Thursday, 7 April 2011

'NO ORDINARY FAMILY' 1.20 - "No Ordinary Beginning"

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The chances of No Ordinary Family getting a second season are the same as Michael Chiklis waking up with a full head of hair. "No Ordinary Beginning" was a curiously flat finale in some ways, even inept at times, despite doing many of the things we've wanted to see from the start (the Powells working together as a super-team, Dr King's defeat.) My general disappointment came from the lack of surprises to the storyline, some awkward staging of scenes (was this episode rushed?), and some developments that just didn't sit right.

The story was very basic: JJ (Jimmy Bennett) was kidnapped by Mrs X/Helen Burton (Lucy Lawless) and taken to a secret GlobalTech "super-prison", where he's pressured to use his ability to solve the issue of trilsettum permanence, so Burton can bestow super-powers without the need to keep subjects dosed with further injections. So it was down to Jim (Chiklis), Stephanie (Julie Benz) and Daphne (Kay Panabaker) to rescue JJ, having learned what's going on from Dr King (Stephen Collins), whom it's revealed is dying of cancer now his remedial trilsettum jabs are wearing off. Elsewhere, Katie (Autumn Reeser) was overjoyed to see Joshua (Josh Stewart) return, revealing he's going to be a father, before George (Romany Malco) discovered "Joshua" is really shapeshifter Victoria (Rebecca Mader.)

There just wasn't much to the story that grabbed me, beyond the occasional moment, like Dr King shooting a de-powered Jim dead and blaming it on the guards. But even that genuine shock was undone with a feeble excuse, when Jim returned and claimed he survived because his powers had actually returned. If that's true, why was there blood? If there was blood, he was definitely shot. Does he regenerate from life-threatening injuries now, too? Even the basic thrill of seeing the Powells joining forces was fairly subdued, perhaps because the budget wouldn't stretch to them doing much together, and the impregnable super-prison proved to be a joke. What exactly were the defenses to keep supers under control in there? Men with guns and locked doors, like any normal prison? I was expecting a penitentiary full of super-guards, at the very least.

Just in general terms, I began questioning details of the show. Why does Helen want to give people permanent powers? It makes sense that Dr King needs that breakthrough, for his own health reasons, but why is Helen risking giving Death Row inmates permanent powers? Surely it makes more sense to ensure their obedience with the current process of top-up injections?

The subplot with Katie was kind of weird, because it wasn't really clear what Victoria's plan was. I assume she was intending to pose as Joshua until Katie gave birth, then steal the baby? It just felt like a way to give Katie and George something to do, really, and the manner in which Katie's waters broke was pretty laughable. If you replay the scene, she just walks straight into a chair. Still, it was surprisingly brave of the show to have Katie give birth prematurely (um, don't call for an ambulance?) and for her baby to die. They even showed a quick glimpse of the stillborn child, which was pretty grisly for a show like this, before lightening the mood when the super-baby miraculously recovered. So, um, the baby's super-power is immortality? And while it was quite sweet to use a powerless Joshua reunited with Katie, it feels like the show's swept most of Joshua's misdemeanors under the carpet. He was a callous assassin when the season began, and a large part of his success with Katie has been down to mind-games.

The only moment that truly worked in this finale, for me, was seeing Stephen Collins tackle the material with scenery-chewing delight -- especially in the scene where he went crazy, gave himself super-powers, and attempted to take on all of the Powells single-handed. Collins really unleashed his inner ham and it was marvelous; particularly when he was turned into a prune-like corpse, after JJ threw an anti-serum needle into his eyeball. That entire scene was so ludicrously OTT that it actually worked, because the intention was clearly to be very silly.

The denouement setup a second season that will never happen, barring a miracle, but I'm not actually very upset about that. Having discovered that the key to permanence is inhaling trilsettum while under incredible stress, Helen loaded a plane full of bad guys and intentionally crashed it. This sets up two ideas Heroes covered in its third season: super-villains unleashed into the world, and a plane crash where "supers" are now going to be hunted by the US government. Indeed, the Powells' secret is apparently known to the NSA, who arrived to request their help in capturing these supers. It sounds like a neat development, until you realize the Powells have been capturing and defeating supers all season, so the only difference is they'll be doing it for Uncle Sam now. Oh, and George was aboard the plane, so undoubtedly has a power of his own, but we'll never know what it is.

Maybe I'm being too harsh on "No Ordinary Beginning." The finale was entertaining, but I just expected something grander and cleverer, given the months of buildup. A few moments were effectively handled, but it was mostly a very safe and predictable climax. It wasn't a horrific mess that made me question by loyalty to a show most viewers had ditched halfway through, but I think fans deserved something more emotionally involving, unexpected, and less frenetic. Although I blame ABC for the pacing issues, having cut the season order down to 20 episodes.

What did you make of this finale and No Ordinary Family as a whole? Do you want to see a second season of the Powells chasing supervillains for the government? Or was this a good place to leave it, because we've seen everything the series is capable of?


  • Joshua was last seen leaving town on a coach, so when did he get captured by Dr King and thrown into jail? And why, considering he has no powers now? I'm guessing this would have been explained better, if ABC hadn't curtailed the season.
  • Victoria makes a habit of shape-changing in clear view of people outside, doesn't she!
  • So what was all that phosphorescence in the Amazon River, if it wasn't responsible for giving the Powells powers?
written by Zack Estrin & Ali Adler (story by Jon Harmon Feldman) / directed by Paul Edwards / 5 April 2011 / ABC