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No Ordinary Family Forges Ahead With No Ordinary Marriage

By Edited Nov 15, 2013 0 0

No Ordinary Family won me over completely in its pilot episode. In the second episode, No Ordinary Marriage, it continued to charm me. The primary storyline involves the members of the Powell family continuing to hone their powers and deciding under what circumstances they should use them. In particular, Jim (Michael Chiklis) has a strong urge to use his newfound super-strength to fight crime, while his wife Stephanie (Julie Benz) loves the fact that her super-speed allows her to juggle career and family so effectively. However, after both of them are faced with life-threatening situations, they decide that it's too dangerous to rely on powers they don't understand, and each promises the other that they won't use their abilities until they know more about them. Keeping that pledge isn't as easy as it seems, however.

Meanwhile, the Powell teens, snippy Daphne (Kay Panabaker) and insecure JJ (Jimmy Bennett), have to grapple with new abilities of their own. For Daphne, it's much more disconcerting than cool. I can't imagine what it would be like to walk down the hallways of high school hearing everyone's thoughts all at once. It would be very enlightening, to be sure, but aside from the ethical issues involved with such an invasion of privacy, it would be information overload. There was an episode of Smallville like that, with a boy who could read other people's minds and wasn't too happy about it. Clark and Stephanie both respond by taking the mind-reader to someplace high in the air where the voices of society are distant. Of course, Daphne can't hop on a Ferris wheel every time she wants a little peace and quiet, but it's a start.

JJ suddenly has an incredible understanding of trigonometry. So far, it seems like his new skills are oriented toward mathematics; I don't know whether he would have the same luck with English, say, or history. This storyline reminds me of an episode of Joan of Arcadia in which Joan aces a history test because it has to do with Joan of Arc, who she finds fascinating, and the teacher accuses her of cheating. With Joan, it was just the result of total immersion in the material, and I suspect her next test grade probably wasn't anything to write home about. But JJ has become super-smart, so once he discovers that, all of his tests and homework reflect it. That does not make his teacher any less suspicious, however. I recognized his teacher immediately as Jason Antoon, who I know as the surly lyricist initially hired to write the song with washed-up pop star Alex Fletcher in Music and Lyrics, and he is just as unpleasant here as accusatory Mr. Litchfield.

The special effects on the show aren't super high-tech; there's a certain cheesy quality about them, particularly the scenes that show Stephanie eating or cleaning at super speed. But it's really fun to watch, and I especially love the scenes with Jim testing the limits of his powers with his best friend George (Romany Malco). George is such a great character, a D. A. who sees criminals get away with heinous acts all the time and wants to see them caught. He has a keen sense of justice, plus he just thinks that Jim's powers are really cool. It's fun to watch him geeking out over the possibilities as he pores over his equipment in the man cave he builds for Jim in his garage. It's also sweet to see how much a part of this family he is. He would be a rather lonely guy, but he has the Powells, particularly Jim, to draw him into the fold.

Like George, Katie (Autumn Reeser), Stephanie's lab tech, is fascinated by her friend's new abilities, and she's also thrilled that she has now entered Stephanie's circle of trust. Katie is sweet and bubbly but seems very insecure, and the fact that Stephanie has begun to not only pay attention to her but really confide in her is a huge boost to her confidence. I love her bubbly personality, and I can't help wondering if there's any chance that she and George will be paired up in the near future. They seem like they would make a good match, and that way neither of them would have to worry about keeping a massive secret from the significant other, since both of them are in on it..

While there are a lot of strange things going on in this episode involving water samples and DNA and teleporting criminals, a big part of it is just regular family drama. A random meeting with a fellow mom from school gets Stephanie's dander up as she realizes how many of her peers look upon her as an overworked woman whose priorities are all in the wrong place. Eager to show that she wants to be involved in the lives of her children, she volunteers to help with the school fair. The other moms in this group really are insufferable in their snide remarks about both Stephanie's lack of home time and Jim's lack of a well-paying career. They're incredibly rude, which really gets under Stephanie's skin, and Jim isn't too thrilled about their comments either. The one moment of retaliation they allow themselves is pretty funny and totally appropriate to the situation.

While most of the episode is light-hearted, there's something very sinister about Stephen Collins' portrayal of Stephanie's boss, Dr. Dayton King, and he is deeply connected with the episode's most disturbing event, a cliff-hanger that leaves me wondering if this show might actually be considerably darker than I at first anticipated. Nonetheless, most of No Ordinary Marriage is very family-friendly, and the end-credits music still gives me a thrill, so wonderfully does it remind me of Superman. I found it interesting that there was no directly addressing the audience (or the counselor) this week; I guess that won't be a device that is used in every episode, though I doubt we've seen the last of it. In any case, I'm still very much on board with this show, the only new one of the season that has thoroughly captured my imagination. Here's to a long and healthy run for No Ordinary Family!


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