Attendees of the “No Ordinary Family” panel on Saturday afternoon at Comic-Con International in San Diego were invited to watch the world premiere of the pilot episode of the new ABC show. CBR News has a summary of the episode followed by coverage of the question and answer session with the cast and creators that followed the screening.
Spoiler Alert: Details of the plot will be revealed.
“No Ordinary Family” is about the seemingly ordinary Powell family: The Powells include the patriarch, Jim (Michael Chiklis), his wife Stephanie (Julie Benz), their daughter Daphne (Kay Panabaker) and son JJ (Jimmy Bennett).
The pilot begins with the Powells somewhat troubled. They’ve grow distant as the kids grew up and the parents drifted apart due to an increased focus on their careers. In an attempt to reconnect, they agree to go on vacation to the Brazilian rainforest to coincide with Stephanie’s scientific work on the plants of the region.
While flying to their destination in the forest, their plane runs into a bad lightning storm, and ends up crashing in the river. The pilot dies, but the family escapes the crash, swimming up through the green, slightly glowing water. Eventually, they make their way back to the U.S., apparently unscathed.
Though the crash brings the family closer for a short while, they still have trouble connecting with each other. The kids never want to stay home, Stephanie is overworked, and Jim feels lost.
Jim sees his wife as a successful scientist, while viewing himself as powerless; a failed artist and ineffectual civil servant working as a police sketch artist. Crime is up, and people don’t seem to care as much as they used to about stopping it. Jim feels helpless, knowing his sketches rarely make a difference.
While discussing his plight with a co-worker, a gunman at the police precinct fires at a detective. Jim tosses the detective out of the way and stops the bullet in his hand, though the superhuman part of his heroic act goes unseen. Amazed at what he’s done, he says nothing.
Once home, he accidentally rips a door off its hinges and passes it off as a broken door. Apparently, his strength isn’t what it once was, and not for the worse.
Stephanie is having her own problems. Somewhere along the line her life became a race between her job as a scientist, a mother, and a wife. Now she needs to visit JJ’s school because he may have a learning disability, and there’s never enough time to get everything done.
Meanwhile, Jim takes a trip to the batting cages. There, he bribes the attendant to leave, and tests out his new strength. The test is successful, as he’s able to catch any ball thrown by the machine, and even allows one ball to strike him in the chest without inflicting any damage. He then invites his friend George St. Cloud (Romany Malco), a local district attorney, to come and watch as he catches, and crushes, baseballs in his bare hand as they are shot out at him. For the ultimate test, he hands George a gun and asks to be shot.
Elsewhere, Stephanie’s boss is flying in to town to personally hear about her discovery of an ancient plant and its properties over drinks. She accepts the offer, but has to cancel date night with Jim, another setback for their marriage.
Back with Jim, George refuses to shoot him, but the gun goes off accidentally. Jim catches the bullet, but George passes out for fear he’s killed his friend.
Stephanie begins to stress while stuck in horrendous traffic on the way to her meeting. Before she knows what she’s doing, she suddenly takes off on foot down the freeway at super speed, passing cars and breaking rear-view mirrors as she moves.
At this point, George is convinced Jim has super powers. He tries to persuade Jim to test out his theory that all super-strong superheroes can fly. Jim, unsure, attempts to jump off the roof and fails to fly, but survives the ten-story fall with just some damage to the cement below. To get back up however, he is able to jump the entire 10-story distance.
Stephanie, looking for someone to tell about her newly discovered powers, approaches an acquaintance at work who has an action figure of Kitty Pride of the X-Men on her desk. Stephanie can’t hold it in and spills her secret.
Testing her powers out, Stephanie races around a track while her friend clocks her speed at roughly a mile every six seconds. Her friend runs some blood tests on her and finds that she has a massively sped up metabolism and needs a very high caloric intake to maintain activity.
By now, Jim has cataloged his powers better, learning that he can jump a quarter of a mile in a single leap and he can bench press over 11,000 pounds. All that he can catch bullets, too. That night, Jim and Stephanie each notice that the other seems different, happier even, but there is still distance between them. As they attempt to bridge the gap, George calls Jim and sends him on his first super hero mission.
Jim takes off on foot, bounding across rooftops to arrive at the scene of a crime where he chases a suspect reported to be wearing a President Obama mask. As he catches up to him, Jim leaps down on the criminal’s car in the middle of an alley. He tears the door off the car and prepares to apprehend the criminal when he discovers the criminal’s accomplice is behind him. The accomplice shoots Jim in the back of the head from six feet out. While the bullet only penetrates a quarter of an inch into his skull, it still knocks him out.
