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‘The Family’ Review: Pilot

Emma Johnson19 / Emertainment Monthly TV Staff Writer

ABC’s new drama The Family offers audiences exactly what they expect from a new ABC drama: stilted dialogue, predictable plot points, and enough intrigue to potentially draw viewers back for another week, with “potentially” operating as the key word. Like many series of a similar style, The Family serves as an engaging distraction while ironing tomorrow’s clothes or working out on the spin bike, but ultimately brings nothing new to the table.

PC: ABC
PC: ABC

The Warren family of the fictitious Red Pines, Maine appears to have it all together in the show’s opening flashback sequence. Claire Warren (Joan Allen), anxiously campaigns for her first city council election with the help of her husband John (Rupert Graves), and three children, Danny, Willa, and Adam, handing out fliers to passersby at a local park. When nine-year-old Adam goes missing from under the not-so-watchful eyes of his older siblings, an investigation headed by newbie detective Nina Meyer (Margot Bingam) is launched, and eventually Adam is presumed dead, though his body is never found. The pilot is spent toggling between the time of the disappearance and ten years later in the present day, where the Warren family is flourishing despite, and in some ways because of, their personal tragedy. When Adam returns to Red Pines alive after years of torture and imprisonment, Detective Meyer works to uncover the real truth behind his abduction.

RUPERT GRAVES, LIAM JAMES, JOAN ALLEN
Rupert Graves, Liam James, Joan Allen: Recently returned Adam (Liam James) answers questions about his captor. PC: tvline.com

In an attempt to prove itself as a nuanced, multi-layered narrative, The Family frames Claire as a power-hungry political animal, using the disappearance and eventual return of her son as leverage in her ascent up the political ladder from humble city councilwoman to future governor. Standing with her reunited family as she makes a statement to the press, Claire announces her candidacy for Governor of Maine, taking advantage of Adam’s return to fortify a platform addressing Amber Alerts and sex offender monitorization. Following recent primetime trends, the show grapples with familiar themes regarding the threat of unchecked ambition — how far will Claire go to get to the top? What will she sacrifice, what will she lose? Unfortunately for us, Claire Warren is no Claire Underwood, and though her potentially unethical antics are vaguely interesting, they are not compelling enough to make her character stand out among the sea of antiheroines of which primetime television is currently comprised.

Essentially, The Family lacks development. The mystery that unfolds is engaging enough, but why should we care about this family and this community? What is it about their characters that should make us want to follow their story for the next thirteen weeks? By relying so heavily on plot to carry the weight of the show, it is difficult to feel truly invested in the Warrens and to want to experience the drama along with them. If you are genuinely curious about the suspicious Warren clan, it would be a better use of your time to find the answers to your questions by scanning the show’s Wikipedia page after the season concludes, sparing yourself from the slew of tearful glances and “impassioned” monologues to come.  

ZACH GILFORD, LIAM JAMES, JOAN ALLEN, ALISON PILL, RUPERT GRAVES PC: ABC
Zach Gilford, Liam James, Joan Allen, Alison Pill, Rupert Graves
PC: ABC

Episode Grade: C+

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