No Ordinary Family: "No Ordinary Animal"
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No Ordinary Family: "No Ordinary Animal"

The last time No Ordinary Family went into a lengthy hiatus, over most of December, it had almost as much plot and quality momentum as it did before this month's hiatus. It came back with an immediate retraction of its cliffhanger (Daphne losing her memory) and a really terrible episode as well. As a reward, it plummeted in the ratings toward cancellation levels, and has yet to recover on those grounds.

Qualitatively, it's much better now, but there's still something off about the show. It's turning into a crazy serialized superhero drama, which I don't mind generally and occasionally quite like. But the sitcom-like visual and aural aesthetics of the show remain, which I think is my main problem with the show. It still portrays itself like it's half-sitcom, when it's gone in a much more intense, dark direction. Yet there's the wacky music playing when Daphne tries to decide whether to use her mind control powers or not! There's the bright, colorful visual style as Eric Balfour attempts to murder Katie in front of her house! So even when it aims for maximum tension, as tonight's episode does, I can't take it totally seriously. My suspension of disbelief is still scuffing the dirt with its soles.

It doesn't help when the big confrontation at the end of the episode simply doesn't work. After merrily killing a few rogue supers, Balfour's Sabertooth-esque Lucas Wennig focuses on the Powells, finding Daphne alone and threatening her when Jim shows up to save the day. His lies to separate her from the crowd are unconvincing, since she's a fucking mind reader; his threats against her are even-less-so, since she's a mind-bender. The fight's choreography seems to consist of cool moments taken from other fights, like Wennig doing the bendy-back-jump from being knocked over, or he and Jim using their superpowers to fly at each other and clash in midair. Its ending is unsatisfactory, with Jim basically punching really hard. Its aftermath was nonsensical, with Daphne convincing Jim to leave the supervillain alone on the grounds that the serum would wear off... and then they disappear, leaving a man who was a multiple murderer as both a normal and a super for... what, the police?

The whole climax is a microcosm of this episode and, to a certain point, the series as a whole. There are a bunch of cool moments, but an overall lack of focus and followthrough keeps the whole from being truly great. Wennig's brutal stabbing of Stephanie is by far the show's darkest and most intense moment, but in order to get to that point, Stephanie has to move close enough to Sabretooth to get gutted, a move which requires as much stupidity as Daphne not reading Wennig's mind 10 minutes later. It's frustrating when the characters being temporary morons seems to be requirement to keep the overarching plot moving, but that's been No Ordinary Family's modus operandi from the beginning. Supernatural dramas often have problems like this (think of Superman's inane Clark Kent disguise, or Buffy's over-reliance on characters keeping secrets), but No Ordinary Family doesn't have enough charm elsewhere to compensate for this crutch.

Which is a pity, because I'm liking the attempt to make the overarching plot more interesting. Three new developments made massive changes to the status quo of No Ordinary Family. Katie, impregnated by Joshua's supersemen, has developed inconsistent telekinetic powers. In order save Stephanie's life, Jim went to Dr. King and gained his help by saying “I know what you know; you know what I am; I don't have time for this” which is kind of cool. And, in order to save her, King and Jim inject her with more superserum, which, according to the preview for the next episode, actually gives her time-travel ability. All of this adds up to a certain amount of narrative momentum, but I'm worried that the characterization and direction of the show aren't able to keep up.

Stray observations:

  • Stephanie says that with the supers running around, they “can't rule out anything.” Lesson learned from last episode? Probably not.
  • “Go fetch.” I think this is my favorite Lucy Lawless character ever, dumb name or not. It helps that, oddly, I find her more attractive in business casual than I did in tight leather.
  • George recommends that the Powells just let Wennig slaughter the bad supers. George is a bad D.A. sometimes.
  • Did I call “the sidekicks get superpowers by the end of the first season” or what!
  • “This sounds more like a 'you' problem than a 'me' problem.”
  • Katie says that Eric Balfour's nose is like The Joker's. “Like in the cartoon, not in the movie.”
  • “Did you see like a big scratching post or a giant litterbox?”
  • “If she gets killed, she'll never speak to you again either!”
  • “You must have been one animal of a kid.” This is fight quipping??? Sarah Michelle Gellar Prinze Jr. is spinning in her grave.
  • The dark, ominous choir music during Stephanie's injection was way funnier than the wacky comedy music ABC tries to use.

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