Ever since This is Us revealed how Jack died in their post-Super Bowl episode (damn you, Crock Pot) fans have been desperate to know where the show is headed — and if there are any other major twists they should be prepared for. The Season 2 finale included plenty of teasers for future plot lines, but some fans believe that these are just red herrings meant to disguise the show's ultimate truth: that Jack is alive, and the events of This Is Us are really just a dream. Is This Is Us happening in Jack's head, or are viewers seeing the real present-day life of his three kids? It's likely that we're watching the Big Three live their lives in real time, anything is possible in This Is Us, so this fan theory is worth exploring.
According to Kaitlin Reilly at Refinery29, everything happening on the show is actually just a dream that Jack had after passing out in the fire. While unconscious, Jack "saw his life, and the lives of his kids and wife, flash before his eyes," and that vision makes up the show's plot. Jack is a family man at heart, so his primary concern will always be his wife and three kids, even as he's minutes away from dying. Considering that everything in This Is Us revolves around Jack — Jack chooses to adopt Randall, Kevin has serious daddy issues, and Kate feels guilty about her dad's death — it's not too out there to think that the present-day part of the show takes place entirely in his imagination.
This theory suggests that viewers aren't seeing a present-day depiction of Kate's wedding to Toby, Kevin's search for more information about his father's military career, or Randall's rocky relationship with Tess. Instead, fans are seeing visions that Jack creates to figure out how his family will go on without him.
Jack, in the moments before his death, could imagine just how deeply the end of his life would affect everyone. His subconscious might even pick some obvious choices for his family's future... like Miguel (Jon Huertas) marrying his wife, Rebecca (Mandy Moore). Or Kevin, star of the school play, becoming an actor. He might even imagine Kate finding inspiration to sing again, years after she abandoned her dream. Or Randall finding his biological dad ... and it's that moment that wakes Jack up and [he] runs out of the burning Pearson home.
This twist wouldn't be the wildest thing that NBC could throw at This Is Us fans, but it's up there.
At first, Tuesday night's finale seemed to support this theory. In the beginning of the episode, Jack appeared with gray hair and glasses, looking much older than he was when he died in "Super Bowl Sunday." But what fans first thought was Jack and Rebecca's 40th wedding anniversary turned out to be a dream that Kate was having in the days leading up to her own wedding to Toby. So unfortunately, no, Jack isn't still alive (unless Kate's dream was a dream within Jack's dream, but even that sounds extreme for NBC), making this theory too good to be true.
However, just because Jack is most likely dead doesn't mean he's gone for good. At the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival, showrunner Dan Fogelman teased that Season 3 will include "Jack and Rebecca origin stories." According to Fogelman, the third season will spend a lot of time in the 1970s as it explores Jack and Rebecca's lives before they met, including Jack's time in Vietnam during the war. This reveal isn't a huge shock, as Kevin decided to travel to Vietnam at the end of the Season 2 finale to learn about his dad's time there. Hopefully, there will be plenty of flashbacks of a young, hot Jack navigating life as a soldier.
Phew. A world without Jack Pearson (in one form or another) is not a world worth living in.