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No Ordinary Family – “No Ordinary Anniversary” – review
It’s official: No Ordinary Family finally knows what it’s doing! It’s cohesive, it’s tight, it’s chugging along into some meaty territory, and I’m actually starting to worry about the Powells. Okay, actually I’m mostly worried about Katie.
Glancing around the Internet, it seems some feel the show is moving a little slow these days. It is feeling a bit paint-by-numbers (what high school hijinks will JJ and Daphne have?), but I feel like the show’s writers actually making progress. They are finally bonding this family together as a team of superheroes, and they’re doing it really organically. Jim and Stephanie are pairing off, JJ and Daphne are united, and these two groups will eventually merge into The Fantastic Four. At least, I hope so.
But for now, it’s still just Spider-Man and Sue Storm. The episode kicked off with Jim rescuing a child from a burning building – classic superhero stuff – and discovering his powers extend to flame retardation. It neatly tied into the bigger picture, too. The fire was caused by arson. The culprit was a superpowered being named Theo, who looked like the poor man’s Michael Shannon. I think that was the intent, too. If he looks creepy, we don’t have to make him an actual character, and you won’t notice his Chuck Taylors are brand new in comparison to his hobo coat! (I noticed, anyway, NOF.)
I was actually going to interject some criticism here, and say “Wow, Theo wasn’t a good villain, they should have kept him around longer!” but you know what? It works. In most comic books, there are dozens of crappy villains who exist only to be punched out. They’re never fleshed out. Still, it would be cool if the show stepped up the superpowered villains and gave one of them a few episodes of menace. I know Dr. King and The Watcher are the Big Bads here, but I’d like to see the Powells dealing with a fight on two fronts at some point. I think it’s getting there, though.
Back to the episode. It’s Jim and Stephanie’s anniversary! To celebrate, Jim gives Stephanie a marble sculpture of their hands that he carved using his own fingers. Their big treat is to go to a hotel downtown, have a nice dinner, and spend the night. They have been planning this for weeks and even hired a baby-sitter for their teenagers. Daphne and JJ protest, and rightfully so. She’s 16, he’s 14, they’re old enough to take care of themselves. Stephanie and Jim reluctantly agree, and set out for their big night. A big night that they didn’t make dinner reservations for.
Katie has a date, too! With her Wolverine Watcher, “Will.” He delivers her the nicest compliment, too. The way he’s looking at her butt, I’m beginning to think he’s actually into her, and not just using her. As Jim and Stephanie idle in a restaurant bar, getting sloshy on champagne, Stephanie calls Katie and asks her to check in on the kids. “Will” is totally cool with this, as he’ll finally gain access to the Powell home.
Despite having The Watcher on the inside, Dr. King is getting uneasy. He calls in Dr. Francis, who is angry at being continuously shut out of Stephanie’s research. Dr. King slips him some scotch, and suggests that he spy on Stephanie for him. Dr. Francis has morals and a Ph.D, though, and refuses. So he’s fired.
Jim and Stephanie give up on dinner and go for some hot dogs. Uh oh! They spot Fiery Theo. Jim pursues and has a throwdown. Just as he’s getting his butt kicked, Stephanie steps in and rescues him. They’re a team! And she’s so high on the chase that she agrees to postpone the anniversary and join George and Jim in hunting him town. Now it’s a trio!
As their parents hunt the mean streets, what were the younger Powells up to? Gambling! JJ wanted a new computer, and offered his home to some bullies for a high stakes poker night. He promises to split the winnings 50/50 with Daphne if she keeps quiet. All is going well, and he’s cleaning house, until they shift to a 5 card draw. JJ, the boy genius who increasingly couldn’t, didn’t read up on 5 card draw, starts losing. So he has to recruit Daphne to read minds, call bluffs, and signal him.
Just as he’s emptied the pot, “Will” and Katie walk in. Katie is upset, and “Will” lends his powers to kick the rough boys out of the house, then dodges off to the bathroom. Of course, he doesn’t actually go there, but begins searching drawers. Inexplicably, he uses his telekinesis to open drawers, but not Stephanie’s science ledger. But he just likes to look cool. He finds what he’s looking for – superpower evidence! – and heads back out to Katie. But his phone rings. It’s Dr. King, who politely requests his help with Theo. “Will” ducks out of the date, leaving Katie flustered. She begs Daphne to read his mind and see if he’s just mad at her, or if he’s truly got work issues. Daphne agrees, but is so clumsy about it that “Will” is able to block her. Man, this guy is hot when he’s smug and evil.
Following the sitcom rule of “a treasured gift must be broken,” Daphne and JJ find the busted pieces of Jim’s new sculpture. JJ, who couldn’t play variations of poker, figures out how to fix it. To do so, they must break into the school art room, and all his hardwon money goes to bribe the security guard. A dumb angle, but as I said, I like that the siblings are unifying. It means good things.
“Will” frees Theo from custody, severely injuring the cops transporting him. Stephanie and Jim catch up, and take on Theo, who wanted to burn down an industrial warehouse. They get in over their heads, and accidentally cause Theo’s death. They are troubled by this, but not an undue amount of time, as Stephanie is pretty cheerful when she climbs into bed. Crimefighting is fun, but dangerous! So she’s not going to do it anymore. Only Jim seems to understand the consequences, not only of their actions, but of another superpowered being. I guess we know where JJ inherited his gaps in logic from.
Things got ugly for “Will,” too. Angry at his inability to save Theo, Dr. King denies him his injection of green goo. The green goo is what gives him his powers, and Dr. King thinks he ought to live without them for awhile. He sprays the stuff into the grass. ”Will” seethes and broods, but he didn’t tell King anything about the Powells, which suggests he’s got his own agenda. I hope it’s Katie’s love, and he’s on the side of good after all.
Someone else’s alliance is also in doubt. The green goo was methodically collected by Dr. Francis. Will he discover its gift, and join Dr. King for superpowers of his own? Will his anger at GlobalTech cause him to share his discovery with Stephanie? Or do we have a third supervillain (or hero!) in the mix? They’ve got three episodes left. They better follow Marvel/DC tradition and give us one heck of an arc to take into hiatus.