Sunday, November 7, 2010

No Ordinary Family 1.04: "No Ordinary Vigilante"

“Should I drive, or do you want me to just hop on your back and we could…I’ll drive.”

While I like the tone “No Ordinary Family” has established, I still haven’t become fully invested in the show. “No Ordinary Vigilante” was really just more of the same. There was a bit of conspiracy stuff, silly high school drama, and crime fighting, of course. The episode didn’t really bring anything new to the table. The kids didn’t irritate me as much as they did in the past, but they still weren’t especially compelling. They’re just doing their typical teenage rebellion thing, only with superpowers. The same conflicts that have been around since the pilot are still around at the exact same intensity. There doesn’t seem to be much of an arc yet. There wasn’t a whole lot of George or Katie in this episode, either, which could partially explain my dissatisfaction, since they’re very compelling characters.

The episode opens with Jim patrolling a park. It’s not really the type of park where you would want to bring your kids. It’s really pretty shady. Jim hears a scream and finds a woman being assaulted. Before he can do anything to stop the situation, though, a hooded figure appears from another direction and shoots the attacker. Jim is stunned. Jim is able to get away without being caught, amazingly enough, and he takes the attacker to a hospital and leaves him at the ER door with a sign asking for treatment.

The story of the attack is on the TV news, and Stephanie is pissed…again. She’s still really concerned about the kids either worrying about Jim when he’s indulging in his hobby, or worse, imitating him, especially when they hear about it on the news. Stephanie doesn’t have too much time to fret, however, because she’s got bigger fish to fry at work. She and Katie think their lab has been broken into, but it’s really just the annoying naysayer scientist from the pilot who was disparaging Stephanie’s work on the plant from Brazil. He’s been assigned to work on their project. Dr. King feels that since so much money is going into it, they need more help. It’s probably also a way to spy on them, too, but we haven’t gotten that far. Stephanie and Katie make the discovery that the plant has a genetic similarity to the change that has taken place in the Powells. The naysayer scientist sees their research on the chromosome affected and informs them that a Global Tech scientist, Volson, tried researching that chromosome in the past, and he was fired. Stephanie and Katie later discover that the former scientist is now dead, adding a bit to the intrigue. The project he had been working on was a sort of “genetic spackle.”

Jim’s colleagues at the police department were less than thrilled with his sketch of the “suspect” in the park vigilante case, and he goes to George to vent his frustrations. George wonders if maybe they should prioritize their cases, but Jim is adamant that they need to catch this vigilante. George relents, and he ends up having a bit of a breakthrough on the case. He finds the file of a man named Meyers whose child was killed violently. George and Jim suspect Meyers might be trying to rid the town of criminals like whoever killed his son. They go to a bar Meyers frequents, and Jim sits down next to Meyers and tries to talk to him. When the subject turns to kids, however, Meyers shuts down, then leaves the bar. Jim’s interrogation tactics are clearly lacking, but for some reason he’s convinced that Meyers must not be the vigilante. Perhaps he sees a bit of himself in Meyers, and he’s got to believe that Meyers wouldn’t kill.

The stakes for the kids’ plot are much lower, of course. It’s all very typical teen stuff. I’m wondering just how long it will take the writers to get through all the typical teen TV plots, actually. The two plots in this episode are so stereotypical it’s almost laughable. Daphne wants to get into a popular kids’ party, and J.J. wants to join the football team. Yes, the writers do attempt to put a twist on these typical teenage plots, because these kids do have special powers after all, but it really wasn’t enough. J.J. is watching football practice when he realizes that he has what I’m going to call “football vision.” He sees lines and formulas and such related to the plays, just like the lines he sees when looking at a math problem. J.J.’s math teacher is still convinced he’s cheating somehow, and I guess J.J. wants to try to prove his worth by joining the football team. When he tells the family his idea, they’re skeptical, especially Jim. They really don’t think J.J. has the build to be an athlete. Turns out the football coach agrees. J.J. strikes a deal with the coach, though. If he does well on his history mid-term, he can try out for the team.

