Lone Star – “One in Every Family”

“One in Every Family”

September 27th, 2010

“Everything’s always a blur.”

Lying in bed, the newly married Lindsay Allen observes to her husband that her life is sort of like drowning: when he’s away (with his other wife), she feels like she’s drowning, and when he returns it’s like a sudden breath of air.

This scene does little to elevate Lone Star’s gender representations, as effectively Lindsay is arguing that she is lost without her man; however, while I will get to those questions in a moment, I want to focus on the way Lindsay’s description describes Lone Star in and of itself. The show feels sort of like a blur, really: while the show has a fairly leisurely pace, the threat of a reveal remains at every corner, creating just enough instability for an episode like “One in Every Family” to feel meaningful even when it doesn’t have any huge or groundbreaking scenes.

The show continues to paint in fairly broad strokes on some levels, but its second episode quite successfully expands on the nuance within its various worlds: the show still remains fairly centered on James Wolk’s Robert Allen, but the show around him has been effectively given additional depth which would indicate that this show is about more than its premise.

Emphasizing potential, of course, that is unlikely to see the light of the fall season.

The goal of “One in Every Family” is to outline the three spheres in which the show will be telling stories in the season ahead. The first, of course, is Robert’s true identity, where his father is the one person who truly knows him (and yet the person who, in the context of his other personas, is either dead or a deadbeat). The second is Lindsay’s family, which actively seeks information about Robert’s past in order to ensure a balanced wedding party. The third, of course, is Cat’s family, which is where Robert is actually most comfortable (in that his plan to get deeper into the company goes over just about perfectly).

There wasn’t substantial character development in each of these separate areas, but I’d argue the episode was specifically focused on expanding these worlds outside of Robert’s identity. We stayed with Lindsay after Robert left, this time around, and while Robert sat outside with her brother Cat was allowed to go into the office on her own in order to get her brother off the hook for his DUI. These are small moments, some of which (in Lindsay’s case) remain tied to Robert in some way, but it gives you a sense of why the show will be more than what it offered in its pilot.

This was especially true with Bob’s father, who was allowed to step outside of the role of antagonist for a change. While he remains a threatening figure, undermining Bob at episode’s end, there was a vulnerability to his response to learning how he is personified within Bob’s cons. The episode forces John Allen to consider why he cons: is it because of the thrill of fleecing innocent victims, or is it being able to do something with his son? It’s a simple idea, but the episode nicely allows John to have that moment of loneliness at the restaurant, and to bristle at the idea that Jon Voigt’s Clint Thatcher playing a role as Bob’s father figure. While it may seem strange that we feel for a con artist who forced his son into this line of work, the episode did a nice job of separating John from the notion of “villainy.”

Effectively, what the episode established is why the show is better off to have introduced these various different family environments as opposed to telling a simpler story about a con artist with daddy issues conning a major corporation owned by his father-in-law. You could tell that story, but I like what the dichotomy tells us about the challenges facing a con man in his situation. Lindsay’s family is desperate to fill in the blanks about Robert’s past because they live a quiet life and simply want to maintain their existence, while Cat’s family is uninterested in Robert’s past beyond its emotional hook because they want the financial opportunity that he promises. In that sense, the show is about the two families as much as it is about Bob himself: while he may be the “protagonist,” I found myself spending much more time in the episode considering the organization of these families than about Bob’s moral dilemma (which the pilot more or less exhausted, at least in terms of general plot development).

No, the episode wasn’t any sort of concept episode where Bob was heavily marginalized: he still remains a cheating bastard in many ways, and the fact that Cat has a daughter (which I don’t remember from the pilot) has only added to that. However, the episode intelligently never tried to argue that Bob is virtuous or that Bob is in some way justified. Instead, it expanded the world and placed Bob’s actions into greater context: sure, some of it was a bit on the nose (the black sheep sister who finds his cell phone, for example), but it was all effective at informing us that the show could successfully hold on for a season of television, creatively speaking.

Yes, it’s likely that the series will be unable to last long enough to show us that, but I think I’m more comfortably suggesting that something will be lost should FOX bring down the axe in the days ahead, which is a win for the show in my book.

Cultural Observations

  • One thing I did like about the sister character was that it raises an interesting hypocrisy in Bob actively interrogating someone’s past behaviour.
  • Liked the bit where, in convincing Lindsay to have another wedding, Bob uses memories of his wedding to Cat – it’s an example of how he plans to pull off this double life, and I liked seeing into his mind in that moment – good device.
  • Great to hear some of The National, “Afraid of Everyone” to be exact, over the final montage – great band, great song.
  • Ratings are going to be delayed a bit, so there will be no immediate sign of how horribly the series did tonight.
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2 Comments

Filed under Lone Star

2 responses to “Lone Star – “One in Every Family”

  1. mike

    I don’t know. I thought that last scene was groundbreaking. For once, his father is working alone. This should be interesting.

    I love how this show is taking it slow. They’re setting the groundwork for those awesome episodes where the shit hits the fan – the payoff. I wish more shows would work like this instead trying to make ever single episode amazing.

  2. Teebs

    They cancelled it as of today.
    I am upset, not just about the show, but about the general trend it may create, and the overall impatience it betrays. If a show has ONE episode (or two) to make it or break it, we’re never going to have breakthrough shows anymore. Those tend to require a little bit of patience.
    Having so little patience with a show is unreasonable from a newer point of view, because all shows debuted the same week this year and we don’t have 5 hours of TVtime every night, so things would ge re-ordered within the month. In addition, with DVRs, Hulu, etc, many people don’t watch live anymore. Cancelling based on two live episodes plus DVR-7s for ONE episode is irrational.
    Plus, cancelling a superb show is stupid from a business or prestige standpoint: They could have let it run to 9 or 13 episodes, then sold it as a DVD set. Now Fox looks like they don’t know what they’re doing AND they’re the bad guy.

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