The Family is absolutely fascinating to me. One the one hand, its twists and turns have me holding my breath throughout the episode like the sucker I am (I’m on my seat, but only using the edge). This week’s cliffhanger/preview for next week has me convinced that if this show was available binge-watch style, I’d already be through with it. Ben might have had something to do with Adam’s death? Gabe is alive? Hank might be the one to break the case and help the police get Doug?

The problem is, to get there, The Family, in a weird mix of hubris and ineptitude, rushes past a shocking number of inconsistencies, alongside plot holes you could drive a semi through. Many of you have wisely pointed out the Keystone Cops status of the Red Pines police department: Somehow letting Doug get away in the mall by rushing to “Adam,” instead of the guy he was looking at; Gabe’s ominous message that he’s going after a hot tip, by himself, with no backup. Last week, Ben wandered into a strange house and slept there, where no one, not even a dog, was disturbed by his intrusion. In this episode, the fact that Gabe’s been missing for 36 hours without a check-in goes unnoticed, except for a few cross phone calls from Nina. Even though there’s still a kidnapper on the loose. His creepy voiceover at the beginning of the episode is clearly intended to indicate his demise, only for yet another “Gotcha!” at its end.

Also, as much as I would love Hank sticking it to the police department that wrongfully imprisoned him for a decade, how could he really remember a symbol on a piece of wood (“Quality Woodwork!”). As much as I love Gabe, and am happy to see him somewhat alive, why would Jane and Doug keep him breathing, as he’s one of the only people who can identify at least one of them? Worst of all, leading to a key point in the episode, “Adam” apparently has just escaped from captivity, and his abductor is still out there. How could you just leave him home alone, entire Warren family? Couldn’t the Mayor at least call in a squad car in the driveway? And Ben, we have seen, knows that alarm combination as well as anyone. Why wouldn’t he lock the door? Of course, without these missteps, we wouldn’t get the gasp-worthy moment where Ben looks up and sees Doug in the doorway (which would be a lot more gasp-worthy, ABC promo monkeys, if we hadn’t already seen it in the previews the previous week). You see the dilemma.

The fact that that moment brings as much tension as it does indicates how much we’ve come to care for Ben. The best scenes of the episodes, and the series, are between Claire and Ben, somehow fumbling toward a relationship when they are literal strangers to one another. For Claire, Ben brings up as much pain as he does possible relief from her pain, a connection to a boy who is somewhat but not enough like her son. For Ben, his disdain for his past that he relays to the therapist and to Claire also reveals why he would be so desperate to latch on to the Warrens, bringing him this homelife stability he’s never had.

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So it’s all the more distressing (and yet, still riveting; honestly, it’s like I have a lollipop for a head) when Ben doesn’t reveal Doug’s visit. Ben told Danny that he wanted Doug killed more than anything, leading us to believe that he wasn’t in cahoots with him. But what if that was a ruse as well? The betta fish that the episode is named after likely foreshadow what would happen to two boys kept locked up together for a decade. Still, no matter what they throw at Ben, it’s difficult to assign blame to someone who was locked up and tortured for so long. He’s a character we wanted to root for (let’s face it, there aren’t that many), so making him complicit in Adam’s death would be devastating. It’s another now-classic Family hairpin turn, which is both the show’s greatest strength and weirdest weakness: The plot can go anywhere, logic and functionality be damned.

Stray observations

  • I just don’t get how “family values” is a platform someone can run a whole election on. Yeah, I grew up in the W. Bush era, but even he also discussed, y’know, other issues.
  • Consequently, I really liked the governor’s speech. “You have not met a tragedy you couldn’t use, Claire! Your son was taken, you ran for mayor. You get him back, you run for governor,” followed by enthusiastic applause.
  • Of course Gabe’s husband is just as cute as he is. Nice callback on the honey.
  • So, that “shocking” email reveal seems to have manifested itself mainly in trash talk for Nina at the office.
  • Whoever scores this show (sorry, I couldn’t find a credit for this episode, although both Mogwai and Robert Duncan have written music for other episodes) is clearly holding nothing back in turning up the drama.
  • The fact that Bridey is sleeping with both siblings is just gross.
  • Doug blithely walking out of the house of the man whose life he stole: Cold. “I feel like I owe you.”
  • Only Andrew McCarthy could make a pedophile breakup scene effective.
  • Nina: “Thank you for your time, Adam.” The rest of you all, not so much.
  • Random speculation: Ben is complicit in Adam’s death, but it was an accident, maybe a fight that got out of hand. Doug, knowing this, is now blackmailing Ben that he will somehow reveal all if Ben helps lead the cops to him.

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