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No Ordinary Family – “No Ordinary Accident” – review
Powell Family! I’ve been so hard on you! But here we are in episode 8, and you’re getting it. You’re really getting it! The pacing is good, the characters actually seem as if they have lives and memories, and we’re getting into mythology without sacrificing the family dynamic. No Ordinary Family has finally figured out what television shows actually do (tell continuous stories that connect and deepen as they go along) and has found a groove. Thank goodness!
“Accident” kicked off with a problem that has plagued superheroes since the Golden Age – when do you make time for some lovin’? Jim and Stephanie tried to have a date night. (Or, more accurately, a “sex night.”) So did George and Amanda, and it surprised me that Amanda was none other than Amy Acker from last week! Granted, she had all of two minutes (and recovered awfully quickly from a critical gunshot wound) but it was a recurring character/plotline, and so it deserves mention. Both date nights were interrupted by the same police scanner alert. Carjackers are terrorizing Pacific Heights!
Now, here I must pause and say that one area Family still needs to work on is its backdrop of crime. I praised the pilot for being a sunny suburban tale, but that was before I realized every episode would plunge us into a crime wave. Apparently, crime is really bad in Pacific Heights. Dirty Harry and Taxi Driver bad. But it never looks like it, or feels like it. We’re just told “Hey, there’s a lot of crime these days, the cops are ineffective, and it upsets Jim greatly.” If they want me to really believe this, they have to grime up Pacific Heights. Add a little grit and darkness, especially as a contrast to the sunny Powell home. Because I want to believe Jim as a crimefighter, but I don’t believe that we’ve got the mean streets of Martin Scorsese out there, so I can’t.
But Jim’s crimefighting threatened to have an untimely end as his superpowers went on the fritz. Katie and Stephanie spent the episode trying to figure out if it was caused by a virus or an allergic reaction, as Jim danced in and out of danger, unable to know if his powers would be effective against carjackers or not.
Another storyline that repeated was Katie going out with The Watcher, whom she knows as “Will.” We’ll call him Will here, because it’s shorter. She really likes Will, and who wouldn’t? The dude is hot. She eagerly describes him to Stephanie as a cross between Edward Cullen (Oh, Katie. Really?) and Wolverine (Now we’re talking!). I’m seeing the Wolverine thing, Katie. I am. And I feel like I could be your best friend because I do understand why muttonchops and claws are sexy, whereas Stephanie dismissed your obsession. Katie’s comic references are adorable, if occasionally overdone (and they definitely hit overkill by the end of this episode), but this one was just right. So identifiable!
One thing that didn’t continue was that JJ seems to have no guilty conscience over his online dating trap. But that’s JJ for you. I guess he thinks it’s all okay since she was picked up by some stranger. His grasp of ethics are shaky, though, as we find out he allowed his friend to cheat off his math test. When they’re caught by the dastardly math teacher, JJ then tries to fix it by hacking into the teacher’s computer. In the daytime. Where he can be caught. And, of course, he is. JJ! Don’t you know you can hack things from remote terminals? I’m no kid genius, but even I know that!
The teacher calls Jim and Stephanie in, who are horrified at their son’s breach of ethics. Jim attempts to reason with the teacher, but as they are arguing, the carjackers speed by. They’ve stolen one of those cool cars called a MacGuffin, and they plow into the teacher, sending a pole through his heart. Jim is unable to rescue him because his strength goes on the fritz. The teacher is critically wounded, and lies at death’s door.
JJ is distraught and feels responsible. He couldn’t hack a remote terminal, but he can become a cardiovascular surgeon in 15 minutes. He tells Stephanie that only she is fast enough to remove the pole and sew up the hole in his heart. She initially refuses, which causes JJ to try to perform the surgery himself(!). Eventually, the Powells came to an agreement as always, and Stephanie rescued the teacher. It was an implausible use of JJ’s power (how does it do all of these things?), but I guess he’s a Reed Richards type who can do anything. (Game, set, match, Katie.)
Daphne was stuck with the drippiest storyline, as she continued to dance around last week’s cute boy. But even this was actually worth praising, because it was another story that continued, as if the characters really lived it! And they even talked about the previous episode, “Remember that art exhibit” and normal stuff like that. Desperate for his affection, Daphne lied about enjoying sushi and being fluent in Japanese. When JJ confronted her about her shallow behavior, she felt guilty enough to confess, and the boy turned on her. I thought that was harsh. As if men don’t lie to women about silly things to get in good with them.
You know, like Will is doing. He pretends to read comics so Katie will like him, trust him, and share her research with him. It’s a little inexplicable why Will has to do this – can’t Dr. King just hack into her files? – but I have hopes he’ll turn out to be cool and marry Katie. She needs a Wolverine in her life.
Will ends up helping solve the mystery of Jim’s powers. When he kisses Katie, she realizes that something in Jim and Stephanie’s physical contact is causing the problem. The culprit? Stephanie’s lip gloss, which is a toxin to the genetic strand giving them powers. It was corny, but it worked, and it reignited the fires of their passion. I really dug Jim and Stephanie’s chemistry in the beginning, but it’s a little icky to see them be so frank about their sex life with everyone. Be private, guys. You’re parents! The kids might overhear.
The final scene was a nice twist, as we find out that Dr. King is thrilled to find out Will has an in and is confident they will crack Stephanie’s research. In gratitude, he injected Will with something. Is this the source of his powers? Or is it something that makes him pliable to Dr. King’s will? I’m hoping the latter, because I really don’t want to see Katie stomped on. The geek girl has to win this one, and Will really is hot, especially as he rides the dragon of whatever Dr. King gives him.
I’m actually anxious to see next week’s episode instead of dreading it. There has been a definite shift in the Powells since the awful in-law episode. They’re confident in their powers, they accept who they are, and they’re starting to wonder if they have a higher calling. Jim has been championing the superheroics since day one, but it’s cool to see JJ and Stephanie getting on board with the idea. JJ’s criticism of Daphne – why don’t you use your powers for good? – suggests even she may be coming on board. They may be the Fantastic Four or The Incredibles yet!
More episodes like these, Family! Keep up the good work … but take my suggestion about the crime wave. I can’t buy a crime fighting family if you don’t build up the slimy atmosphere a little better.