Thursday, October 6, 2022

REVIEW: 'A Friend of the Family' - Mary Ann and Bob Spiral After Jan Is Taken by a Friend in 'Horseback Riding in American Falls'

Peacock's A Friend of the Family - Episode 1.01 "Horseback Riding in American Falls"

A trusted family friend picks up Jan after school to go horseback riding, but as nightfall looms and they're still not home, what seemed like a casual afternoon slowly turns nightmarish.

"Horseback Riding in American Falls" was written by Nick Antosca and directed by Eliza Hittman

Before the dramatization of Jan Broberg's childhood begins, the real-life individual delivers a message direct to the camera. Even though her story may sound ridiculous and too unbelievable to have actually happened, this is a truthful telling of events. Her family didn't think this could happen to them. It did. It was a defining moment in all of their lives. A trusted family friend lied and abused them. He manipulated them solely to get access to Jan. It's absolutely horrifying. When the premiere closes, the number to receive help for any victim of sexual assault flashes across the screen. This story is told to enlighten people about the past in the hopes of informing them about these toxic dynamics. It's a story meant to bring awareness to the issue to prevent it from happening again. That's the introduction to this world. The story briefly opens in 1975 Idaho with Mary Ann checking on Jan before she goes to sleep. It's obvious that Jan is terrified. Any noise alerts her to potential danger. A figure is seen looming in the shadows over her. But it's ultimately nothing more than a tease. Instead, the action goes back a few years to detail how the two families got so close. B and Gail move to Pocatello with their family. They believe they've found the home they've long been looking for. Bob and Mary Ann lead their daughters down the block to show these newcomers just how welcoming and neighborly this place is. The girls don't know what to expect. However, the Berchtolds have sons the same ages as the Broberg girls. These families understand each other. They thrive on being able to rely on each other no matter what. It's not long before they are constantly over at each other's houses or taking the other children to events. It's a system of support. Each family relies on that. Everyone needs help from time to time. It's a blessing. However, B had his eyes on Jan from the very beginning. She was the first member of her family to meet him. He talks up her talent. He is impressed by everything she does. Her innocence is maintained throughout all of this. B still preys on her. He's preparing to act. It doesn't matter that he's planted roots in this community. In the end, it's all about what he wants. Even Gail is willing to explain away his actions. He suffers from manic depression. As such, his emotions go to high highs and low lows. If he gets excited about something, then he will do it no matter how much it terrifies everyone else. People inherently want to believe that B isn't capable of harming Jan. They need that to be true. Holding onto that belief prevents them from pursuing the rational idea of alerting the police once the abduction occurs. This can't be happening. It is though. Only the audience sees Jan tied up and restrained. That's clarifying even though that fear radiates throughout everything Mary Ann, Bob and Gail are doing as well.

B targeted Mary Ann and Bob too. He has to influence them in order to spend more time with Jan. It was all meaningless fun when it was the two families spending time together. Everything shifted once it became normal for B and Jan to go off on their own adventures. B didn't make up a lie about promising to take Jan horseback riding either. That assumption could have been made given the way he pits Mary Ann and Bob against each other. Jan's feelings inform their decision. They know how she is going to react if this promise can't be delivered. And yet, it takes them all by surprise. Jan was suppose to have a piano lesson and then return home for dinner and a puzzle with her family. That's how they wanted to spend time together. It offered some good, wholesome fun. She sought out adventure because B promised the world to her. She couldn't focus during her piano lesson. He couldn't wait to get her either. The horses were never a real offer though. He sold his business and spent weeks preparing an RV for this precise moment. He puts effort in to lie to Mary Ann and Bob. That's not apparent though in his dynamic with Gail. In his marriage, he doesn't treat her as someone who has to be aware of what he's doing. She certainly has her suspicions. She's tentative about framing him in a negative light. She always wants to believe in the best possible outcome. That's not reassuring. In fact, it's terrifying because it suggests complicity. The situation is probably much more complicated than that. Gail has a history with B beyond their time in Idaho. These years have shaped so much for them. That has been informed by the friendship the entire Broberg family offered. B is still capable of many heinous things. He acts on them. That can't be denied. The police should be called. Instead, it's a relief to know his car hasn't broken down or been in an accident. That reveals that both B and Jan are alive. They are missing. This behavior is alarming. And yet, Mary Ann and Bob are led to find it acceptable. It's good enough for them to harshly condemn B afterwards. Once Jan is home safe, then they can worry about B's erratic actions. That isn't a guaranteed outcome. They were lied to about what B was planning on doing with Jan. The details were very vague as well. The family was kept in the dark. They trusted B completely. He took advantage of that. This is what he wanted. He needed to be with Jan in this way. She had to be his. The visuals are all truly sickening and depraved. That's true before the sight of blood on a smashed out car window. The horror has just begun. People don't want to be overly dramatic. Sometimes the situation calls for that exact response because the improbable truly does happen no matter how much people want to deflect from it.