"If you think you know what's coming next, you don't know us." That's the promotional tagline for season four of NBC's This Is Us—an allusion to how intimately we already know the four generations of Pearsons, and a hint that there's even more that we don't know. And already, we've been introduced to a smorgasbord of new characters, from veteran Cassidy and young father Malik to Rebecca's steely (and scary) parents. And, of course, there's Jack, the man we've only known so far as a baby, who has grown up to be a very attractive young man (is that creepy? maybe?)—not to mention Jack's wife-to-be, the adorable, glowing Lucy.
So, now we know some of the characters who are going to populate season four of the wildly successful NBC drama, let's delve into some theories about what will happen to them, shall we?
Obviously, this has been a theory since the season three finale, when a disheveled-looking Toby shows up to visit with a dying Rebecca, alongside Randall, Beth, Kevin and Kevin's son, and a cleaned-up Nicky—and no Kate.
Posits one Reddit user: "I THINK KATE IS DEAD! I've watched season 3 finale again and I noticed that no one asks about Kate in the future scene. Toby isn't wearing his wedding ring when he speaks with Randall, and the "they" he is talking about must be Jack and his girlfriend. And we know Tobe is depressed in the future, as we saw in the last middle season. So, Kate, I'm so sorry, but you may be dead..."
The episode two focus on Kate's stress-eating could serve as more evidence. "do we think kates weight issues will ultimately be her demise?" a person wrote. "I dont know how i feel about that option." Even bleaker: "My theory is she has depression issues & commits suicide. It would help explain why Toby is so depressed in those flash forwards. I hope I'm wrong." (Oh, God, me too.)
This is a sad theory (well, not as sad as Kate dying, I suppose), but it may be that the stress of coping with a differently abled child is too much for their marriage. Per one Reddit user: "Toby and kate get divorced because toby stops helping as much as he promised with lil jack. toby's depression is already pretty terrible, even with medication, and the stress that some abled parents feel over having differently abled children is often too much to bear. i could see him slowly uninvolving himself because he's too worried about messing up, or he shuts down altogether."
The episode two reveal about Toby's secret workouts adds another layer to the mystery. "Weight loss can cause a lot of trouble in relationships and I feel like we are going to start seeing more of that," one person posted. The workouts may also be an indicator that Toby is sti battling mental health problems: "While I think working out can be a healthy outlet I’m just wondering if it is healthy for Toby or if it’s obsessive," another wrote. (And one theory I really, really hope isn't true: "my first thought was maybe he is having an affair.")
But maybe there's a simpler explanation: "I think he wants to get in shape for his son. He already had a heart attack," points out one person. And that, too, could be a Jack Sr. throwback: "I think it sort of mirrors Jack when he would sneak away to go boxing to try to stay sober and deal with stress," someone reminded us.
The big question (well, one of them): Who is Kevin's kid's mom? Whether she's in the picture or not—she certainly wasn't physically there in the most future-focused episode we've seen so far, the finale of season three, a.k.a. Rebecca's deathbed—we know for sure that Kevin has a son, and we know from AP biology that said son has to have had, at some point, a mother.
The introduction of Cassidy in season four suggests that it's most likely her—but Cassidy is already married, with a son herself, so it would be quite the journey to get her to the point where she's having Kevin's baby. So what if's Madison, Kate's once-annoying, now-hilarious friend? I mean, why else has Madison been such a big part of Kate's life all these years? (It certainly isn't because Kate's nice to her, put it that way.)
Though Kevin was rude as hell to Madison when Kate was in hospital for the birth of baby Jack—can anyone be nice to Madison?!—the two share a moment in episode two that might suggest they're being set up for a big storyline later on.
Malik's gentle, hard-worn dad is played by Omar Epps (of House fame, alongside recent cast addition Jennifer Morrison). Epps is a pretty big deal—which might in itself be a pretty big deal.
