Sunday, 5 December 2010

'NO ORDINARY FAMILY' 1.9 – "No Ordinary Anniversary"

Sunday, 5 December 2010

A writing duo from True Blood penned "No Ordinary Anniversary" (the first hour to air in a later 9pm timeslot), and the result was a really fun episode revolving around two partnerships, with a slightly more adult material. I'm not sure if this was intentional, or a quirk of staffing and scheduling, but it was a pleasant surprise and another sign No Ordinary Family is beginning to rise above its middle-of-the-road basis...

Of course, the majority of this episode still covered old ground in a familiar way, broadly speaking: Jim (Michael Chiklis) was busy investigating a creepy serial arsonist who's torching random buildings using his pyrokinesis; while JJ (Jimmy Bennett) and Daphne (Kay Panabaker) combined their powers to ensure a gang of insufferable boys lost in a high-stakes game of poker. Both were very typical storylines for this series, but fortunately they were contextually fun and developed the series mytharc in the subplots.

Primarily, Jim and Stephanie (Julie Benz) spent the evening celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary together, which eventually resulted in Stephanie getting a taste of her husband's life as a vigilante... and realizing it thrills her just as much. Stephanie was in danger of becoming quite a buzz kill on this show, so this was a wise move by the writers. It also delivered the show's best "super-fight" so far, with Stephanie and Jim pooling their abilities to defeat the twisted firestarter. It was a pity the show's fondness for slo-mo sequences of Stephanie running killed a lot of the brawl's pacing, but the special-effects were decent, and it was enjoyable seeing a married super-duo working together like this. It felt like the first step on the way to the inevitable super-family action sequences.

The episode was essentially about partnerships, so while Jim and Stephanie celebrated their marriage by fighting crime together, the lighthearted stuff was handled by JJ and Daphne. The show often presents the kids with cute ways to use their powers, leaving the dangerous aspects of superheroism to their parents, and this continued here. There's a chance it's going to become very tedious, but so far it's still a pleasant way to fill some time. It's also easier to imagine using super-powers to win at cards than it is fighting a crazy man with fists of flame, which helpst. That said, I could have done without the additional story of JJ and Daphne sneaking into school to fix their parent's damaged anniversary present, as it felt unnecessary.

In-between these two stories, the wider mytharc received some detailing. Katie (Autumn Reeser) and her boyfriend Will (Josh Stewart) swung by to check on the Powell kids, leading to Daphne realizing Will was somehow able to block her mindreading by thinking "white noise". She's now suspicious of him, which is great, although I'm puzzled that JJ hasn't noticed that some creepy guy calling himself Will stole the date he arranged for Katie online. I think the idea is that JJ doesn't know Will's last name, so doesn't yet realize he's pretending to be the "character" he created online, but it's not really very clear. It makes JJ look very stupid, which it the one thing's not supposed to be! JJ should be far more suspicious of Will, given the evidence and coincidences staring him in the face.

It was also confirmed that Stephanie's boss Dr King (Stephen Collins) is actually able to give normal people super-powers by injecting them with a serum, and he's using that fact as a means to control Will (aka The Watcher). But Dr King was also responsible for giving the arsonist his abilities and letting him run around the city burning down buildings. To what end? His motivations are still unclear. Interestingly, it seems that Dr Chiles (Reggie Lee), freshly fired for not agreeing to spy on Stephanie for Dr King, is now investigating his former employer and takes a sample of King's green serum to test.

Overall, "No Ordinary Anniversary" continued this show's basic formula and it's still a pleasant experience to watch, because of the chemistry between the family and a mythology that's beginning to take shape. I can't see it becoming a truly thrilling or exciting series that's going to appeal to the broader audience who made Heroes a huge hit... but as far as cute and entertaining family fare goes, it does its job nicely, and this episode had some darker elements that appealed to me.

WRITERS: Elisabeth R. Finch & Kate Barnow
DIRECTOR: David Semel
TRANSMISSION: 30 November 2010, ABC, 9/8c