‘This Is Us’ Showrunners Break Down Finale’s ‘Her’ Flash-Forward and What It Means for Season 4

“It’s all going to make sense in the grand scheme,” Isaac Aptaker tells TheWrap

This Is Us - Season 3 Finale Rebecca
Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for Tuesday’s Season 3 finale of “This Is Us,” titled “Her.”)

We said goodbye to the Pearsons — for the time being — Tuesday night, as the third season of “This Is Us” came to an end. But not before we got several giant teases about what’s to come for the family at the heart of the NBC drama, with a major flash-forward sequence.

Decades in the future, the older Randall, Beth, Toby and Tess we’ve seen before in previous time-jumps meet up at Kevin’s house for some kind of family gathering involving the long-teased “her.” (We didn’t get a look at Kev yet, but his future son confirmed for viewers it was Kevin’s home.)

And yes, as we learned earlier this season but saw with our very own eyes for the first time tonight, “her” is an elderly Rebecca. What’s more, Rebecca doesn’t appear to remember Randall at all (leading viewers to believe that there is something wrong with her memory) and is lying in a hospital bed in a bedroom in Kevin’s home with none other than Nicky at her side. Uh, where is Miguel?

In the present day, Beth and Randall decided to move to Philly to allow him to fulfill his councilman duties and Beth to open her own dance school without that pesky commute getting in the way of their family; Toby and Kate are taking home their baby boy Jack, with Rebecca and Miguel moving to L.A. to help out; and Kevin and Zoe broke up because it turns out he does want to have kids (see son in the flash-forward mentioned above).

TheWrap spoke with “This Is Us” co-showrunners Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker about tonight’s big reveals and what they mean for Season 4 of the Dan Fogelman-created series. See our Q&A below for all the answers we managed to get out of them.

TheWrap: First, Kevin has a son in the flash-forward! And he says his dad went out to get food — does that mean this scene is taking place at Kevin’s house?

Elizabeth Berger: Yes, we are at Kevin’s house.

TheWrap: Nicky has returned and he’s sitting at Rebecca’s bedside when Randall enters. Why is he there?

Isaac Aptaker: Well, that’s a great question. (laughs) If we answered that, then people wouldn’t really feel as compelled to watch the show, so I think we’re going to leave that one alone. (laughs) But we’re far in the future and certainly family dynamics change and people evolve and relationships develop. So something has happened over this span of time where Nicky is now someone that Rebecca would want by her bedside.

Berger: Yeah I think it’s safe to say that obviously Nicky’s story wasn’t over and we’re sort of going to be filling in the blanks of what happened in order to catch up to that point as we move forward.

Nicky also looks like he’s doing better in the future — is it safe to say he’s sober now?

Berger: He definitely looks like he’s doing better, so, yeah, I think it’s just a matter of waiting to fill in the pieces of the story.

Alright, why wasn’t Miguel the one in the room with her? Are we supposed to assume something is wrong there?

Aptaker: Maybe? It does seem like you’d expect that Miguel, her husband, would be the one there by her bed and yet he’s not there. So I would say that’s not an accident.

We finally have confirmation Beth and Randall’s relationship is safe in the future, correct?

Aptaker: Yes, they are married, they are together, they kissed, they’re happy.

But Toby and Kate might not be because he came to this gathering separately and said Jack called to tell him he and Kate were on the way. Is that a bad sign?

Berger: Obviously whatever we include we’re really careful about our language and what we’re showing and what we’re not showing. And we’ll have to wait till we revisit this and, again, we’ll be filling in pieces when we return. But yes, it’s definitely fair to say a real choice was made to not see Kate just yet.

Now why are we seeing “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” and sidewalk chalk at what appears to be a very somber family event? What can you tell us about this juxtaposition of happy activities and this dark reveal of Rebecca’s state?

Aptaker: Very little, except that we have a plan and it’s all going to make sense in the grand scheme of thing. But yes, if right now you’re watching and scratching your head a little bit about why they are bringing kids’ party games and chalk to this pretty somber gathering of a very old, sick Rebecca, you should be confused. It’s a good confusion.

Rebecca doesn’t not appear to recognize Randall and he makes a point of introducing himself to her. Does she have Alzheimer’s?

Berger: We aren’t revealing exactly what it is. But obviously it’s a very somber gathering, obviously we’re seeing a very different Rebecca than we’re used to seeing and we’re going to be giving those answers as we move forward.

Creator Dan Fogelman recently said we’ve reached the “midpoint” of the series with this finale. Does that mean you’ve planned a six season arc?

Aptaker: Not as definitively as that with six seasons, but I think he was speaking in the loose scheme of things, we’re about in the middle of it. So whether that’s six years, seven years, who knows, there’s a lot of factors that go into that and we don’t have a finite answer there. But we’re roughly in the middle of our story, yes.

But, as you all have said before, this flash-forward is as far in the future as the show will go, correct?

Aptaker: Yeah, this is sort of the big end point for all our characters, yes.

OK, back to the present day. Beth and Randall are officially moving to Philadelphia to pursue his city councilman job and for her to open a dance studio.  What’s that going to look like on Season 4?

Berger: Yes, when we come back these two and their whole family are going to be starting a completely fresh Philadelphia chapter. But yes, we can say that they really are sort of doing the plans that they come up with at the end of this episode.

Aptaker: I think next season I’m going to miss all those scenes in that big red kitchen, which is my dream kitchen. But yeah, they are going to be downsizing in a big way, because in order to afford these endeavors that Beth and Randall have, they’re going to be moving into a smaller place, a more urban house, so living a little bit more on top of each other. And that is going to present some interesting challenges to their three adolescent/preadolescent daughters sharing a cramped little bathroom when they were used to very much having their own spaces. And then it’s also going to be just a very different dynamic for our family, living in the heart of the city as opposed to this very, very idyllic suburban life that they were used to.

What about Rebecca and Miguel? Are they for sure moving to Los Angeles to help Toby and Kate with baby Jack?

Berger: Yes, their plan is definitely to relocate to L.A. and it’s going to be a huge transition for that part of the family as well, not just Beth and Randall. So obviously we’re going to be seeing Kate and Toby struggling with what it’s like to have this new baby at home and what it’s like to have grandparents around. So it’s going to be just whole new dynamics that we haven’t seen on a regular day-to-day basis with this family.

Now that Kevin and Zoe have broken up, how will her role in the series change next season?

Aptaker: She is an important part of our show. She also connects to our family through Beth. Obviously they have a huge history in our family. So there are many ways that she touches on our story. And at the beginning of the Season 3, when Beth warned Kevin about getting into this relationship, she was very, very nervous, because were they to break up, it wouldn’t just be another ex-girlfriend — it would be her closest relative. So how Beth is thrown in the middle of that and what that does to her relationship to Kevin is going to be exciting to play out as well.