Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

No Ordinary Family: "No Ordinary Beginning"

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What makes for a superhero story? If your answer is “a bunch of crazy stuff that happens!” congratulations! You could be a writer for No Ordinary Family (or The Cape). On the other hand, cancellation is likely, so that's probably not an option. Still, after the excessive care taken by No Ordinary Family in its first half-season, it's nice to see the show go out swinging. It's not necessarily more competent now than it was (although it has had a nice episode or two), but at least it's trying.

But if anything, it went too far towards serialized craziness. Tonight's episode was jam-packed with action, twists, turns, betrayals, surprises, and revelations. There was absolutely no room to breathe; it was all declarative sentences and punching. I'm not sure whether the episode would have been any good if it did have room to breathe, but all the twists in these final few episodes did seem to actually lead up to a point. Two major points, actually, which lead me to believe that there's a small chance that the show will be back after a serious revamping.

The two ending cliffhangers, though that's a strong word, as the main characters are generally safe and happy, indicate a different kind of show if the series comes back. First, at the end of the episode, a G-Man shows up at the Powells' door to tell them that the government knows about the Powells and that it needs their help. I've been saying that this is a necessary twist for a while (although I phrased it as Jim becoming a cop), since they're relying on vigilantism without costumes. It was also somewhat set up, at least in terms of the government discovering the Powells, during last week's somewhat odd digression from the main plot.

The second cliffhanger actually shows up at the beginning of the episode, as after last time's clever use of the in media res opening, No Ordinary Family reverts to the laziest version of the trope. It doesn't even say “24 hours earlier,” preferring instead the vague “Yesterday.” The scene is of George waking up on a crashing plane filled with panicked people. It's visually unlike anything else in the series; it's dark and cramped and almost even gritty. We end up finding out that this is a plane filled with the experimental criminals, being set up for a permanent boost to their powers, George among them. The end of the episode shows him uncovering what his new powers are in the wreckage of the plane, which serves as the big cliffhanger.

So right here, we have a premise for a revamped second season. The Powells, maybe plus George, get a high-tech government-issue headquarters. With 80 probably-evil supers running around, there'll be no shortage of procedural stories, and there's also two obvious, overarching serialized plots with the GlobalTech CEO running around being evil and the government being all governmental and meddly. There's also Katie and Joshua and their SuperJesus baby, just for fun. It could work. I'm not saying it would work, let alone that it'll have the chance. But No Ordinary Family tried and failed to go for mass appeal, both old and young, male and female, comedy and drama. For a while it looked like it was trying to be an hour-long sitcom. I even wrote up half a piece about how it should do a revamp as a half-hour comedy that I never got to use because it went full serialized drama. I think that would have been more potentially successful, but drama's what we got. I guess we'll find out if it's enough to get a surprise renewal. The episode title, “No Ordinary Beginning,” may also be a clue.

As for tonight's episode itself, well, it was a chaotic mess. Suddenly, everything hits at once: Joshua comes back, the math teacher gets killed, Katie has her baby, Dr. King is using the superserum to make himself immortal, the shapeshifter is still around making people look like idiots, Dr. King shoots Jim, Jim gets his superpowers back just in time to survive getting shot, Lucy Lawless is appealingly smarmy, and JJ throws a syringe into Dr. King's eye, motherfucker! Some of this even makes sense! The big surprise is that Joshua doesn't sacrifice himself for redemption, but it seems for a moment that Dr. King does, before he shoots Jim anyway. So much for that. The big problem is that this isn't a show where really bad things are allowed to happen, so there aren't major stakes here. And given that a minor, annoying villain like Victoria has already been resurrected, there aren't even high stakes for the bad guys. It's just a bunch of stuff that happens. Maybe it'll lead to a retooling. Maybe it'll lead to a dust-gathering single DVD set. Either way, it happened, and we were there. And that's about it.


Stray Observations:

  • The intro is totally skipped, and instead, we get the “Previously on….” As if the opening could get any duller.
  • “I dislike both children and being patient.”
  • OK, since when did George turn into Katie's boyfriend? That was a scene without context. Were a few episodes filmed but not shown?
  • “Well, the only reason I stayed away was that you told me you didn't want to see me again.”
  • The superhero team-ups are still the best part of the show. From start to finish. And finally that's acknowledged.
  • Also, Stephanie using her speed to kick ass was fun.
  • This episode spent a fair amount of time making a lighting-powered super seem all big and scary. Then in the big fight Jim accidentally kills him in like 10 seconds. Not sure if that was supposed to be ironic or if they just rushed every damn thing in the episode.
  • “We realize that you're… no ordinary family” says the G-Man. Hey, that's the name of the show! And every time they say it it just seems dumber!
  • OK, guesses for George's new superpower? And remember, racial stereotypes will be frowned upon. I vote for fire.