Examining ‘This Is Us’ fan theories about how Jack Pearson died

What will “This Is Us” become once we know what really caused Jack’s demise?

Warning: “This Is Us” season 2 spoilers ahead. 

Now halfway through its second season, “This Is Us” continues to leave us wondering if we’ve uncovered another bit of the tragic night that Jack Pearson died. 

Needless to say, the emotional family drama, starring Milo Ventimiglia as the patriarch, has us hooked. But one can’t help but wonder, what will “This Is Us” become once we know what really caused Jack’s seemingly tragic demise? 

For now, fans are still wrapping their brains and hearts around the several possibilities behind that fateful night. Below, we explain eight top fan theories and examine whether they’re plausible.

1. Faulty fuse box burns down the Pearson family home

If you’ve made it past the mid-season finale, you know the second season of the drama has focused heavily on the night Kevin injured his knee during a crucial high school football game. At first, you may have wondered why we weren’t moving forward in time, but instead seeing the night from each of the Big Three kids’ perspectives. The answer might have something to do with a major clue behind the cause of Jack’s death. It was subtle — so subtle that you may have missed it through the stench of Kevin’s rotten teenage attitude. In each episode, we heard Rebecca talk about electrical troubles. When the house goes black, Jack heads to the fuse box with a flashlight in hand to turn the power back on. It remains unclear if the faulty fuse box actually causes an electrical fire in the house, but for now, it has our attention. 

An episode that aired Tuesday, Jan. 16, titled “Clooney” added another layer of tension to the house fire theory: The smoke detector in the Pearsons’ family home apparently was disconnected sometime before the fire. In a flashback scene that ended the episode, we see Rebecca tell Jack to remind her to buy batteries. 

“It’s so easy to make a simple mistake. Of course, looking back, we all know what that leads to, but life is hectic. Sometimes you forget to get batteries,” Isaac Aptaker, the show’s  executive producer told Entertainment Weekly. 

Debunking the theory: While “This Is Us” fans probably wish they could call an electrician and solve the Pearsons’ electrical problems, this theory is totally plausible. 

2. Jack dies saving Kate from the house fire

One of the biggest clues into Jack’s death is how Kate dealt with his passing. One Reddit user predicted there’d be a house fire eight months ago, delving into the idea that Jack dies while trying to rescue his daughter. This could explain why Kate blames herself for his death, why she has possession of her father’s urn and why her relationship with her mother, Rebecca, is still rocky. “Not that Rebecca would directly blame her, but maybe Kate was feeling guilty and distanced herself from Rebecca,” skeeter_ABQ wrote on the thread. In the second season opener, we do in fact see Rebecca drive by the Pearson home in tears as firefighters extinguish flames. Jack is nowhere to be found and a bag of his belongings lead us to believe we’re seeing scenes from the night he died.

Debunking the theory: Would creator Dan Fogelman really make it that easy on us? While the fire scene was flooded with clues, it’s not clear what they all add up to. Ventimiglia told Entertainment Weekly the crew isn’t into “misleading” people, but that “nothing is as it seems on this show.” Problems with the scene aside — including Jack’s seemingly untethered belongings — Ventimiglia did say “the burned-down house and a wailing Rebecca is definitely an indication of what happened possibly that night.” Definitely, possibly? OK, Milo.

3. The firefighter who rescued Randall in the pilot can’t save Jack from the fire

If Jack does die in the fire, some Redditors are convinced that the fireman who brought Randall to the hospital the day the Big Three were born will respond to the Pearsons’ family tragedy and rescue the family’s adopted son once again. “They already established the idea of intertwining destinies with Dr. K [in the pilot],” malhavoc430 wrote. Coming full circle like this would tug at the heartstrings (which we all know “This Is Us” loves to do) and stay true to the whole “everything happens for a reason” mentality.

Debunking the theory: This theory leaves much to be answered. What started the fire? How does Kate tie in? Why wasn’t Rebecca home? Is the firefighter really still on duty? Plus, in the montage at the end of “A Father’s Advice,” we see Miguel comforting a heartbroken Kate and Randall at his home, not at the hospital where their stories began.

4. He crashes while driving drunk

The first season led us to believe Jack’s alcohol addiction caused his death. As we get closer to what we can assume is the end of his life, he’s back in AA and facing his demons once again. Some fans aren’t ready to give up their belief that Jack’s involvement in a crash takes his life just because of a fiery montage. We’ve seen him get behind the wheel drunk before. Who’s to say he doesn’t do it again?

Debunking the theory: We see Rebecca driving the undamaged family car dressed in her Steelers jersey with a bag of Jack’s belongings at the end of “A Father’s Advice.”

5. He’s hit by a drunken driver

It would be heartbreaking if Jack died at the hands of a drunken driver after getting sober, but that’s just the type of storyline “This Is Us” needs to keep its rep. If Jack were, say walking home from an AA meeting and hit by a car, it would explain why his belongings weren’t damaged.

Debunking the theory: “This Is Us” loves to drop clues. This is one theory that hasn’t been teased, making it less likely to actually occur.

6. He died in a plane crash

Some fans are convinced Jack’s death is the root of Kate’s fear of flying. If he died during a crash, it’d be pretty reasonable for the aspiring singer to want to stay put. Plus, we know Kevin throws out all of his toy planes and boats after the incident. Social media users are posing the possibility that Jack dies in a real-life plane crash, and have connected it to the 1994 USAir 427 jet crash that left all 132 passengers dead.

Debunking the theory: So far, the plot leaves us no real evidence to back up why Jack would be headed on that USAir flight in the first place. Not to mention the date of the crash (Sept. 8, 1994) would make the Big Three 14 years old. All clues so far point to the “triplets” being slightly older than that at the time of their father’s death.   

7. Miguel kills him 

Imagine: You’re watching “This Is Us,” tissues in hand, ready to experience all the feels, and then Miguel is spotted with an evil glimmer in his eye and you just know he’s out for blood. If “This Is Us” does decide to go this route, we’re sure Fogelman will find a way to work it into the script without straying so far off genre. Fans who think Jack’s longtime friend murders him to sneak a spot into the Pearson family are probably still hooked on the fact that we’ve been given zero back story into how Rebecca and Miguel end up together. Ventimiglia called this fan theory his favorite at the ATX TV Festival in Austin, Texas, last June.

Debunking the theory: This isn’t a thriller. This is a family drama. While it would be super dramatic to watch Miguel take on that role, we’re not holding out hope it’ll ever happen. Jon Huertas, who plays the character, told Entertainment Tonight you shouldn’t either. “What kind of show are you watching? This isn’t a murder mystery!” Still, how, when and why does Miguel end up with Rebecca? 

8. The “best washing machine in the whole world” is to blame

Fogelman hasn’t confirmed if the fire is actually the cause of Jack’s death, but he did tell Entertainment Weekly the cause of the blaze would be “heartbreaking.” Reddit user ashelizabethmoon took this clue (if you can even call it that) and connected it back to that first season episode about Jack and Rebecca’s washing machine. “At the end of Season 1, Episode 7 “The Best Washing Machine in the World,” Kevin — who had just moved to the basement because he didn’t want to share a room with Randall anymore — yells for Rebecca, screaming that the washing machine is possessed (signaling that it is not working properly),” the user explains, adding that if it was never fixed, it could have reasonably caught fire in the home.

Debunking the theory: Ashelizabethmoon’s suggestion isn’t far-fetched. How that could reasonably put only Jack in danger, though, hasn’t been explained.

New episodes of “This Is Us” air Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.

AMNY Newsletter

Eat it. Drink it. Do it. Tackle the city, with our help.