Well, I’ll say it. Last night was not at all the episode I was expecting. And thank goodness for it. I feigned emotional stability when I sat down on the couch and turned the season finale of This Is Us on, but the truth is, I wasn’t ready to see Jack’s death unfold on the screen. I was unprepared for the pain that my heart would feel. I was full of relief and gratitude that the season finale was what it was. In fact, I don’t think it could have been better. How fitting to have the finale focus around Jack and Rebecca–where the Pearson story begins. I loved the focus on their relationship. Though not the happy and romantic love story we know and look forward to watching each week, it brought us back to the beginning.

At the end, Jack tells Rebecca that this bump in the road along their journey is only that…a bump. And he tells her that this…this…is actually the beginning of their love story. I may not have bawled during this episode, but that’s the moment tears welled up.

Throughout the season, I’ve struggled with Rebecca. I respect her character as a mother, but I struggle. I want to like her. I want to be on her side. I want to be on Team Rebecca. As a mom, an adoptive mom, an adoptive mom with black children…as a wife and a woman…I want to be loyal to her and empathize with her experiences and attitudes. And come on! It’s Mandy Moore! I’m basically telling Rapunzel that I just don’t like her all that much. I mean…that’s low. I’ve had my moments: moments when I loved her, moments when I felt I was standing in her shoes. But those endearing feelings never lasted. Last night, I realized one of the big reasons I’ve struggled so much is because I love Jack so much! My loyalties are with him. That surprised me, actually. Seeing him last night drunk and impulsive was enlightening. I came down off of my cloud and realized that Jack. Is. Normal. He’s romantic and selfless, kind and passionate, an incredible husband and father. He is all those things. But he’s also mean and careless. In some ways, it made him way more endearing. And in others, it helped me see Rebecca for who she is.

I’ve been Rebecca. Many mothers have been Rebecca. Luckily I’ve never experienced a yelling match with my own husband like the one we saw between Jack and Rebecca. That was intense. I’d have to watch that scene again, but the words Jack said hurt my heart. I felt real pain for Rebecca as he screamed and implied that her singing was a joke. Even if that’s not what he meant, it’s definitely what she heard. While Rebecca yelled about feeling unfulfilled. So many mothers feel this way. They love their families and certainly adore their children, but we are now seeing more and more women getting out of the house to try to remember who they are beyond motherhood. In the past year, I’ve seen countless Facebook posts of my friends doing Girls’ Night in an art studio where they paint together! Haven’t you? There is a need for women to remember that they have the capacity to create something beautiful that is beyond their family. And I believe when in balance, it actually makes them better mothers. And here, Rebecca is trying to balance her passions–the love for her husband, her children, and her art. I felt for her and I was really sad. How many times does my own husband tell me he supports something I want to do while biting his tongue? I think often. And I so appreciate it.

I’m grateful for how this finale is really a beginning. It brought us back to when they first met to see where the flame between them was ignited. My fear is that we are beginning to see the beginning of that flame going out. I hope not. I hope we see and learn from these two characters that there is always hope; that no matter what challenges there are to endure, that love, sacrifice, and work keep a good thing going. We have a few months to catch our breath, but I eagerly anticipate season two.

What did you love about last night’s finale? And how are you hoping they start season two, episode one? Season two is set to premiere in the fall.