This Is Us: our expectations for the Season 2 finale

Deep in the heart This Is Us stars Milo Ventimiglia Mandy Moore and Justin Hartley reunited at the Deadline Studio during day four of the South by Southwest Festival in Austin on Monday

This Is Us: our expectations for the Season 2 finale

But in classic "This Is Us" fashion, that happiness won't come entirely without some new twists. Jack isn't going anywhere, so it's time to stop mourning his death and celebrate all those moments to come that he'll still be a part of. Kate had a monumental breakthrough in regards to her relationship with her father, while Kevin showed surprising maturity in his speech at the wedding reception, which proved cathartic for the cast and the viewers.

So, how did Kate envision the Pearsons' "What if" reality had Jack not died?

Footage from a 40th wedding anniversary celebration for Rebecca and Jack - an event that turned out to be a dream Kate kept having - was threaded throughout the episode, a tease of how lovely things might have been in some parallel, Lost-ian flash sideways world. During the vow renewals, Jack is about as flawless as you could imagine, telling his wife just how lucky he is to have her by his side as partners in Big Three Homes, the construction company he once dreamed of opening. That feeling of you next to me. Deja has every right to be angry, but Randall and Beth are putting a roof over her head.

The tension between Kate and Rebecca has been a major component of This Is Us Season 2. If Zoe is half as tough and loving as Beth, she is exactly the kind of person that Kevin needs to keep him focus and get his life on track.

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"We're at the cabin, at a wedding, but it's not me and Toby, it's you and Dad and you're renewing your vows". They're gathering their dad's stuff and will let her pick what she wants. It was really layered, and it was really wonderful and a lot of fun to have all of us together. "You know, the way it was supposed to be".

"Weddings can be really emotional".

This Is Us hinted at Jack's time in Vietnam back in season one, the Pearson patriarch has always been reserved both about his experiences during the war and his childhood.

"I think we've all been holding our breath for a long time". The closing moments of the episode offered us some tantalizing glimpses ahead in time, and in one of those timelines we saw Kevin and Zoe on a plane headed to Vietnam. "I've gotta make room for Toby", she told his urn before dumping his remaining ashes at a tree the two of them shared near the cabin.

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Admittedly, the show's reputation for tugging at the heartstrings is well earned, and there was more than a little manipulation in juxtaposing preparation for the wedding of Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) with gauzy images of what might have been had Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) lived. His mom mentioned that she found him at home, under the covers, in the middle of the work day during his divorce, and this feels similar, minus the divorce. And Randall and Kevin rush to Artisanal Scoops, where they've just missed Kate, and stay on her tail. Jack's response is about as heartwarming as one can get, but also heartbreaking, because he's unable to fulfill his promise to his only daughter. Will the couple even make it to the "I do's?" Rebecca is and has been an amazingly strong and powerful woman, and that's been something Kate has felt inadequate against. "I think there's a lot of interesting things that they have cooking up".

It's up to Randall and Kevin - the designated wedding planners - to get things back on track. From the prep to the hours leading up to "I do", everyone was four seconds away from bursting into tears for different reasons.

But because it is This Is Us, we can't expect everything to go smoothly. She was preparing herself for her wedding, and in a moment of clarity over the ice cream shop that was no longer, Kate realized that Jack was her everything in the past, but he can't carry that role into her future.

Reacting to the old Jack and Rebecca scenes, Mandy Moore called their finale moments "a handsome way to punctuate the end of this season". "It sort of makes you wistful for what could have been", she explained. Tell us your thoughts by tweeting your thoughts to @etnow!

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This Is Us will return this fall on NBC.

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