This Is Us Season 4 marks the halfway point of the story that creator Dan Fogelman set out to tell. The first two seasons were spent tracing the childhoods of "The Big Three": Kevin, Kate, and Randall Pearson. Season 3 began working both backward and forward in time, showing the Pearsons' future and the past of their parents, Jack and Rebecca. Quite a bit was set in Vietnam, where Jack served on the front lines. Now, Milo Ventimiglia's comments about Jack in This Is Us Season 4 suggest the upcoming season will deal with the fallout of those years.
Season 3 revealed that Jack's reason for going to Vietnam wasn't really about serving his country. He shouldn't have gone at all, as he couldn't pass the physical. But his younger brother Nicky landed a super low draft number and was fit as a fiddle. Sadly, Jack knew his brother probably couldn't mentally handle the rigors of war. When his worst fears were confirmed, he decided to get himself over there and bring Nicky home.
As fans now know, Nicky disappeared, leaving Jack to believe his brother was dead. When Jack learned otherwise, he compartmentalized this knowledge. Jack's children only learned the truth about their uncle's whereabouts 20 years after his death.
But according to actor Milo Ventimiglia, who plays Jack, that's only the tip of the iceberg.
Coming back from Vietnam will be as hard for Jack as going was for Nicky. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Ventimiglia said:
He may be past physical war, but it doesn’t mean he’s not in private war — personal war. Those fractures and cracks that you just never recover from. We’re going to see him going through that experience post-war, really trying to reconnect and restart. What is life after Vietnam? And of course, new exciting love with Rebecca. We all know how that goes.
As Ventimiglia points out, Vietnam fell during a time when more people were surviving wars than ever in history. But there was minimal infrastructure for helping them deal with the physical and psychological consequences of their experience.
Men of that era experience things differently. They didn’t have the resource that the women and men of the service now have to unload the PTSD, unload the traumatic brain injury, unload all that sh— that you see in war. I’m curious to see how Jack boxes it all up and stuffs it away — and I think it’s going to be a process.
As he notes, Jack already tends towards a refusal to deal with the past, due to his childhood.
He is one of those guys who makes a decision, and he moves forward. He doesn’t go back, he doesn’t dwell, he doesn’t let the hauntings really trap him down. I’m looking forward to seeing Jack’s moving forward and new love, new life, and understanding how he’s able to pack up and store what he experienced in Vietnam.
Ventimiglia is currently nominated for his third Emmy for Lead Actor in This Is Us, alongside Sterling K. Brown, who plays Randall, as well as a Lead Actress nomination for Mandy Moore, who plays his wife, Rebecca.
This Is Us Season 4 premieres on NBC on Sept. 24, 2019.