Danny isn't the only Warren suspicious about Adam's true identity
Credit: Giovanni Rufino/ABC
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In last week’s pilot episode of The Family, Claire Warren had to guiltily admit to her returned son Adam that she’d purged the house of his pictures after he disappeared. From that point forward, the Warren household ceased being a home, or at least ceased being a home without a very persistent ghost. Adam is still haunting his family, even as a solid presence. He glides noiselessly around the house and, in one disquieting tableau, stands stock still to watch his parents sleep.

Adam’s older brother Danny’s skepticism about Adam’s true identity is renewed in “All You See Is Dark.” Danny begins to soften in this episode, as Adam hits him with guileless questions and observations about tail lights and college football careers. Claire sends her boys on a normalcy mission to an out-of-town mall, where Danny uses the alone time to casually grill Adam. The tail light observation was awfully specific, but Adam has no memories of Alex, his childhood best friend. He’s calm on the surface after he makes his mistake (“I don’t remember him.” “Her.”) and smoothly changes the subject to a pair of old-school sneakers on display. They’re the ones he was wearing that fateful day he was stolen. Danny’s wheels are turning; are Adam’s blind spots the result of his significant trauma, or is he re-creating a life he never lived from a partial picture? As Claire finds out, Adam sometimes needs to subconsciously remind himself of his own name.

At least the elder Warrens are trying to deal with Adam’s emotional well-being this week. Still, their efforts are clumsy and embarrassing. Claire buys up a candy store for her youngest, reasoning that Adam lost out on half a lifetime full of “treats.” But the gesture seems frivolous when she checks on Adam at night and finds him sleeping in his closet instead of his cozy twin bed. He has to be able to touch the walls, Adam tells her, lifting his arms to either side. It’s a devastating discovery for Claire, especially after Adam expressed concern for the well-being of his captor; later, she tells the boy’s new psychologist (maybe this one will actually do something for the kid), essentially, that Adam is broken. “He’s not our son, he’s…he is in there, somewhere,” she pleads. “Please, just help us find him.” The doctor reminds Claire and John that captivity was Adam’s reality for longer than their home was and perhaps there is no quick fix available.

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If this week’s cold open taught us anything, it’s that The Family would like us to remember that Adam is a stranger in a strange land. (Who needs artful symbolism when you have a split screen?) The sequence draws a parallel between Adam and Hank, of all people. Friendly reminder: he’s the registered sex offender who copped to Adam’s murder under duress, was released as soon as the child reappeared and then moved right back into the neighborhood. Are they alike because circumstances ripped them from everything they knew and they now find themselves poorly equipped to handle regular, suburban life? Or are they alike because they’re both faulty in some way and know very well that they’re where they don’t belong? A huge piece of the puzzle arrives in the form of a flashback scene that shows a friendly relationship between Hank and young Adam. Hank is Adam’s ship-in-a-bottle guru, though he seems to be keeping that little secret from his parents. (Did Hank instruct him to? I’d think so.) Willa spots Adam running from Hank’s house to his bus, planting the suspicion that eventually drives the entire investigation.

Willa knows a lot of things, apparently. Claire is still running for the governorship, as John confirms with some sarcastic jabs over grocery organization. Willa is single-minded in her bid to get her mom elected. A weepy family interview with a “maternal” anchor ought to quash all fears about Claire’s ability to govern and deal with her family drama at the same time but only if the entire Warren clan is on board. Claire foresees that her husband might be the problem there, but Willa has an ace in the hole. “I didn’t know what ‘inside you’ meant at 13, but I knew it needed to be off your phone,” Willa tells her dad. She’s been his extramarital affair fairy godmother for almost the entire time John (not very tech savvy, apparently) has been messing around with Detective Meyer. What were Willa’s motivations there? Was she protecting her mother? Her dad? We’ve never seen her be particularly loving to either. Or was she exerting undue control because she needs to? Willa’s interference came, fittingly, like some divine intervention in her parents’ lives. But maybe John was supposed to get caught. Maybe this marriage was supposed to have ended 10 years earlier, and who gave her the right? “Are you threatening me?” John asks. “I’m asking you not to make me do that,” Willa calmly answers.

