Admittedly, NBC's This Is Us is about more than just one mystery; there are plenty of characters and storylines to be invested in on the weepy new drama. But the question on most viewers' minds as we approach the finale is undoubtedly: How did Jack die on This Is Us? The mystery has been haunting fans ever since it was revealed that the lovable Pearson patriarch had mysteriously passed away sometime before the events of the show's present day timeline. So far, his family have been mum about the details surrounding Jack's death — but with only two episodes left in Season 1, we're bound to get some answers soon.
But will the answers we get jive with any of the speculation that has been abounding since the revelation that Jack is no longer with us? True to form — and with their thinking caps exercised by mystery-driven shows like Mr. Robot and Westworld — fans rose to the occasion and came up with a wide variety of theories surrounding the character's demise. This Is Us has dropped clues about Jack's death along the way like a trail of bread crumbs through the most depressing forest.
Will the answer be one of these seven possibilities?
1. Drunk Driving
Early in the season, the show planted the seeds of Jack's alcoholic tendencies. And although he swore off drinking at the time, that storyline wasn't extinct; it was simply lying dormant, until it awoke at the end of last Tuesday's episode, when Jack took a drink after a fight with Rebecca. While that could have been a red herring, it's also possible that Jack's drinking will spiral out of control, leading to his death in a drunk driving accident, or other alcohol-related death.
2. A Sudden Illness
There has been a heavy emphasis throughout Season 1 on the physical and mental health of various family members, from Kate's struggles with her weight to Randall's panic attacks and William's cancer. It would be keeping in this theme if it turned out that Jack had some undiagnosed illness that took his life in an unexpected way: a cardiac problem that led to a heart attack, a brain aneurysm that suddenly burst, a blood clot that led to a stroke. Though Jack is still young and seemingly in good health, it's not unheard of for someone his age to fall victim to an unforeseen medical emergency.
As Reddit user luoy_panda points out, Randall was upset in last Tuesday's episode when William locked the hospice nurse out of the house because he was scared of the idea of his birth father dying while no one's watching; they point out the possibility that Randall's fear is based in the fact that his adoptive father Jack died alone. This could jive with the idea of a sudden heart attack or stroke.
3. An Accident
Of course, a sudden demise doesn't have to originate from alcohol or a disease; sometimes terrible accidents happen and people just die with little rhyme or reason to it. Maybe Jack simply fell off a ladder or got hit by a car or was killed in an accident on one of his construction sites. If this is the case, it seems likely that Kate was involved in some way, given that she's the sibling who seems to have taken Jack's death the hardest. Perhaps she feels responsible for the accident in some way (he was killed while driving to pick her up from a party, for example); or perhaps, as Reddit user tmifsud530 theorizes, Kate was the one who found Jack after his fatal accident.
4. A Fire
Reddit user AFriendlyInternetGuy speculates that Jack could have died in a house fire — perhaps caused by "The Best Washing Machine In The World," which received so much focus earlier in the season it got an episode named after it. It would also be a way to tie back in the firefighter who brought Randall to the hospital, and bring the entire season full circle… in an incredibly sad, tear-jerking way, of course.
If this theory is true, it's possible that Jack wasn't the only victim; AFriendlyInternetGuy also points out that we've never heard about Miguel's ex-wife and children during the show's present day storyline, and draws the conclusion that they could have been killed in the same fire that killed Jack. (Of course, he could simply not be mentioning them because he and his former family are estranged, but it could also be due to a tragedy of this magnitude.) Miguel's and Rebecca's mutual loss could be what subsequently brought them together, and why they're married today.
5. A Plane Crash
By far the most prevalent fan theory about Jacks' death is that he died in a tragic plane crash. There have been a smattering of clues dropped about planes, from Kate's fear of flying to Kevin's story about how he destroyed all of his model airplanes after his dad's death. And, as Reddit user knuckle_cracker points out, there was a plane crash in Pittsburgh on Sept. 8, 1994, when passenger jet USAir Flight 427 went down on approach to the Pittsburgh airport, killing all 132 souls on board. We don't know exactly when Jack died, but last week's episode contained a reference to Jurassic Park (which came out in 1993), and the Pearson kids were all about the same age as they were in the brief flashback to Jack's funeral.
This is an offshoot of the previous theory, but it ties Jack's death to a different real-life tragedy. Some viewers, like Reddit user mattnormus believe that Jack was in one of the planes that was flown into the World Trade Center buildings on Sept. 11, 2001 — which still explains his children's aversion to airplanes but also lends the character's death a gravitas that anyone who remembers that fateful day will feel. However, other fans argue that the timeline doesn't match up: if the Pearson kids were born in 1980, that would make them 21 on 9/11… and they still seemed like teenagers in the flashback to Jack's funeral.
Perhaps most shocking of all would be the revelation that loving and supportive family man Jack Pearson died by his own hand; but some fans have pointed out that there's actually an abundance of evidence to support this theory. According to Reddit user maryssmith, the proof of the suicide theory includes Jack's suppression of his emotions (manifested in his drinking problem), the fact that his wife and best friend could have bonded through their shared feelings of guilt (resulting in Rebecca and Miguel getting married), Kate's relationship with Toby (she revealed in last week's episode that she's been hung up on the revelation that her fiancé previously considered killing himself), Kevin's inability to commit to relationships (due to his father abandoning him), Randall's search for his biological father (to reconcile with another father figure who chose to take himself out of Randall's life), and more.
With only two episodes left in the season, it's likely we'll get some answers — if not the whole story — about Jack's death very soon. Viewers should probably make sure to have some extra tissues handy since, no matter which theory turns out to be true, I have a feeling the revelation is going to be a doozy.