‘The Family’ Series Finale 2016 Review: “What Took So Long?”

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On the season finale of “The Family,” things came to a head with the Warren kidnapping case, as Nina got to the bottom of what happened to her partner, Bridey put the finishing touches on her big expose article and we finally got the real story of what happened to Adam, in “What Took So Long?” But was there more to the story? Of course- have you seen this show?

Well, if not, I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted, as ABC announced over the weekend that it would not be picking “The Family” up for a second season, meaning that this episode also functioned as a series finale as well. As such things go, it did a decent enough job of wrapping things up while showing us a potential way forward into the future, had there been one.

I will say that certain aspects of it were unpredictable and surprising, so there’s that, at least. Say what you will about some of the proceedings being a little on the far-fetched side, at least it kept you guessing more often than not. (I will be getting into spoiler territory soon enough, so fair warning.)

Still, it’s probably not that shocking that a show that asked people to sympathize with a pedophile didn’t last too long on the air, I suppose. I can only imagine the show-runners didn’t lead with that- it’ll be like “Happiness: The Series”! Apparently, viewers weren’t too thrilled with it, either, or it wouldn’t be getting cancelled.

We began with the by-now customary flashback, as we saw a freshly-taken Adam (Maxwell James) screaming for help in the bunker, as a more resigned Ben (Aidan Fiske) told him it was no use. They did see a potential way out via some loose bricks in the wall, which is where that particular method of exiting their situation began.

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Back in the present, a devastated Claire (Joan Allen), still reeling from the news that Ben had apparently killed her son personally, continued to refuse to come out of her room, despite having won the election for Governor in the previous episode. She let Ben know in no uncertain terms that she knew and that was that for those two, for the time being.

This left daughter Willa (Alison Pill) to do her usual spin to the press, apologizing profusely to them and saying that Claire had blown out her voice in the celebration, hence her not making an appearance. Honestly, Willa is the one who needs to go into politics in earnest, right? That girl can roll with the punches like nobody’s business.

Meanwhile, at the police station, Nina (Margot Bingham) effectively saw her case shut down when her partner, Gabe (Matthew Lawler), called in to his husband, attributing his absence to a bender, which we know is fake, but everyone else buys- save Nina, of course, who isn’t giving up so easily.

As for everyone’s favorite nutty kidnapping couple, they are preparing to leave the country altogether and start over in Canada- once things are “wrapped up” at the cabin, that is. This can’t be good for Gabe, one would think. Jane (Zoe Perry) seems hesitant all around, least of all with a newborn son to think about, but her nutbar husband Doug (Michael Esper) is raring to go.

Claire finally leaves the house and goes straight to the bunker, where she goes completely off the rails and starts hallucinating her dead son as he once was when he first disappeared, even going so far as to engage in conversation with him. This isn’t boding well for her impending candidacy!


We get another flashback as we see that the tunnel plan has failed miserably, so a new plan is in order. Is this the plan that will get Adam killed? It would seem so, as the next time Doug pays them a visit, Adam tries to strangle him with his chains and Ben (Liam James) ends up being the one who chokes, cowering in fear as he watches the two tangle.

In the end, alas, with no help from Ben, Adam winds up on the losing end of the struggle, as Doug gets the best of him and kills him…seemingly. Doug lets Ben know in no uncertain terms that this is his fault, hence Ben blaming himself for the incident.

However, I don’t think he ever tells anyone this version of events, which is odd, given the alternative, which paints him in a decidedly worse light. Though we later find out that this isn’t the whole story after all, you’d think he’d want all concerned to know that he didn’t actually kill Adam like he insinuated, he only blames himself for his death, which is a hell of a lot different.

Back in the present, Hank (Andrew McCarthy) gives a young boy a ride home, despite his reservations, when the kid injures himself riding a bike right in front of him. To say that this is a recipe for disaster is putting it mildly, but thankfully, things don’t come to that, as Hank ultimately lets the boy go unharmed, albeit rattled, as Hank yells at him in the process of kicking him out.

Bridey (Floriana Lima) talks to her editor, who informs her that she can have the front page of the next day’s newspaper, but he needs to see everything on his desk first, so that he can see exactly what he’s getting himself into, as he still has some reservations about it. Bridey is disappointed she has to wait another day, but tells him he’ll have it by the 5pm deadline tomorrow.


