Comic Books Magazine

Review #2438: No Ordinary Family 1.20: “No Ordinary Beginning”

Posted on the 07 April 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Henry T.

Story by Jon Harmon Feldman
Teleplay by Zack Estrin and Allison Adler
Directed by Paul Edwards

About halfway through this likely series finale of “No Ordinary Family”, I realized it was being written like what it should have been from the start: a comic book. It wasn’t one of those engrossing comic books, but one that you pick up and read for about 15 or 20 minutes, then put down and move on with the rest of your day. Scenes were choppy, the dialogue short and to the point, much of the back end of the episode was non-sensical, and it culminated in a cliffhanger that was interesting, but not altogether fully satisfying. This is, not surprisingly, the course that the series has taken since the fall, when it held so much promise.

Review #2438: No Ordinary Family 1.20: “No Ordinary Beginning”

The storylines presented throughout the season should have culminated in the events of this episode. I think that was what the writers were striving for. The execution was just off. Honestly, the only thing I found remotely interesting besides the ending cliffhanger was finding out about what Dr. King is. He was the epitome of a superpowered junkie. The plant serum kept him alive, slowed his cancer, and somehow gave him a combination of superpowers that included healing ability, super speed, and super strength. Imagine what kind of child could have been created if he and Stephanie got together!

It would have been better if the writers had slowly developed King’s megalomania about the serum throughout the series, but the writers often ignored the darker side of the series in order to appeal to the familial side of things so this is the end result. Everything in the episode gets rushed. Helen (Mrs. X previously) takes over, becomes the reigning Bad Guy, and gets what she wanted in the plane load of permanent criminal super-powered villains. Everything else gets tossed by the wayside. (Did JJ really have to throw the antidote syringe at Dr. King’s eye? Talk about being as gruesome as possible with as little blood as possible.)

Helen’s pursuit of Katie’s baby proves fruitless, as she completely ignored Victoria’s actions to go after the Powell family. So we’re left to watch a plot with a shape-shifter impersonating Joshua so that she could steal the baby and raise it as her own. It’s altogether too convenient that a finally-released Joshua shows up right as Katie goes into labor and Victoria is revealed as the scheming doppleganger. Joshua and Katie get to live together in harmony with a superpowered child. None of that is really addressed because it was a filler plot the writers put in to tie off with a bow as the end of the episode approached and they had to move on to other things.

As for the Powell family, it seems like a normal day for them. Get into a crisis, solve the crisis in no time, then be home for a family dinner as if it was just a regular occurrence. Until the US government gets involved with a plane-full of super-powered beings in tow. It would have given a much more interesting bent to a show that had spent much of the season in stagnant form. The government contracts them for work and they’d be paid to be superheroes instead of being anonymous (where’s the local police stand on all this, by the way?). There is also the question of what superpower George might have since he was on that plane. Would a rivalry break out between Jim and his best friend now that George doesn’t have to feel like a sidekick? These are interesting questions that will never be answered.

In my review of the pilot for this series, I wrote that I was excited for it but had tempered expectations. Superhero shows have had my investment before and flamed out spectacularly so it was valid skepticism. That skepticism proved to be true as this series progressed. A lot of the time, the problem was that the show never knew what it wanted to be and could never stick with their guns. One episode, the heroes of the story were mildly interesting, the next it was the villains. For me, the villains of this story were woefully short-changed to keep the network’s likeability factor high.

We live in a cynical time these days and darker superhero stories are en vogue. “No Ordinary Family” rarely wanted to go down that path, seemingly because of a fear of backlash. What came out was something akin to forgettable or disposable. Or maybe it’s that the superhero genre is so saturated at this point that they didn’t stand a chance at gaining notice. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m all superhero-ed out at this point.

Grade: 6/10

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