Review: The Family Season 1

The Family Season 1 Review

Contains Spoilers

the-family
Source: EW

Does this new soap opera mystery have what it takes to compete with similar high budget shows? Is the ‘family member returns from the dead’ craze still popular following shows like Resurrection? Is Joan Allen able to capitalise on her surge in popularity after ‘Room’? Here’s my review of ‘The Family’ Season 1

Pros:

  • For the most part the acting was great, especially from Joan Allen (who has incredible range, varying from shock and horror to beautiful little quiet moments of despair), Liam James, who masterfully is able to hide his characters true identity with great nuance, and finally Andrew McCarthy who also delivers a stunning performance, perfectly jumping between hero and villain while making the viewer have sympathy for him.
  • The show successfully balanced the family drama with political drama, with the two genres and tones nicely interacting with each other. This helped to portray both sides of the family to the audience and show their differing personalities in public and private.
  • Claire Warren was pushed from one extreme to another to develop the characters ability to overcome adversity and highlight how she handled losing her son, key to making sure the viewer saw her as a strong, intelligent woman and backed her to win the election.
  • Alison Pill’s Willa was often the centre of the show’s soap opera aspects, with her twists and actions at times slightly implausible, however, the writing was able to create a great moral ambiguity, that challenged the viewers perception of what she and her family stood for and how they would deal with scandals.
  • The twist that Adam was not actually Adam, but Ben, was incredibly unpredictable and realised brilliantly through a number of hints scattered throughout the first few episodes and then a slow suspenseful reveal as the audience was allowed to feel like a detective pulling all the pieces together.
  • The show mastered the use of cliffhangers, leaving the audience hanging at the right moments yet still giving the answers to questions with a lack of plot holes.
  • Andrew McCarthy’s Hank Asher was incredibly well written, a unique sort of anti-hero, one that the audience at times felt for, but there was always the concern about his potential and disturbing back story.
  • The reveal of how Asher came to be labelled as a sex offender was a high point for the series, an emotional moment that deeply affected the character and how others viewed him, yet this also ran parallel with material that made us question Hank and what he was up to, making him even more complex.
  • The use of flashbacks mirrored nicely with events in present time to provide some sort of comparison to how the family had developed since losing Adam.
  • The show successfully utilised a fast pace narrative as every episode seemed to have an event that dramatically changed the story or how the audience perceived a character.
  • While the show did contain a number of interesting subplots (which could have been further developed in a second season), it ultimately remained focussed on its larger mystery, not often getting distracted.
  • With numerous twists and turns, the show created some great tension, a lot of which was surprisingly in the flashback sequences with Adam and Ben.
  • The show kept a consistent, cold, blue colour tone throughout the series, which while often making some shots a little too hard to see or understand, beautifully reflected the characters feelings and the seriousness of what had occurred.
  • It was smart to reveal Adam’s kidnapper early in the series rather than draw it out, this allowed for a unique chance to understand the relationship between Adam and Doug without the show trying to keep Doug’s identity a secret.
  • ‘The Family’ analysed how such an event would affect many different people, not only the central family, from Doug’s wife, to the police, to other members of the town.

Cons:

  • While the fast paced nature of the series meant it never lacked energy and was for the most part always engaging, many characters felt under developed or under utilised, acting only as plot devices to create drama and obstacles for the characters.
  • The character of Nina was one of the most problematic parts of the show, as I felt the writers wanted us to, over the course of the series, get behind her and forgive her for her mistakes, yet her incompetency made this difficult and overall the character was too boring and bland to be relatable.
  • There was quite a few sequences or scenes that seemed to retread over material, either to try provide a differing perspective or idea, yet they never felt necessary and stole time away from the characters.
  • While Claire Warren was one of the more developed characters, she was always at odds with the viewers thoughts, doing the opposite of what we would expect or being incredibly unsympathetic.
  • Developing Claire to be a strong, independent, tough character was well done, but focussing only on the effect of losing her son robbed her of any other emotional complexity, something that became repetitive especially in relation to the election, where the only thing she ever spoke on was the issues with Adam.
  • Both John and Danny had nearly nothing to do throughout the entire series except provide challenges to the main characters or act stupidly to hurt the viewers perception of the ‘family’. Both of their subplots had little influence on the wider plot.
  • The affair between Nina and John was so clichéd and unnecessary that it really weighed the show down. While I understand it highlighted how John dealt with losing Adam, it had no effect on the wider mystery other than causing some awkwardness.
  • There were a few moments of convenience where events happened to increase the drama or only to make sure the police were always one step behind Willa or Doug.
  • Bridey was another character that while helping to increase the tension and pressure Willa and Claire, ultimately had little influence on Adam, jumping between morally right and morally defunct. Her romantic subplots with Danny and Willa were also unnecessary and cheesy, only there for shock.
  • We probably didn’t need to have subtitles every time the show flashed back or forward, they simply became distracting and annoying.
  • The show didn’t really say much about American politics outside of the fact that a mayor could win a governorship on only on policy.
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