There are some TV shows that are meant to make us all cry. For years, Grey’s Anatomy held the top spot for a show that could make viewers weep at the drop of a hat. But now, This Is Us is here to take the crown.
Week after week, the show punches us in the gut and leaves us sobbing on our couches. How do we have so many tears? We didn’t think it was possible to cry this much over a TV show until we hopped on the bandwagon for this hit NBC show. This is Us is only in its second season, yet there are so many moments — both happy and sad — that have had us clutching a box of tissues.
16. When Rebecca and Jack finally talk about the baby they lost
Season 1, Episode 3 – “Kyle”
The entire episode of “Kyle” is actually a punch to the gut. We see the Pearsons grappling with the loss of their third triplet, and we watch William take newborn Randall to a fire station. Rebecca refuses to let William meet his biological son, but we see her show compassion as she renames the boy Randall after William’s favorite poet. However, it’s after she returns home when she and Jack finally talk about Kyle – the triplet that they lost – that really causes a full-blown meltdown for us viewers. It’s their guilt for grieving that makes the moment all the more heartbreaking, but it’s also a completely understandable and raw moment that the two share.
15. Kate breaking down at Weight Loss Camp
Season 1, Episode 13 – “Three Sentences”
Ever since her childhood, Kate has struggled with her weight. She lost friends as a child because they called her “disgusting,” then hit walls as a teen from her lack of self-confidence over her weight. The loss of her father seemed to hit Kate the hardest out of all the Pearson kids, as she fell into binge-eating habits and a less active lifestyle. Instead of getting weight loss surgery as she planned, Kate decides to go to a weight loss camp, which she doesn’t really take seriously at first. When she finally starts listening to the instructors, she lets all the emotions she’d been hiding in food boil to the surface. She has flashbacks to her father’s funeral, which also happens to be the first time we saw shots from Jack’s funeral on This Is Us, which reveals that he died during the Big Three’s teen years.
14. Rebecca and Jack’s Valentine’s Day fight
Season 1, Episode 15 – “Jack Pearson’s Son”
Jack and Rebecca were never perfect. They fought before they got married, before they had kids, when they’re raising kids, and on. But they were a strong couple. This is the fight that seems to be the start of their downfall. Jack is trying to be supportive of Rebecca and tells her to go on tour with her band, knowing it’s a big moment for her career and wanting to be a loving and encouraging husband. But when Jack finds out Rebecca previously dated a member of the band, Jack reveals he never wanted Rebecca to go on tour in the first place. Instead of going on their normal Valentine’s Day date, the couple argues in the kitchen. The words that are shared are intense but rooted in honesty, and you can see both are experiencing a lot of pain. It’s also where we start noticing a dangerous path with Jack’s drinking — and one that will have lifelong implications for his children.
13. Randall saying goodbye to Deja
Season 2, Episode 10 – “Number Three”
For all that Randall struggled as a child and still as an adult, it was great to watch him bond with Deja. So, after losing his adoptive father, then biological father, what is one more goodbye? Randall and Beth took Deja into their lives while her mother was in prison. But there was the looming chance that her mother would get out and get her life together. For Deja’s sake, they wanted that to happen, and it surprisingly did. Deja’s mom shows up unannounced, saying the charges against her were dropped and she wants to take her daughter back. Deja convinces her mom to leave, cool off, and come back when things are more official. Randall and Beth don’t want her to leave, but eventually, they realize they need to say goodbye and try to maintain something of a relationship with her — just maybe not a parent-child one. Randall helped more Deja than he realized and their goodbye is bittersweet.
12. Kate revealing she watches football with her father’s ashes
Season 1, Episode 5 – “The Game Plan”
A lot of big moments that revolve around Jack Pearson come back to Kate. As we all known, the Pearson family was big fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the present day, Kate watches games by herself. Or so her boyfriend Toby thought. When he tries to first watch with her, she pulls back from him. Later, she reveals to him that she doesn’t watch Steelers games alone. She watches with her father – his ashes, that is. It’s not only the first concrete confirmation that Jack is dead, but the idea of it all is pretty heartbreaking. Of course, Toby understands, and the three of them watch the game together. It’s a pretty beautiful moment.
