Most episodes of No Ordinary Family tend to elicit the same response from me: entertained but craving something more substantial. But I do enjoy watching these likeable actors play superheroes for an hour, with just enough continuing mytharc to keep me on the hook. "No Ordinary Powell" saw Dr King (Stephen Collins) dispatch shape-shifter Victoria (Rebecca Mader) to snoop on the Powell family and kill one of them, resulting in an hour of false identity mischief as Victoria was mistaken for Stephanie (Julie Benz), George (Romany Malco) and Daphne (Kay Panabaker) as she gathered intel on the Powell's powers.
Meanwhile, JJ (Jimmy Bennett) took it upon himself to solve the cold case murder of his ex-girlfriend Natalie's mother, utilizing Daphne's mind-reading and his own ability to become an instant expert in criminal psychology. His sister's newfound knack of planting thoughts in people's minds also came in handy when forcing the truth from the tightlipped, although that evolution of her power has me worried Daphne's becoming too powerful. While the subplots the kids have are often trivial distractions to fill time, this story took a more serious turn once JJ and Daphne got into trouble after finding the killer (the wife of a carpenter, who killed Natalie's mother because she slept with her husband.) It's just a shame I never accepted the idea JJ would want to find whoever killed his ex's mother, and be brave enough to follow through on it.
Frankly, a huge amount of time was dedicated to just watching Victoria sneak around pretending to be members of the Powell family, with the usual rug-pulling tricks we've come to expect from "supers" with this power. The switcheroo's worked in a few instances -- although once it became clear Victoria was involved in this episode, the teaser's flashforward to Stephanie discovering Jim's dead body at home was easily solved, while also spoiling the climactic "Jim vs Jim" fight. (A show like No Ordinary Family will never kill its leading man, let's be honest.)
But I'm glad a few veils have slipped for everyone now. In particular, Stephanie knows Dr King is a dangerous man and, having cleverly posed as a shape-changed Victoria, manipulated him into bringing herself into his confidence. We may therefore start to get answers about King's back-story and motivation for his super-serum, if Stephanie enters his circle of trust. It was also good to see Stephanie and Jim made aware that Joshua has powers, finally -- although they're frustratingly unforthcoming about questioning him about it. Wouldn't you want to know more about why he was given the super-serum, or speculate about the coincidence that someone like Joshua just happened to walk into their friend Katie's (Autumn Reeser) life? A reticence of characters to ask questions on the lips of the audience has become a hallmark of this show.
Overall, "No Ordinary Powell" was an above-average installment; engaging yet undemanding, with some irritations. There was a lot to enjoy in watching Victoria creep around posing as various people, I liked the allusion from Joshua that Dr King's just a small cog in a larger machine (to be explored in the increasingly unlikely second season?), and the balance of comedy and action was great. I just hope the show will stop pussyfooting around and start building to what I want to see in the finale: the Powell family, united as one, fighting Dr King and some supervillains.
written by Ali Adler & Sonny Postiglione / directed by Terry McDonough / 15 February 2011 / ABC