ABC/Giovanni Rufino
Sage Young
May 16, 2016 AT 04:40 AM EDT

Her heart may have been in the right(ish) place, but Claire Warren ran for governor of Maine on a lie. No politician, no matter how powerful, can create the type of suburban utopia that she describes in her acceptance speech. No candidate can promise to keep any family safe, even her own. No leader has jurisdiction over “wanting what we shouldn’t want.” People will be monsters when they choose to be or when they simply run out of the willpower that keeps them from it. Like Ben told Danny, if Doug hadn’t taken Adam at the park, he would have bided his time until another opportunity arose. Tragedy always waits patiently in the wings.

The Family’s first season finale became its series ender when ABC chose not to pick it up for another year. This episode not only wraps up the threads we’ve been following since Ben walked into the Red Pines police station, but it also gives a glimpse of what new territory the high-concept drama would have entered in season 2 if given the chance. Fortunately for its audience’s blood pressure, none of the many cliffhangers in this unexpected finale include the current state of the real Adam Warren. The boy is alive and on the run with Doug’s girlfriend, Jane.

Some of how he got there is still cloudy, but finally we know what role Ben played in Adam’s deterioration. A few flashbacks shows how the boys’ strained relationship was heightened every day they spent together in the bunker. Ben’s hope had disappeared long before Adam became his roommate. (And some remains on Doug’s property suggest Ben may have already watched another “friend” come and go.) And Adam grew steadily more frustrated with Ben’s resignation to their inhumane life. Still, he convinces Ben to try another escape plan, this one involving luring Doug close to them so that Adam can strangle him with his chain and Ben can steal his keys. It actually works, though Doug still outweighs his emaciated teenage prisoners. Ben freezes at the moment of truth, watching Adam struggle with the man. Doug gains the upper hand and rises off Adam’s cot. Adam clings to his back and hits his head on a metal pipe running along the ceiling. Hard. “That…that isn’t on me,” Doug says as a pool of blood gathers under Adam’s head on the cement floor. Ben is silent.

In the present, Willa is hoping that her mom will just forget about that whole thing about how they’re harboring the lost boy who probably killed her brother and now using him as a political prop. Claire is a shell of herself, very inconveniently at the moment when she’s supposed to be out in public celebrating her victory. She walks right out of a happy family photo shoot and visits a place she didn’t have the strength to see before. Alone in the woods, Claire rips the caution tape away from the bunker. When she thought that Adam was back in her life, she couldn’t move on with him knowing all the horrible details of his confinement. But believing him dead, Claire decides that she owes it to her son to stand in the place where he lived and died — a place where he spent more time than he did his own home.

The room had been cataloged and swept clean of evidence, but what Claire is looking for is still there. She says goodbye to her son, who appears to her as he was the last time she saw him — all big, wet eyes and his Claire Warren for City Council T-shirt. “What took you so long?” he asks. Claire says what she needs to and doesn’t skip the anger. “You just went with him like a lamb to the slaughter,” she cries. “How, in one moment, could you be this stupid?”

NEXT: Going my way?

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