The drama and trauma within the Pearson family is as mysterious as ever on this season of This Is Us, and the latest question plaguing fans of NBC's weekly sobfest is the significance of Kevin Pearson's familiar leg injury. In the third episode of the currently airing second season ("Déjà Vu"), we saw Kevin hurt his leg while filming a scene in a war movie with Sylvester Stallone, and then break down over the death of his father, Jack. So what happened to Kevin's leg and how will it figure into the ever-unfolding tragic tapestry of the Pearson family's story? There are plenty of theories floating around right now, so let's dive into them.
1. Like Father, Like Son
What seems to be to most pressing detail about Kevin's leg injury is how he deals with it. In order to fight through the pain and continue his acting job, we see Kevin pop a pill and go back to set. What's so troubling about seeing Kevin use painkillers is that we know addiction and substance abuse runs in his family. The major part of his father Jack's storyline in the flashbacks this season revolves around how he is trying to combat his persistent alcoholism, which some fans have guessed may have even led to his death. After that pill-popping moment, it seems like a pretty safe bet that we are going to see Kevin struggle with addiction, much like his father did.
2. Grim Reminder
As for why Kevin breaks down about Jack's death after his leg injury, we already saw how emotionally traumatic this type of injury has been for Kevin in the past. In a flashback earlier in this season, teenage Kevin was wearing a cast on the same leg he broke in his acting scene. It was at this time that teenage Kate informed him that their father had died. Of course, Kevin would associate this leg injury with the death of his father.
3. Broken Leg, Broken Dreams
Although we saw that Kevin's always been a showboat who loved attention during flashbacks to moments such as his middle school talent show, we've also seen hints that he didn't always want to be an actor. In high school, Kevin was actually a star football player, and he even mentioned wanting to be the quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers as his childhood dream. But as we already saw, Kevin also breaks his leg at some point during high school. It sure seems like it was that broken leg that caused Kevin to give up on his love of football and instead focus on acting. Since his initial leg injury was (presumably) such a pivotal, career-altering part of his early life, this second broken leg could mirror that and also cause Kevin to rethink the direction of his life... maybe a career change?
4. Blaming Himself
We already know that Kevin's leg injury reminds him of his father's death since he was similarly injured at that same time, but some fans are theorizing it goes further than just a reminder. In a quick flashback scene, we see teenage Kevin in the hospital directly after his leg injury, and Jack giving his son some sort of medallion. There's some debate over whether the metal keepsake was Jack's dog tags from his time at war, but most viewers seem to agree it looked a lot more like a protection necklace, a Christian ornament depicting a saint. If that is indeed the case, then Kevin may still harbor some self-blame for Jack's death since he had the protection necklace at the time of his dad's death.
5. Recurring Problem
Now let's bring it all home. Although the leg injury is new to viewers, it seems to be pretty common knowledge to the Pearson family that Kevin has constantly struggled with his leg. Kate refers to his broken knee as his "bad knee," and we even heard the more recent Pearson addition, Miguel, tell Kevin to "break a foot" instead of the usual "break a leg" before filming a scene for The Manny. This leg injury may not be the only devastating thing that constantly comes up in Kevin's life — fans are guessing that the painkiller addiction we'll probably be seeing going forward was also a major issue in Kevin's life after his first leg injury. It may even explain his initial breakup with Sophie, before he was able to finally kick the habit and win her back. This would also explain why Kate whispers "He's just like you" to Jack's ashes in reference to Kevin, possibly hinting that she knows they both struggled with addiction throughout their lives.