NEXT: A picture-perfect childhood

John hasn’t stopped reaching out to Detective Meyer for sympathy and connection. (I wonder what the rest of the precinct makes of his private visits.) But Meyer is caught up in following the “red dragon” lead. Convinced that the light from the oil refinery is the key, the detective deploys a search team to the woods. Their first sweep comes up empty, and her chief can’t justify another one. Len (Ruben Santiago-Hudson, also Beckett’s former captain on Castle) trusts Meyer, but numbers are numbers. Predictably, the detective heads out into the unswept portion of the search area alone. She’s being watched by the pock-marked man we saw at the end of the pilot. Meyer calls for backup when she finds a metal door to an underground bunker; immediately, the area goes up in flames.

Can’t burn down a metal bunker, though, so Meyer gets her search team back. She lowers herself into the dungeon by a ladder and lays down on the ground in the corner that gives her the best view of the open door. Meyer mimics Adam’s closet sleeping posture and raises her arms; they hit the walls. She can just make out the “red dragon” in the distance. This is it.

The break is soured when Len gives Meyer the “you’re a good cop, but” routine. She’s too sullied by Hank’s overturned conviction to be the face of this case. He’s called in the FBI, though a later peek at Meyer’s Adam Warren bulletin board proves that she’s not dropping this bone anytime soon.

Neither is Hank, who’s holding both a grudge against the Warrens and an obsession with their son. (“Remember me? I’m the guy that killed you.”) From what we’ve seen so far, his physical relationship with Adam was innocent even if his urges are decidedly not. “He was nice to me,” Hank says to Claire in a flashback when he brings the grieving mother a plate of sad, store-bought muffins. What kind of adult talks about a child like that, except an adult who is stunted in some way — an adult who sees a 9-year-old child as an equal? Whether Hank acted on the desires those crocheted mittens represented, they doomed him. So far, The Family’s most fascinating moral quandary is the case of Hank Asher. Were the children of Red Pines safer with a possibly escalating pedophile locked up, even without cause? Adam certainly wasn’t, as John reminds Hank.

The Warren house isn’t a home to anybody anymore, least of all Adam. It’s a practice range — a museum of Adam Warren’s life. While the rest of the family sleeps, Adam memorizes the locations of things: cereal, silverware, plates. The repetition could be a coping mechanism, but it could be sheer mimicry. Danny catapults right back to the other side of the fence on this matter when he studies the re-displayed photos of Adam and the family on the fireplace mantel. The details that Adam’s thrown into conversation and that had lowered Danny’s guard are all plucked from those images: the tail light, Danny’s broken arm, the sneakers. Believing himself alone in his doubts, Danny visits a pediatric dental office to charm an empathetic nurse into handing over Adam’s dental records. (“I’ve been praying for your family.” “Oh cool, yeah.”) She would, of course, but Willa had already picked them up. The paranoia is catching.

Odds & Ends:

  • When Adam invites Hank to the city council candidates’ rally, he tells him excitedly that there’ll be cotton candy there. We don’t see the older Adam reject Claire’s sweets haul or anything, but that’s a conspicuous parallel.
  • I know Zach Gilford mostly as Friday Night Lights’ saintly Matt Saracen, so a gesture as apathetic as Danny throwing his jacket on the ground as soon as he walks into the door is suitably jarring. I love him in this part.
  • Glad to hear the chief has uniforms interviewing the rally vendors again. Like I said last week: Investigate the ice cream guy.
  • Something terrible needs to befall that evil newspaper editor before the season is out.
  • “I don’t drink, Ryan. Or date.” “Men?” “People.”

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