Nina has a potential epiphany- what if Gabe’s call was under duress? If so, was it possible he dropped a hint in it? Replaying the call in her mind, she realizes that he made reference to “laying low” somewhere- might that mean in a cellar or basement or the like?

She immediately starts searching the area for cabins that fit the bill, taking into account the results of the testing of the dirt Doug left behind in the process. At said cabin, Doug is about to dispatch of Gabe once and for all when he notices his shotgun is missing.

Jane finally admits she hid it in the trunk of the car, hoping he’d leave well enough alone and simply leave the cop to die. He goes to fetch it, and as Nina continues her search, we hear a shotgun blast ring out in the distance- she’s clearly close behind, but is it too late?

Nina runs towards the sound and sure enough, comes upon a blood trail. She follows it to a nearby cabin, but is shocked when she sees it leads not to her partner, but to Doug himself, who looks to have been shot in the groin area. Ouch!

Hell hath no fury, I guess, like a mama bear protecting her cub- but is that what really happened? Either way, Jane is long gone, but Gabe, thankfully, is still relatively intact. Nina finds him and immediately calls for help and back-up, telling everyone what happened. It looks like Gabe is going to be okay.

There’s one big problem, though- Gabe can’t identify Doug, as he never saw him personally, having only dealt with Jane. As such, they can’t put the matter to rest, truly, as they can’t technically connect him with the kidnapping crimes at hand, only Jane for assaulting and holding Gabe hostage. Nina orders a search of the property in hopes of finding something more tangible.


Ben finally comes clean to his “brother” Danny (Zach Gilford) about who he really is. Although Danny was the only one who realized the truth- save his sister, of course, who was in on it from the jump- he’s still flabbergasted. Time for more heavy drinking.

Bridey informs Willa about her impending article and that it will not only expose her family, but that she found Ben’s real mother to boot and hasn’t told him yet, but fully intends to once it’s out tomorrow.

Willa makes a plea to her for not turning the article in, pointing out that it will only make her a “hot flash in a dirty pan” and the fame will be fleeting, but won’t lead to anything permanent. Instead, she offers Bridey an alternative- unfettered access to her family and everything that happens from there on out.

Whatever it is, she’ll have the access and the exclusive rights- Bridey will basically own them. All Bridey has to do is quash the story. She’s taken aback, but not uninterested. But will she do the right thing? Is there a right thing to be done at this point?

Nina sees that there is an electrified fence on Doug’s cabin’s property, where a dog is hesitant to cross into a certain area. Why? Was there something that Doug didn’t want him digging up? Might it be the real Adam’s body, as she suspects? She orders a team to check it out.

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Claire finally returns home, where Willa informs her that Ben has left the house, seemingly for good, leaving a note behind. Regretting her treatment of him, Claire says they should immediately go looking for Ben- it’s not his fault the experience turned him into an animal, and they still don’t know the details, after all.

Meanwhile, her husband John (Rupert Graves) gets word that Doug is dead and goes to Hank’s house, of all people, to celebrate. Really, though, he just wants to know how someone comes to do something like that. Hank tells him it’s like an impulse one has that they know they shouldn’t act on, but they do anyway. Some resist- like he has so far- others give in, like Doug did.

Back at the newspaper headquarters, we see that Bridey seemingly has decided to run the story anyway, as she tells her boss that it’s on his desk, but she also tells him, somewhat cryptically: “You should have run it sooner.” When he goes to check it out, he finds an empty box, save Bridey’s ID badge- she’s apparently decided to pull the article after all and go to work for the Warrens.

Claire and Willa find Ben walking alone in a rainstorm, hitchhiking on the side of the road. Horrified, they pick him up and insist he come home with them. Ben tells them there’s one problem- he already confessed to Danny who he really was, so the cat’s already out of the bag, save with John.

Willa tracks Danny down and apologizes profusely, telling Danny it was all her doing. She begs Danny to “get her back” with, like, an Indian burn or the like, but he opts to take off when she’s not looking, clearly not having it. Can’t say I blame him, after she lied to his face about it all.

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Nina asks Claire to come down to the station, telling her that she found a body and suspects it’s the real Adam and that they knew good and well that Ben was an imposter. However, the body is in bad shape and they need a DNA match to prove it, which, if true, would come out publicly in the process, exposing them as frauds.

