Heading into Sunday’s Super Bowl, there isn’t much Patriots and Eagles fans can agree on — except when it comes to “This Is Us.”
As supporters of these two football teams await a bitter fight for victory, those who also happen to be fans of the NBC drama know that the episode set to premiere following the game will be a ringer.
Show creator Dan Fogelman has promised the episode will answer all the questions that have been lingering in the minds of loyal viewers about the death of Pearson family patriarch Jack (Milo Ventimiglia).
The series has made the character’s demise something of a mystery, hinting only over the last two seasons Jack’s death occurs while his children are in their teen years and that it involves a house fire.
Jack’s children are played in their adult years by Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz and Justin Hartley. Mandy Moore plays their mother, Rebecca.
Some are not prepared for receiving all the answers they’ve been waiting for, especially after what could be an emotionally taxing football game.
Philadelphia native and Eagles fan Lewis Dacosta III, 43, doesn’t plan to watch “This Is Us,” a show he calls his weekly “cleansing of emotions,” after his Super Bowl cookout. When he does watch the big episode, he plans to do so alone, he tells CNN.
Ditto for Jack Ruiz of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. On Sunday, the 33-year-old is hosting a Super Bowl party, and though he jokes that he’s looking forward to celebrating a win in front of the Patriots fans in his family, he knows that whether his beloved Eagles win or lose, “I won’t be ready for the death of Jack.”
Kaly Nasiff, a Patriots fan from Gilbert, Arizona, will have her mom and dad to lean on during the episode. The 22-year-old has elaborate plans that, by her account, include yelling at the TV, dramatic tweeting and “a lot of chocolate.”
“This big episode airing after the Super Bowl could go two different ways. One, the Patriots could win and everyone in my house goes from screaming and yelling to bawling. Or, the Patriots could lose and then watching Jack die will let us cry everything out,” she told CNN. “It could be cathartic.”
“This Is Us” scored the coveted post-Super Bowl spot back in May 2017, just months after wrapping its much-hailed freshman season.
The show, a heart-tugging, multigenerational drama about a family’s past and present, was a natural pick for NBC.
The Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated drama has been one of NBC’s most successful scripted launches in years, yielding impressive ratings for the broadcast network, both in overnights and delayed viewing.
The most recent episode of the series marked the biggest L+7 rating (a term used to describe the total number of live viewers, plus seven days of delayed viewing) of any broadcast network in more than two years, growing by over 7.1 million viewers for a total of 16.6 million.
Chelsea Miller, 29 of York, Pennsylvania, usually watches each episode twice per week — once by herself and once with her mother. On Sunday, the Eagles fan plans to stay at her mother’s house to watch “This Is Us” and is preparing for any outcome.
“I will say I was not thrilled about the episode airing after the Super Bowl at first,” she said. “I keep saying I’m either going to be really happy and the show is going to bring me down or I’m already going to be upset and that episode will just make it worse. I’m definitely hoping for the first option though, #FlyEaglesFly!”
Hamilton, New Jersey, native Natalie DeAngelo is keeping her plans fluid. She’ll only intends to watch “This Is Us” after the Super Bowl “if my mental and emotional state can take it,” she said.
For the game, she’ll be at her family’s favorite pub in town, wearing the exact same outfit she did during the playoffs and carrying the blanket she cuddled during them, too. She’s superstitious.
“Honestly, I think I’m going to take a half day at work on Monday and go in at 1 p.m.” she said. “I might need to sleep in a little bit.”
Narratively, the timing of the show’s big episode couldn’t have worked out better.
Jack and Rebecca’s love for the Pittsburg Steelers has been a plot point of the show since early in its run, and it’s been made clear that their love for football was passed on to their children.
Moreover, the fire that is believed to be responsible or related to Jack’s death occurs after the family goes to bed on Super Bowl Sunday. The show’s most recent episode revolved around the events of that day.
The connection was not lost on DeAngelo, who has a theory — but not about Jack’s death.
“I’d like to think that Jack and Rebecca would be supporting the Eagles in this Super Bowl, considering they support a fellow Pennsylvania team and the Patriots are a conference rival to the Steelers,” she said.
“This Is Us” airs immediately following the Super Bowl postgame show. DVRing viewers are advised to plan accordingly, should the game run long.