Why ‘This Is Us’ Fans Are ‘Hella Confused’ With Timelines in Season 4

This Is Us has introduced multiple timelines throughout its successful run. The first season alternated easy-to-follow present-day scenes of the “Big Three” with flashbacks of their childhood with Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore). [Season 4 spoilers ahead!]

Subsequent seasons are ambitious, leaving fans to wonder what year is what. The fall finale added yet another layer to an already complex show and the math is hard. Here’s where things stand.

‘This Is Us’ began with a major time-jump

'This Is Us' Season 4
Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Faithe Herman as Annie, Lyric Ross as Deja, Eris Baker as Tess on ‘This Is Us’ | Mitchell Haddad/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Since This Is Us doesn’t rely on dates to guide you, Keeping track of Jack and Rebecca, before their three kids (the “Big Three”) and as they grow into their teens, can be tough. If you add the lives of those children well into adult-hood mixed with flash-forwards and way-back jumps, you’re bound to feel a little lost at times.

The premise of This Is Us began as Jack and Rebecca’s journey, their lives leading up to meeting each other, and the ways their lives changed once together.

The big reveal at the end of the pilot episode, which juxtaposed Jack and Rebecca as she gave birth, with her present-day adult children. The moment viewers put it all together, the magic of the show was born. However, that doesn’t make it any easier to figure out at times.

Fans are still talking about that Season 3 flash-forward

Season 3 ended with a surprising flash-forward revelation about Rebecca’s final days. While the year isn’t exactly clear, PopSugar¬†thinks Rebecca’s end is around 2034. The episode revealed Kevin (Justin Hartley) with a son, a greying Randall (Sterling K. Brown), and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), a grown Tess (Iantha Richardson), and a Kate-less Toby (Chris Sullivan).

The year is calculated through Tess’s age. She’s 10 in the present-day when Randall tells her she’ll “still be having dinner with him when she’s 25,” which would suggest the flash-forward is 15 years later, in 2034. Does your brain hurt as much as ours?

If the math adds up, the “Big Three” are 53 years old when they say goodbye to Rebecca, which is the same age Jack was when he died. We’re not crying, you’re crying.

The season 4 premiere of ‘This Is Us’ set the tone for a more complicated timeline

While Toby and Kate (Chrissy Metz) learn of baby Jack’s visual impairment, Jennifer Morrison’s war veteran character, Cassidy, intermingles with adult Uncle Nicky (Griffin Dunne). Also, Asante Blackk’s Malik is interested in Deja (Lyric Ross) after Randall, Beth, and the kids move to Philidelphia.

The big reveal at the end of the season 4 premiere showed present-day baby Jack as an adult (Blake Stadnik) who falls in love. Those scenes indicate another push into the future.

Series creator, Dan Fogelman told Entertainment Tonight that Rebecca’s season 3 flash-forward is around 12 years after baby Jack is born. That makes him a preteen when Rebecca’s dying, indicating adult Jack’s storyline is a lot farther in the future than the show has yet to go.

“What you’re seeing is about 10 years-plus after that,” he revealed.”When we talk about the endgame of that storyline that’s already been established with ‘her,’ it’s kind of where this story for our Pearson family — the immediate family of the Big 3 — and the family heads toward,” Fogelman said, “but it doesn’t mean it’s the endgame in terms of timelines.”

Now that we’ve established a baseline for the This Is Us timeline, let’s get wild. [Season 4 spoilers ahead!]

The ‘This Is Us’ fall finale introduced a new timeline

Everyone who caught the fall finale is likely still scratching their heads about what just happened. The end of the episode showed Rebecca nine months in the future, riding to the cabin with a police escort.

When she arrived, it’s Kevin’s 40th birthday. Kate is present without Toby, Kevin and Randall aren’t on speaking terms, and Kevin has a mysterious pregnant fiance, sight unseen.

What could possibly happen between Thanksgiving in the present-day, and nine months in the future to allow all of that?

Fans just want to keep it all straight

With all the math involved in keeping the timelines straight, fans have taken to Twitter to sound off. “I’m hella confused with this Rebecca timeline #ThisIsUs,” one fan wrote.

“How old is the big 3 in this main timeline???? WHYYYY CAN’T I REMEMBER?!?! How long until the turn 40?!?! AHHHH #ThisIsUs,” another asked.

A third fan said what we all felt saying, “I really would have been ugly crying, if I hadn’t been so confused by the timeline #ThisIsUs.”

The official account of The Walking Dead even had trouble keeping up.

“#ThisIsUs is really out here doing emotional timeline gymnastics! I mean, um, walkers and brains and stuff…”

By the time This Is Us returns in January, maybe we’ll have it all figured out (just in time for writers to toss another timeline into the script).