11. Dr. K visiting his wife’s grave
Season 1, Episode 12 – “The Big Day”
In an episode set entirely in the past, Dr. Katowski grappling with the loss of his wife. It has been 14 months since she passed away, but he is still struggling. His son confronts him, saying his father needs to try to move on and to stop burying himself in work. Afterward, Dr. K goes to his wife’s grave to tell her that he doesn’t know if he can do this without her. But while he’s there, he gets a page that he is needed at the hospital – to deliver the Pearson babies. The episode ends with Dr. K finally starting to move on after talking to Jack and comforting him in his time of grief. If you don’t cry from his words to his wife, the moments where it is intercut with the Pearson family and the famous Lemonade speech will get you good.
10. Beth’s goodbye to William
Season 1, Episode 17 – “What Now?”
As if the death of William wasn’t hard enough to watch, there is a follow-up episode that celebrates his life. William asked his two grandchildren to plan the celebration, but that request had their mother feeling left out. Initially, William and Beth had a rocky start, but the pair bonded over the months that William lived with them. Beth had thought that she and William had grown very close, but then felt burned when he passed away. That is, until a heartfelt postcard arrived in the mail for her, something he’d promised to send before leaving for Memphis! William sent her a goodbye from Memphis, having known that he would not return to New York. He even called Beth the “daughter he never had.” After reading his goodbye, she gives an impromptu eulogy at the funeral her children planned for him and you can bet there wasn’t a dry eye as audiences watched from home.
9. Kevin running to comfort his brother
Season 1, Episode 15 – “Jack Pearson’s Son”
Kevin never was a good brother to Randall. He picked on Randall and made him feel different as they were growing up. Some of the anxiety issues that Randall has, as an adult, could certainly stem from his brother’s treatment. But after their 36th birthday and his own pitfalls, Kevin finally started to actually connect with his brother. When Randall called him the night that Kevin’s play was meant to open, he apologized to his brother because he couldn’t make it. The scene is intercut with flashbacks to Kevin ignoring Randall during his anxiety attacks when they were teenagers. Kevin realizes that something is very wrong and thinks “what would Jack Pearson do?” He channels his father and drops everything to run and be by his brother’s side during a tough time. He sacrifices the revamp of his career when he rushes to be with Randall while he has a breakdown.
8. Jack doing push-ups with 9-year-old Randall on his back
Season 1, Episode 9 – “The Trip”
Man, This Is Us proves time and time that Jack Pearson was a great dad. A very powerful scene that shows just how dedicated he was to his children is when he takes a young Randall to a dojo. Randall had been struggling with being black, and the dojo was how his parents wanted to try and support his questions. Jack is told to put Randall on his back and do push-ups. It is a symbolic moment meant to represent how Jack will “carry his son through life” and “hold him up no matter what comes his way.” The part is even more emotional as it flips between this scene and clips of a sobbing William reading a letter from Rebecca saying that she will not allow him to enter Randall’s life because he already has an incredible father.
7. The Lemonade Speech
Season 1, Episode 1 – “Pilot”
In the opening episode of This Is Us, we were thrown for a loop when it was revealed that Jack and Rebecca lost one of their triplets. But that’s where Dr. K swooped in to save the day. The doctor tells Jack about how he and his wife lost a child of their own way back when. We later learn that Jack is one of the only people outside of Dr. K’s family that has ever been told about this child. In his speech, Dr. K tells Jack that his family can come back from this. He tells Jack to take “the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turn it into something resembling lemonade.” The quote is repeated several times during the series and serves as a reminder that even in the darkest times, you can always find a silver lining.
6. Rebecca pulling up to the charred remains of her home
Season 2, Episode 1 – “A Father’s Advice”
Finally, we get to know how Jack Pearson died. Well, at least got part of the story. After an entire season of hinting at Jack’s death, season two of This Is Us opened with the first suggestion of how it happened. It was presumably a fire that killed Jack. By this point on the show, we know Jack is struggling with his drinking and he admits to his wife that it has gotten out of control. Let in the episode when she pulls up to the ashy remnants of their family home, we see Rebecca sobbing – as we all sob from our couches, of course – as she grabs a plastic bag on the seat next to her that’s filled with Jack’s possessions.