Back at home, he wakes to find George and Stephanie in the midst of a conversation about Jim’s super powers. At that point Stephanie reveals her own powers. The couple offer theories about how they obtained these powers and decide it must have something to do with the plane crash and the glowing green water they went through. Before they can finish their conversation, their daughter Daphne calls and says she’s in trouble.
Stephanie, who usually puts such school-calls on Jim, decides to go herself to attend to Daphne. There she finds that Daphne, perpetually troubled by the girl politics of her school as well as her cheating boyfriend, has discovered her own super powers – she can read people’s minds.
Later, the family discusses their revelations together. Despite the powers, the family still argues about how Jim and Stephanie are broken, and its impact on the kids.
Back at work the next day, Jim’s co-workers are following up on the lead presented by Jim. At first the lead seems to be cold, but suddenly they encounter the suspect. Both officers are shot, and one is captured while injured. Fortunately, Jim has secretly followed the pair on the investigation and arrives in time to stop the crook from putting the detective in the trunk of his car.
Unfortunately, the crook has a secret of his own. He can teleport, and gets the drop on Jim. Just before he’s about to be shot, again in the back of the head but at point blank range this time, Jim is rescued by the injured detective who has escaped from captivity.
JJ, the only family member yet to show any sign of powers, finally notices some changes. During a complex math test, JJ amazingly knows all the answers. His power appears to be genius level intellect, whereas before he had a learning disability.
When he returns home, Jim finds that George has converted his garage into a secret lair complete with high tech equipment and everything needed to support super heroes.
As the episode draw to a close, Jim and Stephanie seek marriage counseling to work on their pre-existing problems even though they’ve found some common ground. The family’s problems are far from over, but they seem to be on the road to repair.
In the final scene, Jim accidentally throws a football too far and Stephanie uses her new speed to run and catch it. In their own way, this extraordinary family is communicating.
End Spoiler Alert
The members of the panel were introduced following the screening and included stars Julie Benz and Michael Chiklis in addition to producers Greg Berlanti and Jon Harmon Feldman.
Asked why this role appealed to Chiklis, he said, “It was a unique opportunity that was a family drama that is sort of wrapped in the superhero genre, and that is exciting to me and really fun.”
“I was doing some work on “Green Lantern,” and dramas on TV, and I just love the notion of melding those two worlds on TV,” said Berlanti.
Asked if the producers were able to reveal any teasers for the show’s future Berlanti said, “There will be some twists not seen in the pilot, and there will also be a new scene in the end as to who may be behind these powers, and if it is a good thing… we leave you with a sense that there is a bigger villain in all this.”
One audience member asked what the definition of JJ’s powers are, and why each member got the powers they did. “JJ is a super genius…The powers are based on things they were lacking,” said Feldman.
Another audience member asked, “I read Josh Stewart was added to the cast as a Watcher, what does the Watcher entail?”
“He will take a keen interest in the family, and he has abilities himself, and he will pose a threat to the family,” Berlanti answered.
A question leveled at Chiklis and Benz was whether they were specifically looking at something with a lighter tone than their previous television work on “The Shield” and “Dexter.”
“I was looking for something different, something fresh, something exciting,” Chiklis said.
“I was really looking for the strongest female character I could find, pretty much the exact opposite of Rita, and Stephanie is the opposite,” said Benz. “It was really luck, I still feel so lucky. It’s nice to actually be liked.”
Asked if the cast will don costumes in their superhero identities, Chiklis laughed and said, “No, you do not want to see me in latex. I am still happy I don’t have to wear sixty pounds of prosthetics,” referring to his role as The Thing in the “Fantastic Four” movie.
“I can be super strong, sans the hot suit. Plus, we also get to create a whole new fiction I’ve been tweeting a lot, @MichaelChiklis, and it’s fun to be me at work tweeting ‘Jumped off a bridge today, you?’ You don’t know what’s going to happen, and it’s really exciting,” Chiklis continued
The panel then spoke about their geek and genre influence in and outside of comics. “I don’t know if you guys know Alex Ross, but he draws those sketches…” said Berlanti, referring to Jim’s police sketches in the pilot.
“I’ve always been a huge Marvel fan, that’s no secret, so yeah I bring touches of influence throughout,” said Chiklis.
“Stephanie kind of reminds me of Bionic Woman,” answered Benz, laughing. “I do a woosh sound when I go fast, but that obviously doesn’t make the final cut.”
“I don’t get a woosh. I get more of a thud sometimes,” Chiklis said with feigned outrage, drawing laughter from the audience.
“No Ordinary Family” premiers September 28, on ABC.