The Family Recap: The Rita Skeeter of Red Pines

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Joan Allen as Claire, Liam James as Ben, Rupert Graves as John. Photo: Giovanni Rufino/ABC
The Family
Show
The Family
Episode Title
Election Day
Season
1
Episode
11
Editor’s Rating
3/5

With The Family just one episode away from its season finale, "Election Day" spends a lot of time moving pieces into place so that, presumably, it can shatter them all next week. The titular event occupies a mere sliver of the episode's time, serving mostly as a tense backdrop to all of the other tense happenings. If only all our real elections were done and dusted with such minimalist efficiency.

As ever, the portion of the plot that's focused on Claire, Willa, and Ben is by far the most effective. It sometimes feels like Joan Allen, Allison Pill, and Liam James are acting in a completely different show from everyone else — a nasty, poignant drama populated by terrifying, flawed characters. Allen and Pill in particular have developed a sizzlingly twisted chemistry; they bounce off of each other with ferocity and vitality. It's a major shame that The Family lets them down so frequently.

This week, Ben's "hurting" of Adam has apparently been upgraded from injury to homicide, at least in Willa's mind. Ben is still being notably vague about the whole business, but Willa's convinced that he's Adam's killer and that this is why he lies about not recognizing Doug in the police lineup. (True to form, Doug didn't turn up to confess, but to exonerate himself, which he does with Ben's help.) It seems quite possible that this line of thinking will be refuted in the finale.

Anyway, Willa spends the hour staring daggers at Ben and pressuring him to shuffle off to boarding school instead of hanging around. Ben spends the hour staring daggers right back at Willa and being generally unhelpful. This situation can't last, especially because Claire has figured out that Ben was covering for Doug. ("Can you believe I know my fake child so well?" she tells Willa in the episode's best line.) By the end of "Election Day," Willa has informed Claire that Ben is Adam's killer, and Claire is so distraught that she can't even be bothered to deliver an acceptance speech. This is unlike anything we have seen so far from Claire, who has previously been the sort of person who could compartmentalize an entire Ikea warehouse within her soul, but everyone's got a breaking point.

As for Doug, the evildoer whom Ben assists so ably, he somehow manages to get away from Maine's most incompetent sleuth, Nina Meyer. Shocking, I know. After failing to pin him down for any of his crimes, she puts a tracking device in his jacket and expects him to keep that jacket on for more than two seconds. He doesn't. Sorry, Nina. Nobody likes you. Even John tells her to get lost, and when you've been rejected by the world's biggest chump, you know your life has taken a wrong turn.

Instead of falling into Nina's very obvious trap, Doug returns to find that Jane has both delivered the baby and that she's covered in suspicious blood. As it happens, she's been trying unsuccessfully to help Agent Clements escape captivity by … cutting his thumbs off. Just another pleasant day with this trio! It's beyond me why Jane doesn't just deploy her tried-and-true method of bashing heads in, but she remains in thrall to Doug, and Clements is still trussed up.

Meanwhile, Bridey Cruz remains depressingly free to walk about the world. If Doug is the Voldemort of The Family, Bridey is definitely the Rita Skeeter, if Rita Skeeter had also slept with both Ron and Ginny in order to get a scoop about Harry. Bridey sits around in a diner for hours, wondering aloud to a waitress whether she is a horrible person (yes!) who's about to ruin a lot of lives with her exclusive dirt on the Warren family just for a fleeting scoop that nobody will remember in three seconds (also yes!) and if she should just abandon her efforts. The waitress provides a sympathetic ear, and after they get to talking about regrets, reveals that she got pregnant at 17 and had lost track of her kid. Guess what? The kid's name was Ben! Horrible Bridey departs, having gotten the scoop she came for. Rita would be proud. Apparently those files on Willa's computer led her to the mother? Or something? How this happened is a mystery. Also a mystery: How Ben's real mother relates to anything that's going on, but that's what season finales are for.

Next week: All of this stuff comes to a head. Expect a twist!

Random Thoughts:

  • Willa's inadvertent coming out to Danny is the sweetest moment of the season so far. Hey, look at that — a nice moment between two siblings! It's possible.
  • We find out more about Hank's sex offender past. The time we spend watching this guy mope around because he got caught touching himself while looking at little boys in a park is really starting to irk me. He is a far less sympathetic character than The Family appears to think he is.
  • I pity Rupert Graves. He gets about three lines an episode, he's saddled with horrible hair half the time, his character is a straight-up moron, and he's fighting a losing battle with his accent. The man exudes regret every time he appears onscreen.
  • Claire's election headquarters appears to be centered in her house. Is this a Maine thing? What happened to rallies in ballrooms? Have I just been watching too many primary nights?
  • The diner where Bridey goes apparently doesn't have a menu, which … huh? Maybe I don't know enough about truck-stop diners, but is this a thing? What diner is just like, "Order something!"
  • I have no idea what's going to happen in the finale — I'm a bad guesser — but let's take a crack at it. Ben will turn out not to be Adam's killer, Claire will accidentally punch Willa in the face, Danny will go on a bender and crash the family van, John will reveal he's actually been from England this entire time, Nina will wrongly accuse 14 additional people, and at the very end, we'll learn Adam isn't dead after all. We shall see!