I like to take pride in my TV cliffhanger predictions, but I must say that this time, I was dead wrong. Pun intended. Thankfully, series creator Dan Fogelman explained the This Is Us Toby cliffhanger that caught me off-guard in a way that put me at ease. Obviously, there are huge spoilers ahead. When Toby collapsed from what appeared to be a heart attack on the holiday episode of This Is Us, I thought that his time was up. Not because I wanted to see him go. Quite the contrary. Bbut the, "Nothing bad ever happens on Christmas Eve" felt a bit like the show was protesting too much. Well, that and the fact that Toby's surgery was paralleled with Dr. K's and we saw that Dr. K ended up surviving.
So all signs point to Toby kicking the bucket next episode, if not immediately than a bit belatedly, right? Uh, no. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Fogelman explained that he threw us all off on purpose. Why? Because he can, and because sometimes the signature This Is Us plot twists are actually deviously... uplifting.
In a compliment to his "sophisticated" viewers, he explained that,
While I'm all for happy surprises, and I am endlessly glad that my man Toby is going to be fine, uh... did you happen to catch that "some sadness forthcoming" line? Because, I sure did. But, what does that mean for the show exactly? Well, Fogelman talks about the obvious choice, William, who has "gone off chemo."
EW asked, "how much more or how little time with William we should brace for," and he said,
But despite the vague references to when William's terminal illness will take its toll, something tells me that's not the only source of "forthcoming sadness." In an interesting explanation of the Toby and Dr. K parallel, Fogelman said, as EW points out, that unlike The Walking Dead's killing of Glenn Rhee after initially saving him,
Considering that we know William is living on borrowed time and that, at some point in the Pearson's past, Jack has also died, could the "forthcoming sadness" possibly be that of a parallel of William's death with Jack's?
If the 'Everybody lives. Multiple times," trope panned out in this instance, I can't help but think that the exact opposite might happen later. You'd better get your tissues ready.