Thursday, October 6, 2022

REVIEW: 'A Friend of the Family' - Mary Ann and Bob Are Seduced by B's Insistence on Being Around Them in 'The Gift of Tongues'

Peacock's A Friend of the Family - Episode 1.03 "The Gift of Tongues"

The Berchtolds and Brobergs grow closer, but as Mary Ann and the girls fall under the spell of their fun-loving neighbor, Bob sees him as a threat.

"The Gift of Tongues" was directed by Eliza Hittman with story by Lucy Teitler & Julia Batavia and teleplay by Lucy Teitler

This series depicts how one family was invaded by a depraved man to appease his twisted desires. The premiere wanted to get to that tragic twist as quickly as possible. As such, a montage was good enough to inform how the Brobergs and Berchtolds got so close in the years leading up to B's abduction of Jan. That was the truly consequential moment. That also created the mentality that all narrative momentum would build off that point. That was the direction of the second episode as B conditioned Jan into compliance. She falsely believes the lies he told her even after being rescued. The show will return to that moment soon. However, this episode delves back into the personal dynamics the Broberg family had with B before he took Jan. That information radiates throughout every single thing he does. So much focuses on the seduction of Mary Ann and Bob. They had to become enthralled with this man in order to grant him access to their eldest daughter. It's all a matter of repetition as well. B continually praises the Brobergs for their generosity. They constantly lift his spirits up and support his family. And then, Mary Ann and Bob have to be of service to him as he complained about the lack of intimacy in his marriage with Gail. He needed their help. He positioned them as the perfect couple and family. He was corrupting these relationships in order for them to feel a dependence on one another. He made it seem like his fragile sense of self was based entirely on how others would react. Ultimately, his behavior was informed entirely by getting to spend time with Jan. That was always his focus. He simply had to appease others to hold those connections over their heads. He doesn't want them to say no to anything he promises. Bob feels compelled to draw a firm line of what's good for his family. He sees the ways in which B is tearing them apart. And yet, he gets drawn in by the complex story of a man whose life is falling apart. So much of it is a performance in pursuit of sexual satisfaction. B simply inflicts pain and trauma onto those who should know far better than to encourage his behavior. It's delicate work that occurs over time. That's more amply explored in this episode. It's also done at a sluggish pace that disrupts the momentum present from the previous hours. This is important context. It helps establish the nuanced relationships everyone had with B. He was always manipulative while the Brobergs found it impossible to deny his requests. He made that their reality. All of this comes across as expanding simple ideas to pad the story out. It doesn't feel necessary in its entirety. That makes this a stumble over what has already occurred.

It comes back to the love everyone professes over B. They love having him in their lives. They depend on him. He makes himself valuable. He proclaims the importance of him driving all the children to school each day. That would give Mary Ann time to focus on herself. She deserves that. In fact, he presents himself as completely infatuated with Mary Ann. That was already teased. B made these feelings known over and over again. He talked to everyone about how sexy she was. He didn't care who noticed or who repeated it. It simply needed to be an opinion people knew he had. As such, it wouldn't be offensive when he pushed the boundaries. He slowly chipped away at them. He made Mary Ann feel special in a way Bob could not. Bob is always seen as a wonderful father. He and Mary Ann are partners. They lean on each other for support. Their intimate moments aren't as magical as they may want. However, they find joy and acceptance in what they have. It's worth trying new stuff in the bedroom. Of course, so much pivots around Bob being an ashamed and repressed gay man. It's remarkable when he confesses to B the sinful nature of his childish antics. B reassures him that it was all perfectly normal. He shouldn't feel bad for what he did. Everything hinges on that acceptance. B offers Bob the space to accept himself. It's still a terrifying moment. It's not one built on trust and consent. B presents temptation. Bob can't turn away. He doesn't have the ability to do so. The assaults on his family were numerous by B. It can be much more explicit when it comes to the adults. The show is tentative when it comes to depicting the actual child abuse. It's all inferred. B wants to establish privacy for Jan so he can take more liberties with her. The danger was present before he took her as well. The recurring nightmares are an indicator of the abuse. Mary Ann wanted to follow up on what was so scary. That moment never occurs. Jan's fears could be written off every time they occurred. A pattern was clearly established. It was built on the pills B constantly gave her. He was in charge of her schedule. He was the only one taking care of her like that. That speaks to the amount of time he actually spent with her. It was all-consuming even though he also had to focus on grooming her parents. He invaded all of their lives. It was in the pursuit of taking what he wanted. He believes he's entitled to it. Even after a lengthy stay in a Mexican prison, he's still yelling about better treatment. The entitlement is glaring. He expects to get Jan without anyone raising any concerns. He achieved so much in secret. He still wanted more. That won't go away no matter how badly the members of this family want to keep their own secrets about how they behaved. They can't handle the embarrassment of their own shortcomings becoming known. That unfortunately only allows the suffering to continue.