No Ordinary Family: "No Ordinary Powell"
C+

No Ordinary Family: "No Ordinary Powell"

What kind of show No Ordinary Family wants to be has always been somewhat debatable. I've been pretty certain that it wanted to be a sitcom, but as soon as I wrote a few hundred words on the subject, they've gone in different directions with each episode since. But someday soon, it will be unleashed! That day is not today, however, because tonight's episode was all serialization. Essentially, everything in this episode announced that it was cleaning up the unresolved storylines, and it was Very Important.

The first way it did so was with the in media res opening that TV critics started decrying by consensus just a few weeks ago. Hey, critics, make an exception for No Ordinary Family; they're really trying to be a real, live TV show. From there, the plot gets channeled into two stories, one for the parents, trying to deal with the Big Bad and his shapeshifting lady, and the other, dealing with the kids, as JJ tries to do a big favor for his ex with Daphne while she develops her mental projection powers.

The parents' plot relies a bit too heavily on the shapeshifter evil HR woman, Victoria, as she attempts to infiltrate the Powell family. This causes the various family members to break out in rashes of idiocy and hives of exposition, so that she may conveniently learn all about them. “My superbrain can only get me so far,” says JJ, as she's disguised as Daphne, but comparatively, he's extremely perceptive compared to his dad, who gets SHOT by George and still takes several minutes to figure out that something's gone wrong. It stands out even more since he pulled a pretty smart MacGyver bit, using instant coffee dust and tape made in Scotland in order to pull up some fingerprints. Even worse, it's just a few weeks after Stephanie had her own shapeshifter issue, and that takes him (and everyone else) far too long to realize.

The characters' necessary idiocy aside, the main storyline does an effective, if perfunctory, job of sweeping aside much of the serialized secrecy that No Ordinary Family has developed over the past year. With the Powells knowing that Dr. King, aka CEO Palpatine, which is a much worse nickname since his Vader left, is part of the conspiracy to create supervillains, they can stop being idiots around him. Katie tries to get medicine for Joshua, which ends up revealing to Stephanie that he had powers the whole time (though his murderous rampages remain a secret). By the end of the episode, Victoria ends up dead, and the narrative housecleaning has done most of its job.

Two important new pieces of information come to light over the course of the episode: Victoria claims that Dr. King is interested in Stephanie as a woman, and she also lets slip that he's only a minor piece of the supervillain conspiracy. The first is, to be honest, a pretty annoying development. It's not as if the Powells were lacking in reason to hate Dr. King already, and it continues to feminize Stephanie at the expense of her strengths as a character, more than a pretty face. On the other hand, the reveal that there was more to the bad guys beyond King is pretty obvious, but it's nice that they're getting it out of the way before King is actually out of the picture, thus saving us the annoyance of a “Well, Dr. King is gone, but wait! What's this memo to him from the Evil Hegemony of Jerkfaces?”

The kids' storyline is surprisingly superior in certain ways. It depends on an absurd contrivance: Natalie, JJ's ex, notices a barista wearing her murdered mom's locket, despite her previous insistence that she moved from city to city in foster care. JJ recruits Daphne to help him trace the locket, figuring that this'll get him back into Natalie's good graces. Daphne uses her augmented abilities to help, which JJ too-happily goes along with if it can get him some chicks. They find themselves in over their heads soon enough, though, forcing them to call for backup.. It's not perfect, but it is the kind of superhero team-up I always prefer from the show.

This episode certainly wasn't enough to wash the bad taste from last week from my brain, but I am glad to see the show trying to become something, anything, that isn't a weekly reification of Hollywood's version of American values. Let's see how this goes.

Stray Observations:

  • “Single Super Seeking Same for Testing and Whistleblowing” George helps Jim look for someone to flip.
  • “If there was a way to solve this, the police would have done it already.” Gee whiz, Daphne, you don't think a fucking telepath combined with a supergenius can maybe do a little better than the police?
  • Jim has NO SUPERDEFENSE AGAINST MACE.
  • “Technically, it's a lasso.” Katie doesn't have much to do here, but Stephanie doing Wonder Woman with her was pretty cool.
  • “Maybe it was someone else. You know, we don't all look alike, Jim.” George has a bit more, and does well with it.
  • “Since we only know my weakness, which is HERE'S MY WEAKNESS FOR EXPOSITION'S SAKE.” I think this is an exact quote from Jim, not certain, though.
  • The Michael Chiklis versus stunt double fight was really well-done.

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