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Here's what you need to know ahead of the 'This Is Us' series finale

NBC's groundbreaking drama concludes its six-season run Tuesday, May 24 at 9 p.m. ET.
Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
The cast of "This Is Us," winners of the award for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series, poses in the press room at the 25th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in Los Angeles.

INDIANAPOLIS — Sept. 20, 2016: NBC introduced a new drama for its fall lineup to premiere Tuesdays after "The Voice" results shows.

Six years and 106 episodes later, "This Is Us" is coming to a cathartic end.

Here's everything you need to know — including spoilers from past seasons — ahead of the series finale, which airs Tuesday, May 24 at 9 p.m. ET.

What is it about?

"This Is Us" follows the Pearson family across several decades. 

Initially — and coyly — advertised as a show about people who share the same birthday, audiences learn the twist at the end of the pilot episode: Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) is celebrating his 36th birthday in 1980 when his wife, Rebecca (Mandy Moore), goes into labor with triplets.

Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Ca’Ron Jaden Coleman as Randall, Isabella Rose Landau as Kate, Kaz Womack as Kevin in "This Is Us."

However, Rebecca loses one of the triplets at birth, with Kate and Kevin surviving. At the same time, a Black newborn is brought to the hospital by a fireman after his biological father abandoned him. Believing they were meant to have three children, the Pearsons adopt the baby, who they name Randall. 

Jump ahead to present day as the "Big Three" — Kate (Chrissy Metz), Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) — are celebrating their 36th birthdays.

What happened in the penultimate episode?

In the 17th episode of the sixth and final season, the Pearson family gathers as they prepare to say goodbye to matriarch Rebecca, as she is about to lose her battle with dementia.

Meanwhile, Rebecca envisions herself aboard a luxurious train, revisiting memorable figures from her past, led by Randall's father, William (Ron Cephas Jones).

"If you step back, you'll see that the end is not sad — it's just the start of the next, incredibly beautiful thing," William tells Rebecca, who is insistent on waiting for Kate to arrive to say her goodbye before entering the caboose.

At the end of the episode, Rebecca lies down on a bed next to her late husband, Jack, signifying her death in the real world.

"The goal of the ending was always to just sit with this family in the simplest of ways," creator Dan Fogelman told the Associated Press. "Where there's not that many questions left, and you can sit and enjoy almost the equivalent of found footage of a family, combined with a very meditative day."

In regards to a future film or spin-off, Moore told the AP, "I feel like the audience will be incredibly satisfied with how things are wrapped up."

How to watch

Fans have multiple ways to catch up on all six seasons of "This Is Us:"

What were the biggest moments in 'This Is Us?'

Flashbacks and flashforwards are prominent through "This Is Us" to show noteworthy moments in the Pearson's family history.

Here are 10 significant standouts from six seasons of jaw-dropping and tear-inducing moments:

  • Jack dies from a heart attack after a house fire when his kids are 17 years old.
  • Rebecca marries Jack's best friend, Miguel (Jon Huertas), after his death.
  • Jack's brother, Nicky (Michael Angarano and Griffin Dunne in separate timelines), is alive after telling his wife and kids that he died while fighting in the war.
  • Rebecca learns she has Alzheimer's.
  • Kate and Toby (Chris Sullivan) get divorced.
  • Randall's birth mother (Jennifer C. Holmes) survives the overdose that William thought killed her.
  • Jack's struggles with alcoholism nearly caused Rebecca and he to separate.
  • Randall and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) adopt Deja (Lyric Ross), who has been in and out of the foster care system.
  • Kate and Toby's son, Jack (Johnny Kincaid and Blake Stadnik in separate timelines), is blind and becomes a successful singer as an adult.
  • It was always Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) for Kevin.

Accolades for 'This Is Us'

"This Is Us" has been nominated for 38 Primetime Emmy Awards for its first five seasons, with Brown winning Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 2017. Ventimiglia, Moore and Sullivan have also been nominated for Emmys for their performances. The show itself was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series for four of its first five seasons.

The NBC drama has been nominated for six Golden Globe Awards, with Brown winning in 2018.

At the Screen Actors Guild Awards, "This Is Us" won Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series in 2018 and 2019.

Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
The cast of "This Is Us," winners of the award for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series, poses in the press room at the 25th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in Los Angeles.

What has the cast said about the finale?

Cast members have been sharing their final thoughts on social media ahead of Tuesday's series finale. Here's what they said:

"…and with that, we swing into our final episode of #ThisIsUs. The series finale, Tuesday 5/24," Moore tweeted Wednesday.

"Just a small sample of the hard workin folks closing out the last few weeks of @NBCThisisUs Season 6. Last scene in Rebecca + Jacks bedroom….ever. Love this group and more. MV," Ventimiglia tweeted April 13.

"One unforgettable goodbye. Fam, it’s been an incredible journey! 6 seasons & 106 episodes later, we’re at the end…which means it’s time to start over & relive it all over again! Jokes aside, it’s been a dream to be your Randall. Big 3 #ThisIsUs," Brown tweeted Wednesday.

"Next week we say goodbye…until next time, thank you! #ThisIsUs," Hartley tweeted Wednesday.

"Six years and countless tears. The series finale of the show that changed us all.  @NBCThisisUs #thisisusfinalchapter," Metz tweeted Wednesday.

"Me watching the final 'On the Next #ThisIsUs' preview…  Let the emotions flow!" Watson tweeted Wednesday.

"Six years. Six seasons. The stories don’t all end here, even if the show is coming to close. Enjoy sending The Pearsons off in style. The final episode, next week. #thisisus #thiswasus," Sullivan tweeted Wednesday.

What's next for the cast?

As the saying goes, when one door closes, another opens. Here's where you can see the principal cast in the near future: 

Credit: Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP
Milo Ventimiglia, from front row left, Mandy Moore, showrunner/executive producer Dan Fogelman, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz and Justin Hartley, and from back row left, Chris Sullivan, Susan Kelechi Watson and Ron Cephas Jones participate in the "This Is Us" panel during the NBC Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour at The Beverly Hilton hotel on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
  • Moore released her seventh studio album, titled "In Real Life," in May. She will be going on a 26-date tour across North America to promote the album. She does not have any upcoming performances in films or TV shows at this time.
  • Ventimiglia has been cast in an ABC drama pilot called "The Company You Keep." A release date has not been set.
  • Brown stars in the dark comedy "Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul" alongside Regina Hall, which had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. The film will be released simultaneously in theaters and on Peacock Sept. 2.
  • Hartley can be seen in a supporting role in the Netflix comedy "Senior Year," starring Rebel Wilson. He will also star in an upcoming Netflix Christmas film, titled "The Noel Diary," set to be released later this year, as well as CBS drama series "The Never Game."
  • Metz does not have any acting projects lined up but told Us Weekly in 2021 that she is working on new music.
  • Watson does not have any upcoming film or TV roles at this time.
  • Sullivan, like Ventimiglia, is heading to ABC for a leading role in a comedy, titled "The Son in Law." The show will likely debut in 2023.

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