The last episode of The Family ended on a supposedly major twist: Was Ben the one who really killed Adam? Viewers would be forgiven for thinking that this issue would be at the forefront of “Fun Ways to Tell Boyfriend You’re Pregnant,” but instead, the episode is dominated by approximately 58 plots, which the show juggles with wildly varying success. A sure-footed series could do that more ably, but we are where we are. As it stands, “Fun Ways” brings us yet another hour of competent mediocrity.
Before diving into the other 57 threads, let’s get the Ben one out of the way. Basically, Willa asks him if he hurt Adam, and he says yes, because he was jealous that Adam had a family. Willa does not ask any of the obvious follow-up questions you might expect her to ask, such as, “How much did you hurt him?” or “Were you involved in his death?” or “What do you even mean by hurt?” She just sort of stands there. Maybe she got distracted by all of the misdeeds she must keep track of all the time, but still: Come on, Willa!
Anyway, moving on. The episode’s most entertaining thread, in a schadenfreude-y sort of way, concerns Nina’s continued failure as a police officer. She’s figured out that Ben isn’t Adam, but it takes a gloating Hank and his magical birdhouse to suggest that Doug is the real villain behind everything. She takes a whole SWAT team out to Doug’s house, but — surprise! — finds nothing there, because Doug has two homes. Sorry, Nina! She then confronts Claire about Ben not being Adam, and Claire, because she is the kind of ruthless pro that Nina could only dream of being, just laughs her entirely correct notion off. She then points out that Nina’s name is mud, what with the terminal failures and the sleeping with John, and dares her to come after her. Joan Allen could nail this stuff in a coma, so it’s all very satisfying, though I found myself typing things like “WHY IS NINA STILL ON THIS CASE” and “CLAIRE YOU COULD RUIN HER RIGHT NOW WHAT IS STOPPING YOU” in my notes. Still, anything that highlights how bad Nina is at her job is fine by me.
As for Doug … well, he’s spending his time creepily trying to make up with Jane, who is tending to the still-alive Agent Clements and slowly attempting to cope with the fact that her baby daddy is a pure scumbag. (While trying to win her over, he brings up the fact that he kidnapped and raped little boys. Smart plan! She tells him to burn in hell, though calling the police would probably have been more helpful to the whole situation.) Doug leaves his two buddies alone for long stretches at a time, which lets Clements try to coax Jane over to the side of right, and even delivers her baby when her water breaks. (“I’m so sorry,” he says in one of the show’s more effective moments to date. “It’s a boy.”) Luckily for Clements, Nina is on the case! Oh, wait. Sorry, Clements. You’re doomed.
Doug is busy with other things. Babies can wait. It turns out that he and Ben have struck up some sort of convivial arrangement. They meet in a park and Ben tells him the cops are on his trail. Either this is a profound case of Stockholm Syndrome, or Ben was way more involved with Adam’s nightmare than he let on. Which is it? Who knows! “Fun Ways” has 56 more plots to attend to. Hey, let’s do some more flashbacks! How about that Danny-Bridey-Willa triangle? Weirdly, Claire’s gubernatorial run has been almost entirely dispensed with; Bridey briefly says that Claire’s a “shoo-in.” That was easy.
Back to Doug. By the end of the episode, he has walked into the police station, gone up to Nina, pointed straight to his wanted poster and turned himself in — or so it would appear. Wanna bet he has some master plan? Wanna bet that he, a master of evil, can outwit Nina, a character who encompasses the hapless sum total of the Red Pines police unit? Could the answer be … yes?
- Is it just me, or is The Family not making a big enough deal of the fact that Hank is a pedophile? The show seems to say that he’s a damaged, sensitive pedophile who doesn’t want to be a pedophile, but still — pedophile!
- “Fun Ways” makes a vague effort at fleshing out Danny’s backstory. Guess what? When he was a teenager, Adam’s disappearance messed his life up and he reacted badly. Yeah, I’m not shocked either. Can we give this man something to do in the present day, please?
- Claire and Willa’s conversations are by far my favorite part of this show. Every 15 minutes, they huddle in a corner of the house and Claire is basically like, “So let’s go through the list of horrible things we need to control today. I hate you.” It’s the closest The Family gets to monstrous deliciousness.
- There is NO WAY IN HELL that I am buying the idea that Willa, one of the most buttoned-up, paranoid control freaks in history, wouldn’t have a password on her computer. Apparently she doesn’t, so Bridey hops on it while she’s sleeping and swipes a lot of presumably incriminating material off of it. Okay, sure.
- I love Bridey’s editor, who always says stuff like, “Just get me the story,” instead of more sensible editor things like, “I wonder whether or not your frequent and insane ethical violations might get you, me, our newspaper, and our parent company in a world of trouble and turn our small-town operation into an internationally known byword for journalistic sin!”
- John update: John is still an idiot. He will never not be an idiot. And his flashback wig is still deeply offensive.