5. The heartfelt apology Jack gives after ruining Rebecca’s first night on tour
Season 1, Episode 18 – “Moonshadow”
This is the big fight that Jack and Rebecca get in. After he relapses into his drinking, a wasted Jack punches the band member that Rebecca briefly dated. Rebecca has to leave before the first show of her tour to take Jack home. After all is said and done, he gives a heartfelt speech to apologize to Rebecca. We see the night that Jack and Rebecca first met, and how he knew that she was the one. He reminds her that she is his great love story and his big break. The moment is heartbreaking because, by this point, we know Jack is going to die soon, and tragically. Milo Ventimiglia proves just how damn good he is in this scene and his chemistry with Mandy Moore is off the charts.
4. Jack giving Kevin his necklace/Kevin’s emotional breakdown
Season 2, Episode 8 – “Number One”
A vast majority of This Is Us focuses on the relationships that Jack had with his family. When it comes to his children, a lot of focus has been his daughter Kate and Randall. Kevin didn’t struggle outwardly as a child, so Jack didn’t need to swoop into his rescue. In a refreshing scene, we get to see a tender moment between Jack and Kevin in the hospital where the dad gives his son the pendant he received during the Vietnam war. In the present day, Kevin’s full-on breakdown is spurred by losing the necklace after a one-night-stand he orchestrated to get access to the woman’s prescription pad. Watching Kevin beg for help outside the woman’s house is the first clue that he’s finally willing to recover.
3. Kate and Toby losing their baby
Season 2, Episode 9 – “Number Two”
As if Kate hasn’t suffered enough loss in her life, she then loses her baby. In the episode before this one, a spiraling Kevin is told by Randall that lost her baby — so the viewers knew that it was coming. Not that it made it any easier. In “Number Two,” the episode focuses on Kate’s devastation. She takes it out on Toby, as is typical with pregnancy loss, but it also shows Kate bond with her mother in a way we’d never seen before. Their relationship was always tense, but Rebecca drops everything to be with her daughter when she finds out that Kate’s lost the baby. The whole episode is incredibly heartbreaking and you’ll probably shed a few tears from start to finish.
2. Jack’s last day
Season 2, Episode 13 – “That’ll Be The Day”
Question: how many times will This Is Us make us cry about Jack’s death? This is the episode that had people boycotting slow cookers. Jack’s last day isn’t a crazy event. Nothing intense really happens to Jack that day, aside from dying, obviously. As viewers, we know how important this day is. When the teenager Big Three ignore their dad or blow him off, we want to grab through through our TV screens and tell them, “this is important!” But isn’t that always how these kinds of things go? The one shining light in the dark is a nice moment that Kate and Jack share when she tells him never to stop trying to get her to see herself the way he sees her. We see Jack leave a letter for Kevin after a fight that says he loves him. Rebecca and Jack spend one last Superbowl together, just the two of them. Then, just to rip out our hearts and stop on them — we see the house go up in flames as the slow cooker malfunctions and turns back on. As had been hinted at in a previous episode, the fire alarm had been missing its batteries.
1. William’s death
Season 1, Episode 16 – “Memphis”
We don’t know if anything can ever top how sad this was, even Jack’s death. We spent the entire first season waiting for William to die. We knew it was coming, and still, once it did it completely ruined us. There were so many nuances to this guy, so many stories to tell. His love with Randall’s mother, their descent into addiction, his recovery, trying to connect with Randall as a child, living in poverty, being bisexual. There could’ve been a whole show about William alone.
But during Randall and William’s trip to Memphis together to relive William’s past, it’s time to say goodbye. The trip is cut short when William needs to go to the hospital. We realize then that William had no plans to return from his trip to Memphis, he knew he was going to die. Ron Cephas Jones literally destroys us all in his spot-on portrayal of William’s final moments. There is also no wonder why Sterling K. Brown won an Emmy and Golden Globe for his work on This Is Us after watching this scene.