Michael Chiklis and Julie Benz are signing onto other pilots, ABC have announced this show's last clutch of episodes are going to bounce around the schedule, so I think it's safe to say No Ordinary Family has its neck on the chopping block. That's a shame, as it's a harmless and likeable superhero show the whole family can sit down to enjoy, which is actually doing very well in the UK (where it's shown on digital channel Watch, and grabbing solid ratings every week.) If only the same were true of its American performance, but clearly its native audience would prefer something edgier that takes risks. I can understand that, as I often wish No Ordinary Family was slightly less cutesy, too, but it's just nowhere near as disappointing as the ratings would have you believe.
Meanwhile, there were some functional subplots with JJ (Jimmy Bennett) being pressured by his teacher Mr Litchfield (Jason Antoon) to complete difficult equations, unaware Litchfield is being passed this data by Dr King; while Daphne (Kay Panabaker) was encouraged by her boyfriend Chris (Luke Kleintank) to use her mind-control so they can skip school and go see an outdoor concert. Neither were particularly interesting on their own, but both knitted with the more important stories that are being told -- with JJ's equation revealed to be the secret to ensuring super-power permanency, and Daphne's life being put in danger from Lucas. The latter also prompted a series highlight in terms of special effects, with a Jim vs Lucas super-fight that was surprisingly enjoyable and actually better than most fights Heroes ever gave us.
But while this episode wasn't really anything special, it involved a handful of developments that made it standout from the crowd. Katie (Autumn Reeser) suddenly demonstrated telekinesis, coming to the later conclusion that she's inherited some of ex-boyfriend Joshua's powers because she's pregnant (a surprise that, frankly, was so predictably it was irritating they didn't reveal it until the end), and the show actually endangered the Powells in a credible way. In fact, the moment when Lucas managed to punch his claws into Stephanie's stomach and leave her dying on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood made for a a genuinely tense situation. One that enabled Chiklis to shine as his character contemplated losing his wife, and cemented Balfour's villain as someone who's an unmistakable threat instead of a trivial villain-of-the-week.
Overall, "No Ordinary Animal" was one of the better episodes of this likeable show, if only because it gave the mythology a noticeable shove towards the finish. It's still a very soft show that feels like it should be airing in the afternoons, but it's efficiently done and plays to the strengths of its talented cast. I like this family, I enjoy their mini-adventures, I like how it's refused to become a tangled mess by keeping things fairly grounded. Was a better show possible with this premise and cast? Oh, definitely. But I'm sure a second season would have ironed out some flaws and reassessed a few things.
- A reminder: in a change to the schedule, the penultimate episode will air on 25 March at 10pm. The finale will actually air on 5 April.
- Unintentional hilarity: check out the crowd watching that outdoors concert, as they each appear to be dancing to a completely different song.
- Katie keeps comparing Joshua to Wolverine, and Lucas is definitely based on Sabretooth. I think the stage is set for those two to fight, don't you think?
- It seems that Chris is becoming a bad influence on Daphne, by encouraging her to abuse her abilities so much. It'll be interesting to see if their relationship fizzles out over this, or if Chris is understandable just excited to have a super-girlfriend.