Last night's No Ordinary Family found Jim and George chasing ludicrously high-end jewel thieves, Stephanie racing to protect the family's secrets, and Daphne's psychic powers destroying lives left and right. It was all a bit silly...but genuinely funny, too.
"No Ordinary Ring" marked another improvement on the previous episode, although not as big as one as I might have liked. The series is definitely finding a rhythm and the actors are settling into their roles, but the writing is still clunky and there was very little done to move the central plot forward. Also, the end of the episode rested on a couple of truly baffling plot points. But more on that in a moment.
The Powell family attends the high-end wedding of their former babysitter, which becomes the target of an armed robbery. Jim's attempts to foil the robbery don't amount to much, so he and George start crashing other weddings in the hopes of a rematch. And this time, it's personal, because the robbers got away with Stephanie's wedding ring.
Meanwhile, Stephanie's big research project gets funding, as long as she passes a physical - something she can't do with her now superpowered blood. Daphne is having trouble using her psychic powers without hurting people, as her attempts to comfort a friend whose parents are secretly getting divorced ends with her being accused of spying, and her efforts to save JJ from getting rejected by a girl who doesn't like him back ends in abject disaster.
I'll be honest - parts of this episode made no sense. The armed robbers seemed ridiculously over-funded, even considering they were hitting the swankiest weddings in town, what with their grappling hooks and getaway helicopter. And there wasn't any indication that they had powers, except one of the robbers apparently survived being flung ten stories down onto the hood of a police car. This also seemed like a ridiculously lethal form of vigilantism on Jim's part - unless falling off tall buildings is much safer than I've been led to believe, he easily could have killed that guy, and this was never even addressed.
And, as a final bit of weirdness, the ring was randomly recovered from the second crime scene, with no obvious indication of why the robbers were carrying around swag from a robbery a few days before. I'm OK with a little ludicrous plotting if the story hangs together while I'm watching it, but this seemed nonsensical during the episode itself. The whole thing felt very sloppily written, and really the only thing saving that entire subplot was some nice humorous moments from Michael Chiklis and Romany Malco.
That's starting to be the show's big saving grace - it's very quickly developing a sense of humor. I don't think the current writing staff has the comedic chops to pull it off, but I could at least theoretically seeing No Ordinary Family turning into one of the funnier network shows, and I'll give them credit for trying out a lot of different kinds of jokes. I didn't laugh much, if at all, during this episode, but I smiled quite a bit, and this definitely wasn't anywhere as dully self-serious as the pilot.
Chiklis still gets a few wry one-liners, and the look on his face while dancing was priceless - actually, Chiklis had a bunch of wonderfully funny reaction shots in this episode. JJ learning Hebrew in one night to impress a girl who, according to Daphne, only dates Jewish guys, was a pretty funny idea, even if the execution didn't quite work. JJ actor Jimmy Bennett hasn't quite got the comic chops yet to pull off the absurdity of the situation, but he is only 14, so I'm willing to cut him quite a bit of slack, particularly because the actual lines weren't that brilliant.
Romany Malco is the most consistently entertaining presence on the show. George feels more than a little like a family-friendly network retread of his Jay character from The 40 Year Old Virgin - the scene with George showing Jim how to dance felt particularly tired, although once again the actors involved made it a bit more fun that it should have been - but at least he got a few interesting things to do here. I enjoyed his successful attempt to block Daphne from reading his mind, along with some suitably intense facial impressions as he desperately tried to remember the capital of New Mexico.
I don't think the show will ever admit it, but the breakout comedic character on this show really should be Stephanie. Julie Benz does a good job playing her, but the lines she has to say are frequently so strange that it's difficult to take the character seriously. For instance, when she and Autumn Reeser's Katie realize the physical's blood test will expose her special powers, her only concern is, "I'll lose my funding!" As Katie much more astutely points out, she will become the experiment if her powers are discovered. Stephanie has a strange clueless quality about what her powers mean that could be very funny to play up, but I suspect I'll just have to keep doing that in my head as a way of explaining away all the stilted dialogue.
As for the rest of the episode? Evil Stephen Collins was more just Mildly Menacing Stephen Collins this time around, although I do love watching his constant flips from nicest boss in the world to scheming evil bastard. I'm hoping we get a moment where he actually switches from one to the other mid-scene. If nothing else, he's now suspicious that superpowered people are operating under his nose, and he seemingly has a way to connect it all to an already suspicious-acting Stephanie.
Honestly, I'm a bit worried about that - I can't really see how he'll fail to connect the dots in the next episode, but I suspect they're going to run the masterplot out a lot longer than that. I have a sneaking suspicion that subplot next episode is going to feature a lot of wheel spinning and time wasting, but I'll reserve judgment for now.
No Ordinary Family keeps inching towards being a legitimately good show, but now I'm actually more excited about another prospect - given time, this could become a legitimately funny show as well. Even if it's not yet willing to embrace the strange anti-comedy of Stephanie Powell, this show has shown promising flashes that it realizes that, yes, all of this is really rather silly...and that doesn't have to be a bad thing.