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Ben and Willa’s story sheds some needed light on The Family

Illustration for article titled Ben and Willa’s story sheds some needed light on iThe Family/i
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After such a startling turn of events last week, The Family makes the wise choice of showing us exactly what happened in the bunker: how Ben got out, met Willa, and wound up in his current position as Adam. As improbable as all of those things seemed last week, this explanation mostly makes sense, anchored by a truly amazing performance by Liam James. If there was ever anything sadder than Ben getting dropped off at a bus depot with nowhere to go, I can’t even imagine what that would be.

Which also points to the ultimate heartlessness of Willa: As she herself points out, Ben took care of Adam for years, so couldn’t she just have welcomed him into the family just as Ben, not as Adam? Even more crucial: Ben was the only connection to the man who killed her brother. Why send him away instead of taking him to the police, where he might have had some valuable information for them? For all of Willa’s religious musings, her actual rationale is somewhat hard to take. The show tried by showing her fantasy elements of what life would have been like if Adam had been able to grow up in that house. After all those years of feeling responsible, perhaps it’s possible to understand why she took the leap she did. And why she soon bailed on it. But it’s entirely possible to understand why Ben showed up in that hospital, as he sadly had nowhere else in the world to go.


This interesting revelation puts everyone else’s actions up for grabs as well. That was a great, tension-filled moment when Claire walks into the kitchen and sees Ben, and we honestly don’t know whether she is going to hug him or slap him across the face. She went with the former, which makes it seem like Ben is filling the need both he and Willa hoped for in the beginning: He is serving as the Adam replacement. (For a moment, I thought he’d cracked and really did think he was Adam, leading up to his nice menacing moment with Willa.) And so far, Claire and Willa don’t feel the need to inform the other members of their family of this fact.

The cynical viewpoint here is that they’re keeping the secret for the campaign. Revealing Ben’s true status would surely sink Claire’s run for governor, as someone who either was too clueless to realize the kid in her house was not her son, or too manipulative, using an imposter’s return to garner votes.


With a lesser actress as Claire, this whole plotline would fall apart. Joan Allen is doing a lioness’ work as the Warren matriarch: rightly railing at her daughter who first concocted this whole thing, then heading straight to the liquor store, in an effort that conceivably could derail her campaign as much as anything else. Claire’s drinking is not much of a shock, though; how else would someone possibly live with such a thing?

At this point in The Family, we are also grateful for any other insight that deepens our understanding of characters we’ve gotten to know fairly well by tis point. Hank’s mom’s visit (lovingly played by Judith Ivey) shows why he was so devoted to her, and what it meant for him to have someone in his life who loved him unconditionally. Also, the point of desperation he had reached right before “Adam” came back. The slim slice of Claire and John’s marriage depicts just how far the two had drifted apart due to Claire’s ambitions and John’s affair. Danny was just an embarrassment who earned frequent eye-rolls from his little sister. Ben’s return really did accomplish what Willa first intended, pulling her entire family back together.


Because Ben, for all his deception, knows what it means to have someone in your life. He only became desperate enough to escape after Adam was gone. Those shots of him and Adam over the years were absolutely heartbreaking. Yes, they devoted their time to scraping their way to an exit, only to be met with a steel wall. As they both got bigger, if only they could have worked on a different plan, that involved knocking out Doug somehow on one of his visits. Sad as those shots were, at least they had each other, so it makes sense that Ben would gravitate toward the only family he ever knew, even second-handedly. So for now, Ben stays, hanging a new veil of tension over the house, and this riveting show, in the process.

Stray observations

  • I love that it was drunk Danny who stumbled on to the actual truth, that Ben is not Adam.
  • Did not miss Bridey this episode. Did miss Gabe.
  • How bad could Ben’s family be that he wouldn’t go back there? Or was he taken so young that he just doesn’t remember?
  • Remember when Alison Pill was the awesome Kim in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World?
  • Random speculation: Adam is still alive. We never did see his body, right? Maybe Doug took him up because he was sick, and he somehow got away. Then something else happened to him, like amnesia? But I would love a season-one finale that ended with the real Adam walking through the Warrens’ front door.

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