ABC's family superhero drama heads into winter hiatus with an episode providing the requisite surprises you expect from a mid-season finale. "No Ordinary Sidekick" was another enjoyable episode; one that proves this series is improving steadily as the cast/crew get more comfortable with the world they're creating. It's still not at the level where there's enough drama and excitement to keep you mentally engaged between episodes, but I'm having a reliable amount of fun watching every week.
Given the title, there was an obvious emphasis on the show's two sidekicks: George (Romany Malco) was erroneously credited with preventing a robbery, after arriving at the scene of a crime shortly after Jim (Michael Chiklis) had caught the robbers, resulting in him becoming a local hero, which understandably frustrated Jim; and Katie (Autumn Reeser) fell out with Stephanie (Julie Benz) over her apprehension toward boyfriend Will (Josh Stewart), shortly after JJ (Jimmy Bennett) and Daphne (Kay Panabaker) confided in their mother about their suspicions. Both storylines eventually led to both sidekicks quitting their roles, as tensions became unbearable.
I was glad this episode restored some common sense to how the Will storyline was unfolding, even if it's taken JJ far too long to note the coincidence that Katie's boyfriend goes by the same name as the online bachelor he created to boost Katie's self-confidence. And when Katie questioned Will about Stephanie's concerns, he even managed to improvise a reasonable excuse for his actions, by pretending he had sympathized with her being stood up on a date and slipped into the role. This puts everything on a firmer footing, however belatedly, which is good to see.
JJ had a fun subplot, as it became clear his super-intelligence is affected by his libido, having met an attractive chessmaster (Katelyn Tarver) and realizing his ability short-circuits in her presence. He soon found a way to combat the issue, by distracting his own mind with tedious baseball stats he'd memorized, so I'm not sure if this will become a big problem for JJ in the future. To defeat super-genius JJ, super-villains just need to employ Playboy Bunnies as their minions? There wasn't really much to JJ's story beyond that, as it was really just a fun distraction.
More pertinent to the mytharc was the unexpected progression with the Dr Chiles (Reggie Lee) storyline, as he's aware Dr King's (Stephen Collins) been working on a strange serum, and managed to get Stephanie on-side by giving her a stolen sample of King's drug to analyze. As Chiles is becoming a thorn in Dr King's side, Will (using his new alias of Joshua) was tasked to eliminate the irritant, by forcing Chiles to commit suicide with a drug overdose, using his "puppetting" ability.
It also became clearer that Joshua's only loyal to King because he desperately wants to keep the super-powers King can bestow him with. I'm positive this means there's a good person beneath the surface, ready to be redeemed by sweet Katie later in the season. It's just a matter of time, right? King and Joshua's interest in the Powell 's was also made more overt: the family don't need to be given regular injections of King's serum to maintain their abilities, which is an advantage Joshua is particularly jealous of.
"No Ordinary Sidekick" packed in some eye-catching sequences, too; from Jim stopping a "money train" by digging his heels into the track and becoming its front brake, to a sequence (very reminiscent of Sylar/Clair confrontations in Heroes) when Joshua realized Daphne's managed to break through his mental firewall and knows he killed Dr Chiles. This prompted him to erase her memories of the past three months, effectively resetting her character to the status of the pilot. The Daphne/Joshua altercation was especially good because Panabaker's reactions to Joshua's taunts (as he sent furniture skidding around the house to scare her) felt very realistic, and Daphne's consequent amnesia will hopefully tip-off Jim and Stephanie that danger's lurking close by. Put it this way -- I'll be sorely disappointed if the following episodes don't involve Stephanie suspecting Joshua and trying to investigate his background, despite whatever assurances Katie gives her that he's innocent.
Overall, there's still much to enjoy about No Ordinary Family, if you're in the right mindset. It's definitely one of those shows you feel getting better as its confidence grows every week, and while it's cumulatively rather predictable and middle-of-the-road, I find the performances and premise of the show appealing and fun.
- I appreciated the fact Jim is starting to be taken seriously at the precinct now, as Detective Cordero (Guillermo Diaz) discovered Jim was the guy who saved his life after his recent car accident. This will hopefully cut down on the digs Jim has to take on the chin, and perhaps even lead to his hunches being taken more seriously. It remains to be seen if No Ordinary Family will keep Jim as a sketch artist. On the positive side, Jim's time is freed up to be a vigilante while technically on duty, without arousing too much suspicion; but it also means it's tough for him to get really hands-on with the cop show element of this series. Maybe Cordero will be taken into Jim and George's confidence soon?
WRITERS: Zack Estrin & Jon Harmon Feldman
DIRECTOR: Wendey Stanzler
TRANSMISSION: 7 December 2010, ABC, 9/8c