We can confidently say that last night’s season 6 episode of This Is Us, titled “The Train,” was the most powerful one of the entire NBC drama—but not just because of Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) death.
Instead of focusing “The Train” solely around the Big Three and their families saying goodbye to a bedridden Rebecca at the Pearson family home, much of the episode shows what’s going on inside Rebecca’s mind during her final moments. There, a younger Rebecca, escorted by William (Ron Cephas Jones), travels through train cars and encounters several deceased characters, including Dr. K. (Gerald McRaney), Miguel (Jon Huertas), and, yes, even Jack (Milo Ventimiglia). When Rebecca gets to the caboose and lies on the bed inside the train car, she turns over to see Jack smiling back at her, signaling to viewers that she’s with him now.
All in all, the episode was a lot to take in. But despite everything else going on, a lot of the fan conversation on social media last night revolved around the moment Miguel and Rebecca see each other on the train. Whereas Rebecca enjoys a full conversation with Dr. K. over a vesper and William escorts Rebecca from train car to train car throughout the entire episode, Rebecca runs into Miguel for just a brief moment. As Miguel tells the Pearson matriarch that she is his “favorite person,” Rebecca merely gives him a warm yet unsure smile and proceeds to walk to the next train car.
This brief encounter did not sit well with some viewers, who believe the Pearson stepdad deserved more airtime. “Miguel being kicked out of the picture was so…insulting, honestly. He was Rebecca’s literal husband? We got a whole monologue from Dr. K., Rebecca’s one-time doctor and just a few lines from her HUSBAND,” one fan complained on Reddit. “My heart is still broken for Miguel. Up until the end, Rebecca was his whole world, but in her dying moments, he was just a blip in her world 😭,” another said.
From the outside, it would seem that Rebecca gave Miguel a bit of a cold shoulder on the train. But one fan on Reddit, @Cecelle99, is getting a lot of attention for their alternative take on the controversial Miguel-Rebecca encounter. In full, their commentary reads:
“I feel like a lot of people are missing the fact that all of this was going on inside Rebecca’s head, in the mind of someone with Alzheimer’s. In a way, she’s her own unreliable narrator, and her recollection of the last few years of her life is unfortunately nonexistent. She’s not the late-70s-aged version of herself; she’s Rebecca at her prime. All of the people she sees actually manifest as they would have been at that time. Of course Miguel gets short shrift—he was only ever Jack’s friend in the time frame in which she sees herself. The big three appear as adults, but her flash of recognition seems more palpable when she sees them as children and young adults. William symbolizes the confusion and self-flagellation that came with keeping secrets from Randall, and in her last moments, he (and the doctor) permits her to forgive herself for her life’s mistakes. I think this was incredibly well handled. I’m not sure if people really were expecting the metaphorical ‘life flashing before her eyes,’ because what they got was something significant and profound: a woman, at the end of her life, forgiving herself and being forgiven.”
We dare you to read that last sentence one more time and not cry. But seriously, though, the Reddit user brings up an excellent point: If Rebecca is remembering herself at a much younger stage of her life, it’s no wonder she spends so much time with William and Dr. K. and why there’s only one person in the caboose—Jack. It also explains why she sees Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), Randall (Sterling K. Brown), Kevin (Justin Hartley), Kate (Chrissy Metz), and Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) as children and teens on the train.
Heartbreaking stuff right there. To be honest, we’re surprised last night’s episode wasn’t the series finale. How are they ever going to top “The Train” next week? It’s going to be tough, that’s for sure.
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