Why This Is Us Is Losing A Key Character For Season 4

this is us season 3 cast nbc
(Image credit: NBC)

Spoilers ahead for the Season 3 finale of This Is Us on NBC, called "Her."

It didn't take long for This Is Us to become known for delivering doozies of emotional plot twists, and the Season 3 finale didn't disappoint. The episode revealed that the "Her" referred to in the flash-forwards has indeed been Rebecca, who seems to be suffering from some kind of memory-related ailment. In the flash-forwards, Randall and Beth didn't break up, despite all of the melodrama surrounding them in the third season. Kate and Toby's son Jack is all grown up, and Kevin has a son, but not with Zoe.

Yes, sadly for fans of Kevin's romance with Zoe throughout Season 3, the two broke up in the finale. It was an unfortunate but understandable twist that didn't paint either character in an especially bad light, which is not something that is usually true for TV breakups. They had a conversation about the future, and it became clear that while Kevin saw a future as a father, Zoe did not want kids.

These two crazy kids may love each other, but a relationship simply wouldn't be sustainable if they didn't agree on something as huge as whether or not to have children. So, thus ended the romance of Kevin and Zoe. Given that Melanie Liburd was a series regular, even if she was not technically a member of the Pearson family by blood or marriage, it stood to reason that she might stick around for Season 4, even without the romance with Kevin.

According to This Is Us executive producer Isaac Aptaker, however, that will not be the case. Melanie Liburd will not be a regular for Season 4, and this is how Aptaker described the decision to TVLine:

We don’t want to hold on to her and then not have the real estate for her. She’s an amazing actress and she has a ton of opportunities… We don’t want to stop her from [getting another full-time gig].

If This Is Us kept Melanie Liburd on the line as a regular without actually having material worthy of her, then it might have been a waste of Liburd's time and talents. While some viewers will undoubtedly be bummed to see the show move on without Zoe on a full-time basis, we can hope that the decision to cut Liburd loose will result in the actress landing new and exciting roles. Perhaps even lead roles! This Is Us did prove that she has a wide range as an actress.

Honestly, I'm just glad the show didn't do Zoe a disservice in the process of writing her (and Melanie Liburd) out. Zoe didn't do anything wrong or objectionable; she just doesn't want kids, and the issue of having kids isn't really something that can be compromised on. You have them or you don't. The flash-forward does reveal that Zoe never comes around and decides she wants to have kids with Kevin. Kevin's young son is not also Zoe's.

Melanie Liburd this is us zoe nbc

(Image credit: NBC)

Also, since Zoe left without leaving tons of bad blood in her wake, there's always the possibility that she could return. Melanie Liburd could return for a guest shot or perhaps arc, right? She's still Beth's cousin, and she is a member of the family in her own way. Zoe was good for Kevin, and surely it would be enjoyable for fans to see her again in the future.

The executive producers weighed in on whether there's a future for Zoe on This Is Us as well:

Isaac Aptaker: Whenever there are opportunities for Zoe to come back — which [would be] pretty organic because she touches on Kevin’s life as well as, of course, Beth and Randall’s life — we’re eager to have her back… We love Melanie so much. She’s a friend of the show and she did an amazing job for us; we love her both as an actor and as a person.Elizabeth Berger: She is a Pearson family member and we love her, so I think it’s safe to say you will be seeing her again.

Not many details about what's to come are available just yet, as This Is Us technically has not yet received the official renewal for Season 4. That said, the Season 3 finale set the stage for the next era of the extended Pearson family's adventures. Some are disappointed by the handling of Beth and Randall's storyline (and possibly still mad at Randall), and the pressure is on for the show to pick up and deliver something better than ever in Season 4, assuming that it happens. What about more Nicky?

Well, one of the storylines that the producers would tease in a chat with TVLine is what's going to happen with Kevin. Isaac Aptaker hinted what's in store like this:

It really speaks to Kevin’s story over the last few episodes in deciding what he wants his relationship to be like with Zoe. This is a guy who hasn’t had to make a lot of hard choices and hasn’t really thought that much about his life big picture-[wise] because things have come so easily to him. And it’s always just worked out. And now here he is being told by the woman he loves, 'You need to decide what’s important to you and what the next 20 years look like because I know what I want — and it does not involve children.' That [breakup] is really crystalizing for Kevin that he really is pretty close to entering his forties and he needs to start making some decisions about what he wants out of his life.

Kevin is a little old to be a character that needs to grow up, but Kevin also hasn't lived a normal life. Will realizing that he wants kids clarify his vision for the future, and perhaps keep him from falling off the wagon again? He already had what should have been some significant wake-up calls in Season 3. Maybe Season 4 will show how those calls motivated him to change. He's not getting any younger!

We'll have to wait and see. Hopefully news of the renewal releases sooner rather than later. For now, you can find some viewing options now that This Is Us is done for the season on our midseason TV premiere schedule.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).