We’re two episodes into “The Family,” ABC’s new primetime soap, and the second episode, "All You See is Dark," uses sleep, and attitudes around it, to contrast how two once-captive characters adjust to their new lives.
For the un-apprised, the show centers on the family Warren, of Maine. Adam Warren, the youngest of the three Warren children, vanished 10 years ago on the day his mother Claire (Joan Allen) announced her bid for city council. The investigation into then eight-year-old Adam’s disappearance ended with a murder confession from the Warrens’ next-door neighbor Hank (Andrew McCarthy), who's possibly a registered sex offender and indisputably a prototypical creepy white dude.
But then! On the cusp of rising-politician Claire's gubernatorial campaign, Adam — or someone who says he’s Adam — returns. Now 18 and bearing fugue-like calmness, the son who got away has escaped from an underground mountain bunker where a man "whose face looks like gravel" held him captive. With Adam back in the mix, Hank is released from prison and compensated for 10 years of wrongful imprisonment. Except, Adam’s behavior and recollections don't add up for his older brother Danny (Zach Gilford, a.k.a. Matt Saracen from "Friday Night Lights"), who mostly drinks, lurks and serves as the show’s resident skeptic.
The pilot episode sets up the big questions: Is Adam really Adam? Will the detective who “solved” Adam’s murder re-solve his abduction case? Just how innocent is Hank?
By the second episode, it’s time for some character development. A decade of imprisonment has taken a toll on both Adam and Hank, and the show depicts their relationships with newly attained freedom through their opposite reactions to sleeping outside captivity: Adam can’t spend the night in a real bed; Hank can't wait to luxuriate in one.
Adam grew accustomed to sleeping in a confined space where he couldn't stretch his arms without hitting two walls. So, to get some shuteye, he crawls into his bedroom closet and curls up on the floor. In response, Claire spruces up Adam’s bed and locks the closet door. Coupled with his concern over the fate of his captor, Adam’s closet-sleeping worries his mother, who asks a psychologist to “find” the son that’s “in there, somewhere.” But, as the psychologist points out, Adam lived in captivity longer than he lived in his childhood bedroom. Home is an unsteady concept for him.
Hank, on the other hand, takes a chunk of his “sorry we convicted you of murder” money ($30,000 a year) and goes mattress shopping. Surveying his options, Hank walks through a sea of tufted, springy beds, trailed by an overeager salesman who doesn’t flinch at the mention of prison.
“What kind of sleeper are you, Hank? Side, back, tummy?”
“I don’t sleep.”
“Insomniac. Noise keeping you up at night?...Bad mattress. Does it have a box spring?”
“Is the padding foam?”
“Bottom line, you’re looking for comfort —”
Hank spots the G-Wagon of getting rest, the Wagyu of winding down — which costs $10,000. He flops down and sighs with relief.
Sleeping is both a cause for concern and celebration. One character who had to spend nights on a meager mattress splurges for the sake of his comfort and sanity. Another, released from a different sort of captivity, is only comfortable in confinement. With these contrasting responses to resting freely, we get a hint of what’s to come.