J.J. fulfills his part of the bargain by acing the history test, but the going doesn’t get any easier from there. The guys on the team give him a hard time for being so small. They start to warm up to him when he makes a brilliant pass, though. Unfortunately for J.J., his super annoying math teacher is creepily watching practice and sees J.J. make the pass as well. He calls in Jim and Stephanie and accuses J.J. of being on some sort of drug such as Aderall. Jim and Stephanie confront J.J. about this, and J.J. pitches a fit. Not really how you expect a teen to react to such a situation, I don’t think. When asked if he has powers, J.J. goes on this rant about how horrible it is that when he finally starts succeeding at things, nobody believes he could accomplish any of it without help. If J.J. really were accomplishing these great feats on his own, I’d be sympathetic to his plight. Since it really is his powers, the whole thing is just stupid.
Daph and girls talking about party.

In the other teen drama trope of the episode, Daphne and her friends are in a convenience store talking about this big party coming up. It’s so exclusive that only people who are invited know where it will be held. It doesn’t take Daphne long to realize what she needs to do. She approaches the mean girl hosting the party and starts asking her questions about it. The mean girl is, of course, horrified that a loser like Daphne could even know the party exists. Daphne comments on the “location” of the party, clearly making it up, and then she listens in as the mean girl thinks about the real location of the party. Daphne and her pals crash the party, and Daphne is surprised to see J.J. there too. He was actually invited because he’s on the football team. The mean girl spots Daphne and is pretty furious. She tries to throw Daphne out, but Daphne is saved by a guy pointing out that the keg is empty. Daphne has the oh so brilliant idea to save her social status by offering to buy booze.

While his kids are running amok, Jim is in the part yet again, looking for the vigilante. There’s another shooting, and Jim sees a hooded figure, which now looks an awful lot like Meyers, run off. This time, Jim gets himself in a bit of trouble because a rather yuppie couple that really had no business being in that park saw him. They didn’t get an especially clear view, but it was enough to make Jim nervous. It gets worse when the couple come to the police station as witnesses, and Jim is assigned to produce a sketch of the person they saw. Jim fakes a coughing fit to have an excuse to keep covering his face, and lucky for him, the witnesses suggest a fact that looks very much like his, but they said the person they saw had long hair. It’s enough to give Jim plausible deniability. The sketch makes it to the news, which causes some brief trouble when the police chief sees it (it does look an awful lot like Jim), but George makes the save by really pushing the police to investigate Meyers instead. There’s a line-up, but the witnesses don’t ID Meyers, and Meyers walks.

Daphne thinks she can use her powers to secure booze and her place in the high school social hierarchy. She goes to the convenience store and brazenly places a bottle on the counter. When the cashier questions her, she tries to blackmail him. She heard him thinking that he’s been skimming money from the register. I half expected the cashier to fall for the blackmail, but he doesn’t. Quite angrily, he points to the CCTV camera behind him and says Daphne doesn’t really have any room to blackmail him, because she has been caught on video trying to buy alcohol underage. Next thing we know, Jim and Stephanie are angrily escorting Daphne into the house. She was let off with a warning, but it’s still a big deal. For some reason, Daphne thinks this situation will be made better if she can prove she didn’t drink at the party (because trying to buy alcohol underage is so much better if you don’t actually intend to consume it). J.J. steps up and admits that he was at the party, too (both kids had liked to their parents about their whereabouts) and Daphne didn’t drink. The whole thing becomes more about Jim and Stephanie than about the kids, with each accusing the other of not “being there.” I think the phrase “be there” must have been said at least five times in two minutes in this part of the episode.

Jim goes back to the bar for another chat with Meyers, who, of course, says he lost his kid not because of the murderer, but by not “being there.” Jim goes home, and we get a sappy Powell family moment, where Jim and Stephanie apologize to J.J. for not believing that he couldn’t achieve things without powers. It would be sweet if J.J. weren’t, you know, actually achieving things thanks to his powers. Then there’s another cheesy scene where Jim and Stephanie inform Daphne that even though she’s grounded, she’s going to J.J.’s football game. It turns out that the writers aren’t just dipping into teen drama tropes here- they’ve got to go for the sports tropes too. The QB1 of the football team is injured, so J.J. gets to play. A scene of J.J. making a great pass is intercut with a scene of Meyers going vigilante once again. And this time he gets killed by police.

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