If you have questions after watching the “This Is Us” season three premiere, you’re not alone.
In the show’s typical fashion, the season opener planted plenty of seeds for the season to come and provided a tiny new clue to the question fans have been asking since the end of Season 2: Who is ’her’?
Where is Kate?
For those who don’t recall, the previous season’s finale flashed forward into the future, showing viewers a much older Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and an adult version of his daughter, Tess (Iantha Richardson).
“It’s time to go see her, Tess,” older Randall morosely told his daughter in the episode. (The character is best known to viewers as played by 13-year-old Eris Baker.)
“I’m not ready,” she replied.
“Me neither,” he said.
In the season premiere, this moment is revisited, but this time, Randall also calls an aged Toby (Chris Sullivan), who is seen sitting on half of a bed that doesn’t appear to have anyone occupying the other side.
“It’s time to come down,” Randall tells his brother-in-law.
“I’m not coming, she doesn’t want to see me,” Toby responds, presumably referring to the same “her” Randall and his daughter are going to see.
“No, she wants to see you,” Randall replies.
The scene was clearly designed to make viewers wonder if Kate is person at the center of the seemingly somber visits, or at the very least wonder about Kate’s whereabouts in the future.
Are Kate and Toby together? Are they broken up? Has something bad happened her? Is she just in the next room?
Chrissy Metz wondered all the same things upon reading the script and immediately sent panicked text messages to both Sullivan and creator Dan Fogelman.
“I was like, ‘Um, Dan Fogelman. What’s going on?’ And he told me and, um, whoo, you’re not ready,” she told CNN after a premiere screening in Los Angeles. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to bring any more anxiety to your life, but um, it’s yeah. It’s going to be good.”
Sullivan told CNN that the scene of himself alone in bed was filmed “in a couple of different ways” and “I was interested to see the one [was] used.”
The Season 3 premiere also followed the ongoing storyline about Kate and Toby’s quest to have a child. At the end of the episode, after they are approved for IVF, Toby decides to stop taking his anti-depressants without telling his wife, in hopes of increasing his sperm count.
That choice will lead Toby down a dark path. Episode 5 will heavily feature the character’s backstory, and, one can assume, in some way relate to his present-day turmoil.
“You should absolutely not go off your medication without consulting your doctor,” Sullivan said. “I imagine we will find out in the next few episodes that that is, in fact, the case.”
As to the identity of the mysterious “her,” Mandy Moore, who knows the character’s identity, says she expects fans to be “satisfied” with the answer.
“In typical ‘This Is Us’ fashion – it’s part beautiful, part tragic,” she said. “It’s everything all in one.”
Co-showrunner Elizabeth Berger assures unlike the mystery about the cause of Jack’s death, which stretched over two seasons, the question of the identity of ‘her’ will be answered this season.
“I think this season is much less about a looming mystery and much more about the story taking place in the present day,” she said. “So I think it’s going to feel very different than the ‘How did he die?’ mystery, which kind of took on a life of its own.”
What else comes next
Mysteries aside, the premiere set up other storylines to come this season, including a major Vietnam-set arc for Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Kevin (Justin Hartley), set in two different timelines. For Jack, it will be a “deep dive” into his origin story and history, according to co-showrunner Isaac Aptaker .
For Kevin, it will be about better understanding the father with whom he didn’t have enough time.
“I think that’s such an important question – for people to sort of look back in their past and figure out what formed their parents, because their parents formed who they were,” Aptaker said. “So much of the show is about the way we all affect the next generation. Approaching it from the lens of a guy looking back at his dad’s history was a really ‘This Is Us’ way to do it.”
Though some shooting has taken place on a set in Los Angeles, the show plans to take production (particularly three main actors and some crew) to Vietnam for one week.
Production will be based in Ho Chi Minh City, but also take place outside the city “to really capture the scope of the country,” Aptaker said.
“The Things They Carried” author Tim O’Brien was brought on as a consultant for the season to help the writers craft the arc and will co-write two episodes.
One major question that remains about the new season is exactly what awaits the character played by Emmy-winner Sterling K. Brown.
Fogelman was cagey about Randall’s arc in a post-screening Q&A in front of an audience, saying only that it the character’s plotline will head “in a surprising direction.”
Brown added: “I think Randall is always concerned about human dignity and the equitable treatment of humanity, and I think that’s one of the things that you find him exploring this year throughout the course of the season.”