‘This Is Us’ Creator Talks Finale’s Flash-Forwards, Season 5 (and 6) Plans for The Pearsons

Dan Fogelman tells TheWrap next season’s premiere includes “major” piece of the future puzzle

This Is Us Season 4 finale
Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

(Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Tuesday’s Season 4 finale of “This Is Us.”)

“This Is Us” brought its fourth season to a close tonight in typical “This Is Us” fashion, meaning we got a couple flash-forwards, multiple revelations, several new character introductions and one big fight, which all added up to leave us with more questions than we’ve ever had about where things are headed for the Pearson family.

Luckily, series creator Dan Fogelman had at least a few of the answers when he spoke with reporters about the hour, titled “Strangers: Part Two,” on Tuesday. But the one question he definitely couldn’t answer in any way was TheWrap’s query about whether or not we’ve already met either Kevin (Justin Hartley) or Nicky’s (Griffin Dunne) wives, after tonight’s episode revealed they are both married men when visiting bedridden Rebecca (Mandy Moore) in the future.

“I’m frozen like a presidential candidate, how do I answer that question?” the “This Is Us” boss told TheWrap during a conference call. “I don’t think I can answer that question, ’cause either answer would give too much away. I can safely- nope, can’t answer that! Because if I say yes, it pins us on both. If I say no, it pins us on both — so it would spoil some of the fun moving forward.”

OK, we let Dan off the hook for that one, but followed up asking if we can at least expect to see a “future” version of a character that has yet to be introduced in that particular flash-forward, like Kate (Chrissy Metz) or Miguel (Jon Huertas), by Rebecca’s bedside in the Season 5 premiere.

“Not necessarily, although I won’t rule it out,” said Fogelman, who is co-showrunner on the NBC family drama along with Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger. “But there is gonna be something big in the season premiere… in terms of something else *that* major, but not necessarily that.”

Speaking of the “This Is Us” Season 5 premiere, though Fogelman does not yet know when the show will be able to go back into production — as almost all U.S. TV series have had to shut down or delay filming amid the coronavirus pandemic — he did say that episode has already been written and he and his fellow “This Is Us” writers have broken at least four more.

But that’s not to say you’ll be getting all the answers you want about the Pearsons in the premiere, including the identity of Kevin’s fiancee come the Big Three’s 40th birthday party — which we already know is really a Big Two birthday party, due to that giant fight between Kevin and Randall (Sterling K. Brown).

“The question as to who Kevin’s fiancee is at the birthday party. That’s been part of Kevin’s romantic question and I don’t know if there’s any immediate answer coming to all of that,” Fogelman said, when one reporter asked if that woman would now be revealed as Madison (Caitlin Thompson), given that she told Kevin in the Season 4 finale she is carrying his twins. “I think there’s many more chapters in Kevin’s romantic story… Kevin has a journey ahead of him and I don’t want to get too far ahead of it just yet.”

“One of the places we’ve been building for this season, we have a lot of great love stories in our show, we have Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca and Randall and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), who have had their ups and downs, and Kate and Toby (Chris Sullivan),” he added. “And Kevin has had multiple love stories from childhood into adulthood… It felt like an interesting time to have a character embark upon parenthood and embark upon becoming a parent with somebody who is a virtual stranger to him and being a different kind of parent in a different kind of, potentially, story between a man and a woman who are raising a child together.”

The finale also included flashes to Kevin’s ex-wife Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) and one-time lover Cassidy (Jennifer Morrison) when Kevin was learning about Madison’s pregnancy and declaring that his child will be the “love” of his life. Fogelman told reporters there was a “reason” for that, but it’s not necessarily what you think.

“As Justin’s character, Kevin, is contemplating a life of giving up on the idea of great love and cutting to these two women with whom he’s shared intense relationship that moved him forward and backwards in great ways — there’s a reason for that and those characters we are not done with,” he said. But he added he can’t say “whether or not it’s related to Kevin.”

Fogelman says that Season 5 of “This Is Us” is going to focus on “rebirth and a lot of new beginnings — but particularly birth and rebirth” as its themes.

And we already got one big birth in the finale: the delivery of Kate and Toby’s son, Jack Jr. (Blake Stadnik), and Lucy’s (Auden Thornton) baby girl Hope. That jump to the distant future also came with the reveal that Toby and Kate actually decided to go through with adopting another child, as Jack’s sister, played by Adelaide Kane, comes to visit her newborn niece.

“We really loved the actress we found to play the daughter [Adelaide Kane] and obviously we’ve really loved Blake playing Jack,” Fogelman said. “So our hope is to make people become invested in those future storylines by getting to those characters slowly, as we’ve done, so that by the time you’re really landing in full stories with them, if we do, really, you feel that great investment.”

“In terms of the balance between the future storylines and the past… the way the show has been parsed out, we will never run out of past flashbacks that inform the present,” he said.  “Milo will always be in the show, Young Rebecca and younger versions of the kids will always be in the show. But we do have plans to tilt into different timelines that go past our present timeline a little bit more as we move forward and more of that is coming, and not just in that deep, deep future where Jack Jr. lives.”

But in terms of the present, Fogelman says Season 5 will feature Rebecca and Miguel’s journey to St. Louis, Missouri as she embarks on the nine-month clinical trial Randall hopes will slow the onset of Alzheimer’s. (You know, the decision she made because Randall asked her to, which led to a giant fight between him and Kevin in the finale.)

“It’s going to be, obviously, a challenging chapter for Rebecca moving forward,” he said. “We have a big storyline planned for Mandy next season in present day as an older woman and also her whole past timelines.”

This also means seeing more of Rebecca and Miguel as a couple — for real.

“So often they operate as couple in service as the larger family, when you see them together it’s because the entire family is together,” he said. “But here’s an opportunity where we’re going to be putting them in a location together and watching them as they undergo this treatment together that they didn’t plan on trying. And it will also allow us to get toward, which has always been the plan in the back part of our series, get towards a further understanding of how their relationship bloomed, then stalled, then bloomed again and getting really inside of their lives.”

“This Is Us” has already been renewed through Season 6 at which time Fogelman said during this call, as he has before, “the Pearsons’ story will basically come to a close.”

Want to know more? Read our finale post-mortem with Justin Hartley here.