From another Reddit user: "While I can definitely see the importance of Malik’s storyline with Deja I am more interested in his dad. If he is just a supporting character to the story I do not think they would have cast a fairly well known actor like Omar Epps. I have feeling that he and Randall are either going to become close friends or rivals because of their upbringing. I see Randall thinking that Deja deserves better than a working class boy with a baby (parallel to Rebecca’s dad feelings about Jack) and Darnell calling Randall out because he could have just easily been him if his circumstances were different. The other idea I had relates to the other man Malik was talking to about doing something illegal. I could see Malik getting into trouble possibly being shot/ arrested for being black in America thus joining Darnell and Randall in protest of police work."
Someone else on the same Reddit thread backed them up: "Rebecca’s dad’s callousness towards Jack was meant to parallel Randall’s impending reaction toward Malik, I think. Which feels wrong since we all already love this kid, but then the drug dealing potential is also in there, soooo... it’s gonna be a wild ride."
I don't know about you, but I spent a while trying to count the generations of Pearsons (or whatever we should call this family) after the first episode wrapped up. By my count, we're at five generations, if you count Lucy's unborn child as a new generation. Or should I say...children?
A photo posted by on
Per Reddit: "I'm calling it now, Lucy and (Blonde)Jack are going to have triplets." (Also, a sadder point: "A slight downer about this episode is that 20+ years in the future, scientists will not have found a way to restore sight.")
Obviously, we know that Cassidy and Nicky are connected in some way, since they're seen in the same scene at the end of episode one (when Nicky breaks the window of Cassidy's AA meeting). It's not yet clear how they'll be connected, but we do know that Kevin ends up with a kid, so...
A photo posted by on
To quote Reddit: "I definitely think she will be Kevin’s new wife. They’ll meet when he goes to PA to bail Uncle Nicky out. There’s so many layers here... they can share the trauma of him losing his dad and her going to war. They can stay sober (hopefully) together. Yep I see it happening."
Another user plays devil's advocate: "Kevin's baby mama might be someone we have yet to meet. the show has gone so far as to introduce major characters in the middle of the season (we didn't even know jack had a little brother until season 2 episode 5). i could see her being involved with kevin because of his new film shoot this season, and i think getting married and having kids will force him to put his wants into perspective. kevin seems to be attracted to complicated, damaged women, and this complements his complicated, damaged history."
But this is a nice idea: "kevin running a vet center with nicky i’d love to see it."
Or is Cassidy related to Nicky? (I mean, why did Nicky throw the bottle through the window of her AA meeting, anyway? I get that he's mad, but that feels particularly erratic unless he was trying to get someone's attention?). Reddit is divided on this point.
"One theory is that she is his estranged daughter," wrote one person. Replied another: "I think there has to be! The eye contact they made at the end of their seen has to lead to something. Maybe he had a daughter and never knew? Idk but I was so happy to see some familiar faces. At first I was not having it." And then someone else chimed in: "I actually think her and Nicky fall in love.. she’s still pregnant and he helps raise the baby?"
It's intentionally left unclear what happened to Malik's daughter's mom. What is clear is that there's an immediate spark, or whatever the emotional heavyweight version of a spark is in This Is Us, between Malik and Deja. One person wrote sagely: "She will come back in time to make trouble for Malik and Deja," which feels likely. Another wrote: "In This Is Us fashion the baby mama probably died a tragic death." Yeah, I can see that one, too.
This is an interesting one. There's an aviation poster that shows up in both the past and present of Toby's life—over his bed, in his house with Kate, behind his future (depressed) self. Sure, maybe Toby just likes that poster, but what if it's an allusion to how Kate dies? In some kind of plane crash, maybe?
This post will be updated.
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Jenny is the Digital Director at Marie Claire. Originally from London, she moved to New York in 2012 to attend the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and never left. Prior to Marie Claire, she spent five years at Bustle building out its news and politics coverage. She loves, in order: her dog, goldfish crackers, and arguing about why umbrellas are fundamentally useless. Her first novel, EVERYONE WHO CAN FORGIVE ME IS DEAD, will be published by Minotaur Books on February 6, 2024.
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