Her heart may have been in the right(ish) place, but Claire Warren ran for governor of Maine on a lie. No politician, no matter how powerful, can create the type of suburban utopia that she describes in her acceptance speech. No candidate can promise to keep any family safe, even her own. No leader has jurisdiction over “wanting what we shouldn’t want.” People will be monsters when they choose to be or when they simply run out of the willpower that keeps them from it.
There’s stiff competition for the creepiest scene in any given episode of The Family, but this week’s involves Ben watching Willa sleep and asking her about the Catholic sacrament of confession when she wakes. She lays out the basics once she’s recovered her breath: soul-baring, penance, absolution, in that order. A tried and true recipe for a clean conscience. “Does it work?” Ben asks curiously. “Not for everything,” Willa clarifies. Ben seems satisfied by that answer.
Detective Nina Meyer might keep getting knocked down whack-a-mole style (props to Claire for that cruel but accurate analogy) after every move she makes, but she’s been right a lot lately. And she knows she’s been right, no matter how much her doubters dig in their heels. So, eventually her luck’s gotta turn around and prove as much, right? Right.
Doug’s spanking new kid-dungeon finally has its first tenant on The Family. Fortunately for Red Pines and rest of the world, Agent Gabe Clements has not vacated either just yet. I’ve never been so happy to have eulogized a supposedly dead character way too soon. Though, I was pretty into the version of The Family that Clements’ possibly posthumous opening voiceover suggested: the one where a dead cop helps his trusty partner solve their last case from beyond the veil. Next season, maybe.
This episode of The Family, “Sweet Jane,” is named for the woman on this series whose presumed ignorance made us all more comfortable. But “Sweet Jane” was about all the women on this show — about the appalling things they willingly do and the soul-draining pacts that they make with themselves for the security of the people that they love. And for sweet, sweet control. That too.
More answers fall into place in this episode of The Family. In fact, “All the Livelong Day” would have made a nice season finale if Adam’s identity and how he came to be in the Warren house were the narrative’s main concern. But the flashback to the days leading up to Ben’s assumption of Adam’s place also underscore just how dire the Warrens’ family life had become in the years following his disappearance, at least in Willa’s eyes.
Atonement is pursued through many methods on The Family, though none of the penitent are currently satisfied with the state of their souls. “I told a lie to fix a lie,” Willa tells her priest. And we’re so deep into the concentric circles of misdirections and cover-ups that surround the Warrens that I’m not even sure which two lies she’s specifically referring to at this moment. The teenager who introduced himself back into the lives of this ten-years-broken family as Adam is actually a boy named Ben. People can study pictures and learn names and fib. Internal organs can’t.
The Family has managed to score some genuine surprises in its upper-middle-class-American-Gothic way, but none of them occurred in this episode. ABC teased “I Win” with a specificity that took all the air out of a realization that the show should have nailed. Is the teenager currently living in Adam’s bedroom Adam Warren? (Well, Adam Warren as we know him?) Of course he’s not. The only suspense in that question was when the answer might hit. The promotion for this episode assured viewers that they’d get their confirmation by the time the hour was out.
In small towns like The Family’s Red Pines, labels are a venerated form of social shorthand. They make it easier and more efficient to gossip in the dairy aisle. (“The Warrens, you know, that poor family who lost their son…”) Labels don’t tell the whole story, but neighbors don’t want the whole story. Bobby has practice. Susan has a book report. It’s pasta night.
New alliances form and old ones come to light in the third episode of ABC’s increasingly eerie drama-mystery The Family. And the series has really committed to that circular voiceover device that opens and closes each chapter on the same moment, reminding us that the significance of a scene can completely change if the camera lingers just a little longer. “Of Puppies and Monsters” casts suspicions on Adam’s father, John, early on. The younger version of him returns to the Warren house in the middle of the night after some type of errand.
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