Claire, tired of all the lies, and wanting to give her real son a proper burial, complies in spite of herself and the cost it might have on her life. But wait- there’s more. As it turns out- that actually wasn’t Adam’s body up at the cabin, it was someone else entirely. But who? And where is Adam’s body if it isn’t there?

Claire goes ahead with her press conference to ascend to being Governor, what with nothing standing in her way now, at least for the time being. Further, we see that Bridey will no longer be a problem, as she’s lying dead in the woods- but who did it? (Obvious candidate: Willa, though Danny is certainly a possibility.)

We see Jane, stopping at a gas station, now with someone else with her- but who? The figure goes into the convenience store to buy some things and we see in a flashback that it was actually this person who killed Doug, not Jane. He calls a number on the pay phone and it rings at the Warrens, over and over.

Ben finally picks it up and on the other end of the line, we hear a voice say: “You stole my family. Now I’m coming to take them back.” We pan out, and it is, naturally, Adam (Luke Slattery) himself- very much alive, older, worse for the wear and looking none-too-happy about things.

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And that is where we leave the show, now and forever, as there will be no second season. In an article after the fact, showrunner Jenna Bans said that the second season would have focused on what happened to Bridey and revealed that there were more suspects in her death than we might have originally thought, as well as dealt with the confrontation between Adam and Ben right away, instead of prolonging the inevitable.

That’s unfortunate, as I do think the show had more to offer, but at the same time, where it left off wasn’t so bad. Aside from not knowing who killed Bridey, it’s pretty easy to predict that Adam would have gone right into tormenting Ben for leaving him behind and “stealing” his family, and though that might have been fun to see, it would have been way more predictable as well.

The fact that Bans heavily implied that Bridey’s death wasn’t as cut and dried as it may have seemed is more promising, as that was one of the more interesting characters on the show, IMHO. Bans said actress Lima would have been on board full-time for season two, and ironically, would have had much more to do in death than she did in life on the show to date, as we would have delved largely into her past via the show’s trademark flashbacks. Oh well.

All in all, you’ve got to hand it to the show for taking chances, even if some of the twists were a bit dubious here and there. It’s not often, for instance, that one sees a character like McCarthy’s on network television, that’s for sure, and even less so that they’re played relatively sympathetically, though I can certainly see where people would have mixed feelings about that.

Still, that was a brave choice for McCarthy, who also directed several episodes of the show, so he should be commended for taking a big risk, given his heretofore kind of squeaky clean image. As I said in my initial review, he was certainly a long way from “Pretty in Pink,” that’s for sure. Perhaps this will lead to bigger and better things, as he was pretty great in the role, as sketchy as the character might have been.

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In the end, though, either the show was too ludicrous for some people’s tastes, or it just didn’t hold their interest, as it was canceled, so I guess that’s that, barring any last minute pick-ups by another network, which seems somewhat unlikely. Still, you never know- “Supergirl” got a last-minute reprieve from the CW, after all, and Netflix has resurrected several shows over the years, i.e. “The Killing” and “Arrested Development.” We shall see.

I, for one, would tune in for a second season, though I would prefer it if they went into things thinking it would be a one-more-and-done sort of situation. Not that the show had worn out its welcome, per se, but it might have been headed that way if they had pushed their luck much further. As it stands, there was just enough story there to warrant a second season, but not much more, I think.

The trick is knowing when to say when, and though this would have worked just fine as a self-contained mini-series, you can tell just enough thought went into things for them to have always intended there to be a second season from the get-go. The showrunner says that they had always planned for Adam to be alive, for instance, and I believe that to be true, given the way things were presented.

I guess we’ll never know what would have happened next, unless they are picked up or the showrunner decides to spill the beans after all. Until then, this was a decent enough endeavor, with a solid cast and some captivating-enough twists and turns to keep one interested. I’ve certainly seen worse- but I’ve seen better as well.

Let’s just chalk this one up to an interesting attempt that didn’t quite stick the landing enough to warrant it sticking around. Nothing to be embarrassed by, to be sure, but nothing to write home about, either. It happens.

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What did you think of “The Family” overall? Would you have kept watching for a second season? Who do you think killed Bridey? What would Adam’s next move have been? How about Jane? Would the Warrens have been exposed eventually? Did you foresee this going on much longer than it did? What did you think of the cast? Sound off down below and let me know what you thought!