Growing up, Brothers & Sisters was always one of my favorite shows. Not every series has to have spectacle and mindblowing twists; sometimes richly drawn characters and clever dialogue are all that you need for a truly memorable show. And that’s exactly what Brothers & Sisters is: a complex and wonderfully layered family drama.
Patriarchy is a surprisingly confident pilot episode. I wondered if it would seem dated in 2018, but it’s as effective today as it was in 2006. The show’s greatest success is the way it so effortlessly brings sibling and familial dynamics to life. Watching the Walker kids argue and crack jabs over family dinner is not only amusing, it’s very relatable (to every family on earth I imagine?). And yet, amidst all the banter and judgment, is a a whole lot of love. And isn’t that what family is all about?
Of course it helps that the cast is just perfect. Leading the charge is the spectacular Sally Field as the Walker family’s matriarch Nora Walker. It boggles my mind that Field hasn’t had a breakout role since, because she got quite a bit of acclaim for her stunning turn here. Mama Walker is a multi-dimensional creation who displays a zillion layers at once, and Fields’ performance is a true sight to behold. As for her children, Calista Flockhart is immediately engaging as the show’s de-facto lead Kitty Walker (Calista still kicks ass on Supergirl but only sporadically), Rachel Griffiths’s Sarah is an instant favorite, while Dave Annable is hilarious and heartbreaking as Justin (funnily enough, his wife is currently stealing the show on Supergirl as well). The Americans‘ Matthew Rhys is also a sarcastic highlight as Kevin, Nora’s gay son (this was a BIG deal on TV back in 2006). Sadly, Balthazar Getty’s Tommy Walker leaves the least impression, but that’s only because the script doesn’t really give the character much to do (which unfortunately ends up being a recurring problem throughout the show’s run).
The pilot’s final scene is also truly magnificent (so do skip this paragraph if you haven’t seen it). The tension slowly builds with William noticing something wrong as he shares a sweet moment with his granddaughter Paige, only to have a heart attack and crash into the pool as his family rushes towards him. I get goosebumps just thinking about this scene; it’s meticulously edited and acted. Most importantly, the musical score by Blake Neely is phenomenal in the way it elegantly (yet brutally) tugs at your heartstrings. What makes this sequence even more gut-wrenching for me on a personal level is the fact that I lost my own father a few days before this episode aired back in September 2006. Talk about timing!
– The delightful Patricia Wettig makes a minor appearance in the pilot as William’s mysterious friend (and potential mistress?) Holly Harper. Wetting is also brilliant in Alias and Prison Break. Why isn’t she currently headlining her own show? Interestingly enough, she’s married to Ken Olin, one of the show’s producers who also happens to be one of the masterminds behind This Is Us (my modern-day replacement for Brothers & Sisters).
– Look at that, it’s Ron Rifkin of Alias fame as Uncle Saul. I remember being shocked at his 360 turn as Rifkin played a truly despicable baddie on that spy show, but he’s a bonafide family man here.
– So cringeworthy it’s good: William telling Justin as he plays in the pool that he needs to straighten out his life. Ouch.
– Jonathan is a real ass isn’t he? Leave him Kitty!
– I’ve never watched Six Feet Under, but Rachel Griffith is so good here she makes me want to give it a shot.
– Yup that’s Cougar Town‘s Josh Hopkins as Kitty’s new co-host, Warren. I love this guy!
– If you couldn’t’ tell, the Walkers will be drinking a WHOLE lot of wine throughout the show’s run. Also, their family business, Ojai Foods, has some potentially shady dealings going on…
– The fight between Kitty and Nora as the latter blames the former for sending her brother to Afghanistan is extremely hard to watch isn’t it? Wow.
William: (to Kitty) Bet on yourself, honey. Never forget. Bet on yourself.
Justin: Swimming, folks. I’m not gonna do her on the island in the guacamole.
Sarah: Being a working mom, it’s like being a currency that never has enough value.
Kitty: You don’t want to talk? Really? What kind of a relationship is that?
Nora: It’s the only kind we can have right now.
Kitty: (to Jonathan) That suit. You look like a penguin in the Sahara.
Sarah: To my little sister, Kitty. Who at age seven ate all my Girl Scout cookies, preventing me from winning a trip to space camp, which completely destroyed my dream of becoming an astronaut.
A brilliant pilot packed with sharp dialogue and lovable characters. This one’s a classic!