Former teen star Mandy Moore is, at long last, finally getting the hype and acclaim that she’s always deserved (Picture: Rachel Luna/Getty Images)

This Is Us is coming to an end this week after six comforting and cathartic years – and former teen star Mandy Moore is, at long last, finally getting the hype and acclaim that she’s always deserved.

(Don’t panic – no spoilers ahead for the actual series finale, which isn’t out in the UK until May 26. But beware spoilers for the rest of season six.)

Remember the 2004 romcom Chasing Liberty?

Released two years after the legendary Walk To Remember, it followed Our Mandy as Anna Foster, daughter of the President of the United States, as she fell for a rebellious British lad without realising he was an undercover Secret Service agent on her dad’s payroll.

Reviews were generally harsh (18% on Rotten Tomatoes), but the worst part was the unjustified and occasionally misogynistic criticism aimed at the multi-talented multi-hyphenate who gave us such bops as Candy and I Wanna Be With You.

‘Moore’s lip-glossed petulance never catches fire with Goode’s canned drollery,’ moaned one critic; while another wrote: ‘Mandy Moore is a cute girl, but she’s not quite reaching the level she needs to as an actor.’

One writer simply scoffed: ‘What sad times we live in when a contemporary knockoff of Roman Holiday stars, in the place of the immortal Audrey Hepburn… Mandy Moore.’

How sanctimonious and condescending those critiques look now – not only because Moore was bloody great in Chasing Liberty, but because This Is Us has enabled her to prove beyond all doubt that she’s simply one of the very best actors in the business.

We’re with the Pearsons as they tackle everything life throws at them (Picture: Ron Batzdorff/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images )

As matriarch Rebecca Pearson, she has become the show’s beating heart; the one who ties all (well, most) of its different timelines together and delivers pitch-perfect performances regardless of the age of the character or the inconvenience of the prosthetics.

For those who have somehow missed the boat, it’s a sprawling epic of a comedy-drama that follows the Pearson family through multiple decades: from the moment Rebecca and her husband Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) have triplets in 1980, right up to her death in 2033 (though there are occasional visits to moments before and after that as well).

We’re with the Pearsons as they tackle everything life throws at them, most notably the sudden death of Jack in 1998. 

We see how Rebecca finds comfort and solidarity in his best friend Miguel (Jon Huertas), and the profound impact the loss has on the kids – including how Kevin (played as an adult by Justin Hartley) desperately tries to make Jack proud even after he’s gone. 

We follow Kate (Chrissy Metz) as she confronts her own body image and a difficult relationship with her mother; and Randall (Sterling K Brown) as he tries to connect with his identity and his roots, processing what it means to be a Black child adopted by a white family (he was taken in by Rebecca and Jack as a baby when one of their triplets was stillborn).

Emmy buzz for Moore is now fervent, and if her name isn’t listed among the nominees in July, fans may well take to the streets

Altogether, it’s a rich tapestry of interconnected, cross-generational stories, held together by powerful writing and a phenomenal cast (Brown in particular has deservedly won multiple awards).

But now, as we reach the final curtain, it’s Moore in particular who is finally getting her flowers.

Though the time-jumping nature of the storytelling has allowed Ventimiglia to continue starring long after Jack’s death played out, it is Moore who has indisputably become the captain of the whole ship. 

Kevin, Kate and Randall are played by different actors at different stages of their upbringing, but Moore is Rebecca in every time period (except, of course, the rare glimpses of her childhood) – and she totally aces it every time, so convincing in each moment that fans who weren’t familiar with her beforehand have had to Google how old she is in real life (she is actually younger than Hartley, Metz and Brown).

Whether playing the character as a bright-eyed wannabe singer, a recently-widowed mother struggling with three teenagers, or a woman in her later years succumbing to Alzheimer’s, she has been pitch perfect throughout; and last week’s emotional thunder-punch of a penultimate episode felt like a love letter to both character and actor.

As matriarch Rebecca Pearson, she has become the show’s beating heart (Picture: Ron Batzdorff/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

While Rebecca was taking her last breaths on her death bed, we were treated to a fantastical sequence on board a steam train. 

Whether it was taking place in Rebecca’s subconscious imagination or it was a genuine interpretation of what happens when one dies is up to the viewer – but whatever the case, it was beautifully devastating. 

With Ron Cephas Jones’ William (Randall’s birth father, who died in season one) as the conductor, Rebecca walked through the carriages; coming face-to-face with some of the people and mementos that made her life so quietly spectacular while her loved ones’ goodbyes back in ‘the real world’ played out over the speaker system.

It was an episode so special and so emotional that the actress herself had to warn fans she ‘threw up’ while reading the script. But it was utterly gorgeous, too (shout-out in particular to Beth’s goodbye; Randall may be the Pearson with the reputation for grand speeches but whew, Susan Kelechi Watson really played one heck of a blinder there). 

And as a result, Emmy buzz for Moore is now fervent, and if her name isn’t listed among the nominees in July, fans may well take to the streets.

She herself remains humble (‘I just hope that the show is invited to the party; that’s what I have my fingers crossed for,’ she told Forbes when asked if she has a speech prepared) – but this feels like a long-overdue moment of recognition for someone who has always been an enormous talent, and just needed the right project to really showcase it.

More: This Is Us

The likes of Chasing Liberty, Walk To Remember and License To Wed may be beloved by millions, and Tangled (in which she voiced Rapunzel) may be one of Disney’s most popular modern animations, but there’s always been a sense that she’s been under-appreciated; like she hasn’t had the prestige and respect she truly deserves.

Maybe it’s because straight-faced tastemakers didn’t take those teen-skewing movies seriously; or maybe the fact she was a pop star at the time of her breakthrough somehow pulled focus from her acting. But whatever the reason, that wrong has now been righted – and no-one is in any doubt that she’s a force to be reckoned with.

She gave This Is Us its heart, its grounding, its emotional centre – and in return, it made millions of people worldwide finally appreciate just how good she is.

Never mind Emmys – I can’t wait for her to win a full EGOT.

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