Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia in This Is Us
10 This Is Us Moments Guaranteed To Make You Sob

Damn you, Pearsons!

by Ani Bundel

This Is Us is famous for being the first prestige TV-type show on a broadcast network to hit big, and one of the main reasons for its success is the show’s ability to pluck at the emotional strings of viewers. This Is Us isn’t just well written; it’s expertly crafted to hit those sad and soft emotions, leading to a cathartic cry. But out of all the pain and tragedy the Pearson family lives through, these are the saddest This Is Us moments of all.

The Twitter icon for This Is Us used to be a tissue box, which wasn’t a joke. Even in its happiest moments, like Kate’s wedding, a little rain must fall. When more significant emotional beats happen — like when Kevin and Madison didn’t get married in Season 5 — it’s an all-out weepfest.

On the one hand, that can be comforting in the 2020s, when things are complicated, and having a weekly cry session to direct one’s feelings towards is a relief. However, it also means fans will be stocking up on tissues when the show returns for its final episodes.

But how big will those moments have to be to compete with the first five seasons? Here’s the competition for the most tearjerk-y moments of all.


Randall’s Adoption


This Is Us told viewers exactly what kind of show it would be from the opening episode, when Jack had to deliver the news to Rebecca that their third baby didn’t make it. It was the first of a long line of weepy moments, topped only by the new thing that happened in this timeline: Jack introducing Rebecca to the small orphaned child lying next to Kevin and Kate and persuading her to adopt him.


Jack & Rebecca’s Breakup


Jack and Rebecca’s marriage is full of happy tears moments: the trip to California, their wedding, their children’s milestones. But there’s also the downside of that — when the relationship hit the rocks. Jack and Rebecca’s breakup after he drunkenly ruined her chance at a singing career was a gut punch, but not nearly as bad as the follow-up, when Rebecca gave in and told Jack to come home, only to have him refuse in order to go to rehab.


The Rehab Episode


Speaking of rehab, this list would not be complete without Kevin’s trip to in-patient recovery — the one when he brought the whole family to his session. In one of This Is Us’ top episodes ever in terms of performances, it was utterly devastating to see the siblings say the things to each other (and to their mother) that they’d held inside their whole lives.


Jack’s Passing


It took a season and a half (and a post-Super Bowl timeslot) to finally show the passing of Jack Pearson. The moment the Pearson family shattered, which would take them decades to recover from, turned out oddly quiet, offscreen, as Rebecca went for a candy bar. Perhaps the show’s most devastating moment was when she returns and discovers it was all over, and she never even saw it happen.


Randall’s Breakdown


If Jack’s passing was the moment the family broke, Randall’s collapse was the first step toward healing. Kevin’s heroic exit of his Broadway show to come to his brother’s aid and be there for him was the first time the brothers honestly admitted how much they loved each other.


Kevin & Randall’s Fallout


Like the rehab episode, this was the moment Kevin and Randall said all the things to each other they’d never dared to, because they were the things that would hurt the other the most. Watching the knives come out on the lawn as they tested their bond by saying the most unforgivable things to each other they could think of was a heart-wrencher.


William’s Passing


The loss of Jack may have broken the Pearsons, but William’s passing was a double dose of devastation for Randall, who had only just discovered his biological dad after decades of never knowing he was so close. Although the two only had a short time to grow close, this was a heartbreaker, made only more so a few years later when Randall discovered what William never knew that his mother had survived childbirth after all.


Deja Leaving Beth & Randall


When Beth and Randall took in Deja, it was a complex discovery for Randall that adoption isn’t all babies and miracle families. By the time her mother came to take her away at the end of the season, fans were heartbroken to see her go, as were Randall and Beth. Despite the difficulties they all had — and will have when she comes back — Deja choosing to go with her mom was one of the most challenging moments to watch.


Nicky’s Time In Vietnam


Another really hard-to-watch moment was the one that broke Jack and Nicky’s relationship when Nicky’s behavior in Vietnam accidentally led to the murder of a child.

At the time, it seemed like both were blown up in the explosion, as Jack, panicking, searched for them, his heart breaking at the loss of his younger brother. But the worst part was, Nicky wasn’t really gone. He just knew Jack would never forgive him for what he’d done, nor could he forgive himself.


Rebecca’s Deathbed Reveal


The final heartbreak of the Pearson family hasn’t technically happened yet onscreen, but everyone knows it’s coming. In the flash-forwards to 2034, Rebecca is dying in the house Kevin will one day build, where the Pearson vacation cabin now stands. Although fans haven’t seen her pass away, at least not yet, knowing it’s coming is enough to reach for the tissues.

This Is Us Season 1 through 5 are streaming on Peacock. Season 6 airs Tuesdays on NBC.