The Family Series Finale Recap: The End

The Family

What Took So Long
Season 1 Episode 12
Editor’s Rating *****
Alison Pill as Willa, Rupert Graves as John, Joan Allen as Claire, Liam James as Ben. Photo: Giovanni Rufino/ABC

Well, that’s that.

After being met with resounding public indifference, The Family was canceled by ABC last Thursday, meaning that “What Took So Long” is the last hour we’ll ever spend with our plucky cast of miserable characters. It’s a shame that a show with so much promise — good cast, good premise, good pedigree — was never quite able to rise above the middling. (I feel especially bad for Joan Allen and Alison Pill, two very fine actors who deserved much better.) “What Took So Long” hints at the intriguing places The Family could have gone, but it mostly serves to confirm why it failed to find its footing.

Let’s get the big news out of the way: Adam is alive! Of course he’s alive. I threw out a wild guess that this would happen in my last recap, so imagine my astonishment when it actually turned out to be true. The show’s seemingly immediate insistence that Ben had killed Adam never made much sense. We know that Adam was in cahoots with Jane, and that he was the one who shot Doug, and that he is rather angry at Ben for stealing his identity, but any other hint as to what he’s been doing will have to be left to our imagination. Has he just been hanging out in a corner of Doug and Jane’s house? I like to think he’s taken up whittling. Presumably, season two would have concerned itself with yet another excruciatingly slow rollout of what actually, really, truly happened in that bunker. I’m not sorry we’ll miss it.

Also unclear: Whether the world finally found out that Ben was a fake. Unless I missed something, Bridey submitted her work to her editor before Willa — in what is, without question, the greatest decision anyone on The Family has made — killed her. Maybe Willa should have murdered her erstwhile demon lover before she had a chance to get her megascoop into the paper, but hindsight is 20/20. Anyway, we’ll never know.

You have to hand it to Willa, though. She gets the job done. I can’t remember the last time I was so happy to see a corpse on television. Of course, Willa also makes terrible choices in this finale, like the whole “help a random boy carry out an incredibly cruel scam and keep key segments of her family in the dark about it” thing. Oh well. Sue her, she’s complicated.

Less complicated: Nina Meyer’s streak as the nation’s worst detective, which is still going strong. She isn’t able to pinpoint where Doug took Agent Clements until she catches the ladies of The View talking about the Warren case and their banter accidentally helps her figure out the location. Let me repeat that: She needs The View to help her solve a case. I yield to nobody in my respect for The View, but let’s set our evidentiary standards slightly higher, shall we? The show actually replays an echo-y version of something one of the nonJoy/Whoopi hosts says, as if it’s a holy grail of information rattling around in Nina’s mind. Unreal. Nina will be forever immortalized as the one-woman Keystone Kop of Maine. And if you are part of the vast majority of the American populace who did not watch “What Took So Long,” you’ll just have to believe me.

The last shot of the episode, and the series, belongs to Claire. As ever, any scene with Joan Allen feels like it’s coming from an altogether different, better show. She even manages to sell a lengthy, hallucinatory encounter with Adam, veering from grief to rage and back again so deftly that she overcomes the schlockiness of the scene. It’s a wonder why Allen was so relatively underutilized in The Family. Claire Warren had the makings of a great character, but her arc got lost in the incoherent thicket of stories the show insisted on telling. Hopefully, a vehicle worthy of Allen’s talents is waiting around the corner for her — and for everyone else involved in this show.

Farewell, The Family. I can’t say I’ll miss you.

Final Thoughts:

  • The show’s shaky understanding of journalism continues right up until the end, as Bridey’s editor suddenly warns her that the legal department is feeling iffy about her story. Listen, pal: Legal would have shut this thing down on DAY ONE. Actually, scratch that: You would have shut this thing down the second your reporter admitted even a sliver of her shady shenanigans.
  • Hank has a hairy run-in with a little boy, whom he manages to avoid molesting. Then he compares his urges to a chocolate craving — you know you shouldn’t, but you can’t help yourself. A charmer to the end! It’s typical of the show’s incoherence that it never figured out quite why Hank was hanging around. In the end, there was absolutely no reason for his character to have existed.
  • The same goes for Danny. Sorry, pal. You’ll never be a person now. At least he found out that Ben wasn’t his real brother.
  • Ditto for John — a dog and a fool until the very end. Aside from cheating on Claire, he was given almost nothing to do. His sole contribution to “What Took So Long” is a scene in which he has a beer with Hank.
  • Since we’ll never find out, I’ll just guess what might have happened in season two. John and Nina run away together and leave the people of Red Pines in peace. The boy who we think is the real Adam isn’t the real Adam, but yet another missing kid. Willa finds a woman to love whose hometown wasn’t located in the pits of hell. Ben’s deception is revealed to the world and nobody cares. Claire beats Donald Trump in the Republican primary.
  • Thank you for reading these recaps! It really is too bad the show wasn’t better.

The Family Series Finale Recap: The End