached a detente in their frosty relationship before he passed.
7. Where Is Miguel's Family?
Jack's fate isn't the only thing that's gone unaddressed during the present-day timeline. Miguel's ex-wife and children have also never been mentioned — which could be a clue that they also perished in whatever accident claimed Jack's life. It's understandable how such a traumatic incident could have brought Rebecca and Miguel together… and it would also give the show a way to bring back the firefighter who figured into the origin of the Big Three, if it turns out that Jack and Miguel's family all succumbed to a fire.
Obviously, some of these "clues" will turn out to be dead ends; Jack can't possibly have died in a car accident, a plane crash, a fire, and by his own hand. But by examining every possibility, viewers should be prepared for whatever tragedy inevitably comes their way during This Is Us Season 2.