In its Jan. 16 episode, This Is Us (writing: Jas Waters, 10 episodes) delivered one of its more heavy handed clues regarding Jack's imminent death, but apparently, not everyone is buying it just yet. Some are saying that the smoke detector on This Is Us is a misdirection, looking to throw people off the scent of what actually is about to happen to Papa Pearson. At the end of the most recent episode, Rebecca asked Jack if they had forgotten anything at the mall. As the camera zoomed out, stomachs across the country collectively dropped as it was revealed that they seemingly neglected to buy replacement batteries for the home's smoke detector. Dun dun dun...
It's at least somewhat understandable why some people might be skeptical of this clue — at least the vague circumstances surrounding Jack's death have been hinted at for weeks, so the idea of a fire isn't exactly new. And, while the writers likely aren't trying to completely pull the wool over our eyes, it'd be very in character of them to deliver another gut-punch of a twist.
"I feel like they are so obviously pointing to the fire, and now this smoke detector, that how can it possibly just be that simple?" wrote one Reddit user, Beckels84. "There's gotta be a big twist. They don't build up for two seasons to just have it be a house fire that they're hinting at." Others agreed with the sentiment, with many claiming that the smoke detector likely isn't completely irrelevant — it's just not the main issue. "It’s definitely a sort of red herring. I think it’s somewhat important to the reason but not THE reason he dies," wrote Gary220. "I think/hope we will be shocked." Some even think that while the house fire contributes to the pain of Jack's death, it won't be what literally causes it. "I've been thinking for a while that [the fire is] a red herring," wrote bfm211. "The house is going to burn down but it won't be where Jack dies."
The fans may be onto something — no matter how this whole thing shakes out, there has to be more, right? There have been so many clues peppered throughout this season in particular that the smoke detector surely can't be the lone smoking gun (no pun intended). What about the breakers and the faulty fuse box that Jack was wrestling with weeks ago? What about the washing machine theory, which speculated that the beloved appliance would somehow malfunction, turning a sentimental memory for the couple into a heartbreaking bookend to their relationship? Why does Kate blame herself if the big mistake was basically a home maintenance issue? If Jack dies because everything else is otherwise fine but he just forgot to remind Rebecca to buy batteries, the show's writers will have a lot of disappointed fans to answer to.
That seems unlikely, though. There are so many other things to consider. Audiences have been told to pay attention to Kate's dog, for example. Randall's mysterious redheaded girlfriend also is apparently a clue, and so is the fact that Kevin doesn't appear to be with the rest of the family on the night of the fire. Us fans have been thrown so many small nuggets of information at this point that it's impossible to sort through what may be more important than the others. Is this going to be some sort of Final Destination horror in which a thousand tiny events and circumstances have to fall perfectly into place for Jack to meet his demise?
Many seem to be sharing the speculation that while viewers focus on the smoke detector as the most blatant clue, it won't be acting alone. "Three bad things will happen around Jack's death. It's clear that everything happens in three with the Pearsons, and when Kevin and Randall were in the kitchen, Randall foreshadowed this when he said, 'when it rains...'" wrote user DJ-Smash. "I think the house fire is just one of the bad things, but not what kills Jack. Since we know that the house burns down and Jack dies, I believe some third and unexpected event will occur that devastates the family even more. This unexpected event will also play a large role in why the family won't talk about Jack's death."
If Reddit fan boards are to be believed — and they're full of some of the most dedicated and eagle-eyed viewers out there — audiences still need to remember the other clues. It'd be easy to get hit with that smoke detector shot and immediately forget about everything else, but showrunners have been preparing us for Jack's death for a long time. Even the smallest details could end up overshadowing the biggest clues when the time comes.