EPISODE REVIEW: No Ordinary Family: "Pilot" (Season 1, Episode 1)

Sam White
Sam White's picture

You’ve seen the commercials, so you know the premise. The Powells, a boringly normal American family, are in a plane crash together. They survive, but as time goes by after the crash they begin to deal with more than just post-traumatic stress.

Jim Powell—the dad (played by Michael Chiklis) is a police sketch artist who’d really like to be “a real officer” but no one at work takes him seriously. It's not that they think of him as just a Thing, but ... (never mind) Then, one day, he catches a bullet. Literally. With his hand.

Stephanie Powell—the mom (Julie Benz) is a top-flight research scientist who has spent so much time providing financially for her family that she’s lost touch with them all suddenly discovers that she can run about 700 mph.

Daphne Powell—the daughter (Kay Panabaker) can suddenly read the thoughts of people she’s with. Her character is petulant and whiny, but her “gift” has the potential to be the most interesting—and most abused (by her or the show)—as she runs into the wisdom of King Solomon who said, “Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you.” Daphne—in the premiere episode—happened to hear in her boyfriend’s thoughts that he’s sleeping with her best friend. While you could argue that it was good for her to hear that bit of truth, it was obviously painful.

JJ Powell—the son (Jimmy Bennett) has suddenly gone for learning-challenged to super-genius. This happened at the very end of the show, so we don’t know how that’s going to effect him, or the family.

And the show really is about the family. Turning “The Incredibles” on its ear, instead of a family that becomes dysfunctional by trying to hide its gifts, the Powell family was already dysfunctional but the newly-found gifts may draw them together.

Most of the first episode was just a set-up, of the characters and their dynamics with each other. We were also introduced to some of the Powells friends (including George St. Cloud—played by Romany Malco—as the requisite Don Cheadle-esque best friend of the star) and Stephanie’s boss (played by Stephen Collins, who is also the show’s executive producer), who seems to her to be very nice but …

Being a police-officer wannabe, Jim is convinced that his gifts are intended to be used for the good of all. His one attempt to use them on behalf of the police department get him shot (he survives, thanks to his abilities) and in the process he discovers that there are other people with “special” abilities. Maybe they’re all from “Smallville” … or maybe Stephanie’s boss is running experiments on humans.

Now, the show is set. What they do with this (IMHO great) set-up will determine how long it lasts. I really enjoyed the pilot—mainly because the characters are all so engaging and fun—so I’ll be watching to see if they take this potential and run with it.