ABC’s new drama The Family takes on our fascination with individuals who have been abducted and held captive in isolation for a long period of time and their subsequent attempts to reintegrate into society. Like the recent novel and film Room (and, for that matter, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), it’s inspired in part by real-life events like Cleveland’s Ariel Castro kidnappings and Austria’s Fritzl case. So, despite the inexplicably bland title, The Family goes to some pretty dark places right from the get go.
The premise centers on the Warren family, whose son Adam disappeared 10 years prior. In a flashback to the series of events that led to Adam’s disappearance, we see stay-at-home mom Claire (Joan Allen) campaigning for city counsel at a town fair in the fictional Red Pines, where the series is set. Claire and her husband John (Rupert Graves) tell their eldest two children to watch over young Adam. Things don’t go as planned, and Adam vanishes seemingly into thin air.
In the present day, Claire is now the driven mayor of Red Pines, with an eye on a governor’s seat. Her eldest son Danny (Zach Gilford), who had been primarily in charge of looking after Adam, has developed substance abuse problems, while Claire’s daughter Willa (Alison Pill) works as her mayoral assistant, a role that perfectly channels Anna Chlumsky’s character in Veep. Meanwhile, Claire and John’s marriage has become strained in the 10 years following the loss of their son and her ascent into the ranks of local government, so the whole family is completely blindsided when Adam (Liam James) turns up at the local police station.