Review NO ORDINARY FAMILY – No Ordinary Brother (2011)

When family, friends and lovers complicate our lives in unexpected ways

In a parallel storyline, this episode addressed how friends and family make decisions that suddenly complicate our lives. Jim’s brother came to visit and discovered the family’s super-power secret; and Katie (Autumn Reeser) accepted a promotion and made plans to move to Miami with Joshua. It was not enough that Jim’s brother Mike (Jason Wiles) knew about the Powells’ secret; he then chose to exploit the Powells’ superhuman abilities for his own financial gain; and Katie and Joshua’s (Josh Stewart) decision to move away left both Steph (Julie Benz) and Dr. King (Stephen Collins) scrambling over the idea of continuing their work without them.

It was painful to see how unprepared Jim (Michael Chiklis) and Steph were for these unexpected calamities. They had not taken any precautions or prepared for the day when someone found out about their powers and tried to exploit them; and Steph had never considered how she would continue her work (both at the office and off-the-books on her family’s new powers) without Katie.

The world tilted and they were caught-off guard. Even Dr. King, who had been told that Joshua wanted to quit his villainous ways, seemed rattled when he found out that Joshua planned to move to Miami with Katie. It provoked a series of rash decisions and bad judgment on all their parts. Jim turned a blind-eye to his brother’s financial predicament and then kept proposing ineffective and dangerous solutions. Steph nearly revealed how vital Katie was to her personal research to Dr. King.  And Dr. King unwittingly showed Joshua how valuable he was to Dr. King’s plans when he demonstrated what lengths he would go to in order to keep Joshua from moving.

Everything spiraled out of control and it left everyone off-balance, out-of-sorts and in a precarious position. It was remarkable that no one was more seriously hurt in the midst of such chaos.  In addition, normally Jim and Steph are much more methodical in their approach to a problem and to see them at a loss was disorientating.

Fortunately, it all worked when Jim and his brother turned in the loan shark for the reward money – but it took two failed attempts at the race track to win the money before that option was explored. Then Katie decided to stay and forgo the opportunity to have her own lab because it was a dream-come-true to work for and study an actual superhero.  Joshua may not have agreed to return to working with Dr. King, but after the attempt on Katie’s life, he still may be persuaded to return to a life of crime once again.

However, they all had a big lesson to learn: they need to be prepared. They need to plan for the unexpected, as they may not have such a happy ending the next time.

What Worked

After last week’s cliff-hanger ending when Katie found the journal in Joshua’s jacket, it was rather smooth how easily he manipulated the text so that he could reassure Katie that she had imagined it. It was also another demonstration that not all of Joshua’s powers are gone. He may not be receiving serum shots from Dr. King, but he may have an independent supplier – or perhaps he has been permanently altered so that his abilities do not diminish and disappear like Dr. King believes. Either way, it opens up a whole interesting arena of possibilities. The Watcher persona may not be dead and declawed yet and Dr. King should be more careful about threatening Joshua or Katie.

Though it was cool when Joshua icily said, “You do remember what I do best, don’t you?” and Dr. King calmly replied, “You’re much less intimidating without the serum coursing throughout your bloodstream.” To which Joshua angrily retorted, “That means I’ll just have to work that much harder to make you pay for what you tried to do.” Even without a demonstration of abilities, the threat was spine-chilling. One does not want to get on his bad side!

Then Katie was adorable when she naively proposed that she and Steph could still have lunch together everyday once she moved to Miami because it would only take Steph seven minutes to get there. For her to genuinely believe that nothing would change because of the distance showed that she had such a warm heart for she never imagined that distance alone would alter their friendship.

It was even more beautiful when Katie reconsidered her decision to take the Miami promotion and thoughtfully told Steph, “Maybe there is no such thing as an accident. I mean my whole life I’ve been obsessed with superheroes and then my boss turns out to be one.” She then happily explained, “I became a scientist so I could understand phenomena that would help me save lives and change the world. I get to do that every day working with you. You’re my own real life superhero. . . What can I say? You’re the coolest accident I’ve ever known.” With that kind of logic, one suddenly got why Katie was so special. It is not just because she is super smart and a loyal cheerleader – it is because she understands and appreciates how amazing her life has become just by knowing the right person. Katie is not one to throw away people that she cares about, or who present her with such a dream-come-true life experience as the one that Steph entrusted her with. When Steph told Katie about her secret, she was not just looking for a friend; she was looking for a partner. No promotion could ever take the place of such an extraordinary experience. It spoke volumes about who Katie is that she appreciates this gift.

Finally, special mention has to be made for the mind-blowing reveal at the end of the episode. After Joshua left his office, Dr. King wryly noted, “Love has a way of robbing a man of his common sense,” and Victoria Morrow (Rebecca Mader) insightfully responded, “This isn’t about love. He wants to be normal. We all do.” This exchange felt rather innocuous, but when Victoria revealed that she was a shapeshifter, it was a fantastic surprise – it showed that even Joshua needs to watch his back from now on.

What Didn’t Work

The show seems to intentionally shy away from some of the more intriguing aspects of the show. It provides very little interaction between the ultimate villain and his minions with the Powell family. The show needs a serious influx of drama and jeopardy to yank it out of the stagnant family drama for which it has settled. It needs to ramp-up and not be content to just coast along.

Another glitch that felt out of place was when Jim and Steph thought there was an intruder in their house and Jim told Steph, “Get ready to dial 911.” It felt absurd that two people with superhuman abilities would debate which of them would investigate whether someone had broken into their house. As even Jim noted, Steph could have checked in less than a second; and even if she felt vulnerable, it seemed silly that Jim who is practically invincible still wanted to have the police on speed-dial.  All the times that Jim voluntarily took on dangerous criminal by himself without thought of needing the police as a back-up, or when Steph dashed here and there without thought about ever being seen, and yet neither wanted to check to see if they had an intruder. It just felt silly. Instead of arguing about which of them should go, they should just do it. Why the hesitation in their own home, when they never hesitate out in the rest of the world?  It felt out of place. Our heroes need to demonstrate more confidence.

Points of Interest

(1) No matter how dark the show may get as far as storyline, the visual imagery tends to stay crystal clear and sparkling, as if to remind the audience that evil exists in even the most bright and normal looking of places.  When Victoria posed as the construction worker and tried to kill Katie, it was in broad daylight by a coffee shop.  This seeming innocence of surroundings juxtaposes the treachery lying in wait.

(2) One of the consistent strengths of the show is when it allows its heroes to use their powers.  It still feels fun watching Jim get hit by car and thrown off a building and still be able to walk away from it without a scratch.  It is also cool watching Steph whip out her speedster ability and pop up unexpectedly, or to save the day when Katie was about to be crushed by the falling apparatus.

(3) Along the same lines, it is interesting to see how the Powells’ abilities continue to grow beyond even their expectations, and to discover what else Joshua can do. The surprise factor helps keep the show fresh for the audience.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

“No Ordinary Brother” was written by Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer and directed by Michael Watkins. “No Ordinary Family” stars Michael Chiklis, Julie Benz, Kay Panabaker, Jimmy Bennett, Autumn Reeser, Romany Malco, Stephen Collins, Josh Stewart. “No Ordinary Family” airs Tuesdays at 8:00 pm ET on ABC.

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