Appellate Judge Mac McEntire can't communicate with the dead, but he can communicate with guys named Fred.
Our reviews of Medium: The Complete First Season (published June 14th, 2006), Medium: The Complete Third Season (published November 9th, 2007), Medium: The Complete Fourth Season (published October 1st, 2008), Medium: The Complete Fifth Season (published November 13th, 2009), and Medium: The Final Season (published June 29th, 2011) are also available.
Seeing is believing.
After catching viewers by surprise and earning an Emmy for star Patricia Arquette (Lost Highway), a second season for Medium was a must. Based on a real life psychic and medium who gained nationwide notoriety by helping law enforcement with cases and with jury selection, the series now sees all 22 episodes of season two on a six disc set, packed with extras and a special 3-D episode. But is it worth waking the dead?
Facts of the Case
Meet Allison DuBois (Arquette). She's an unofficial advisor for the Phoenix district attorney Manuel Devalos (Miguel Sandoval, Blow), where she investigates various cases, often working with homicide detective Lee Scanlon (David Cubitt, The Perfect Son). At home, Allison and her husband Joe (Jake Weber, U-571) stay busy raising their three daughters, Ariel (Sofia Vassilieva, Eloise at the Plaza), Bridget (Maria Lark) and Marie (Miranda Carabello).
One more thing about Allison: she's a psychic and medium. She can communicate with the dead, she can read minds, and she can see the future. These things often happen in her dreams. While still getting used to her abilities, she uses them to solve crimes, as well as to get through each day.
This episode list was recovered at the crime scene:
• "When Push Comes to Shove, Part Two"
• "The Song Remains the Same"
• "Time out of Mind"
• "Light Sleeper"
• "Sweet Dreams"
• "Dead Aim"
• "Judge, Jury and Executioner"
• "Too Close to Call"
• "Still Life"
• "The Reckoning"
• "Method to his Madness"
• "Doctor's Orders"
• "Raising Cain"
• "A Changed Man"
• "Sweet Child O' Mine"
• "Allison Wonderland"
• "Lucky in Love"
• "Knowing Her"
• "The Darkness is Light Enough"
• "Death Takes a Policy"
• "Twice Upon a Time"
As Allison investigates all of her various cases, the usual formula for each episode is that she gets some pieces of information with her abilities, normally appearing to her in a dream. But instead of seeing specific clues or suspects, Allison only sees fleeting images, leaving her to wonder what they mean. She must use her wits, then, and not any supernatural powers, to determine what her dreams mean, and how she can use that information to solve the crime at hand. Allison's powers only give her piece of the puzzle, instead of solving the puzzle for her. With this pattern in place, the Medium writers are able to keep Allison an ordinary down-to-Earth person, rather than some sort of psychic superhero.
Although this series has creepy serial killers, blood-drenched crime scenes, courtroom drama, and the occasional tense standoff, it's really Allison's home life that separates it from other police procedurals and supernatural series. We spend half of each episode often more than half dealing with Allison's relationship with her husband and her daughters. In any other series of this kind, all the family plots would be mere background. But in Medium's case, this is what gives the series its heart. We get to see that Allison is a caring wife and mother in addition to her role as a psychic investigator. The "detective" part of the show only represents one part of who this person is. In this series, we get to see her as a complete individual, instead of focusing on just one element of her life.
In depicting Allison's marriage, the writers thankfully avoid the obvious trap of having the two constantly bickering. There is the occasional conflict between the two, but these conflicts are normally dealt with in a realistic, mature way, and not as a forced excuse to give the story some drive. Too often, writers desperate in need for drama of any kind will resort to making the happily married couple fight, just as an easy out for some intensity. On Medium, however, Allison and Joe maintain a healthy marriage, and the writers are smart enough to make that work week after week, without boring viewers.
The closest thing this season has to an ongoing story arc is Ariel entering sixth grade and maturing rapidly over the year. Not only does she get to worry about the usual crises like grades and boys, but simple things like getting her own room or walking home from school instead of riding home with mom become huge adventures for her. Sofia Vassilieva plays the character with a nice combination of wide-eyed innocence and an adventurous spirit. As usual, Maria Lark, as middle daughter Bridget, steals every scene she's in with her quirky line delivery, and she once again walks away with the show's funniest moments. The DuBois daughters both spend a lot of time this season developing their own psychic abilities, just like their mom. This leads to Ariel seeing a dark future for a classmate, and the possibility of a dead writer telling new stories through Bridget. This gives both girls a lot to do this season, and the young actresses do an excellent job.
At Allison's day job, Miguel Sandoval and David Cubitt provide plenty of seriousness to the task of tracking down all those pesky murderers and serial killers. As with the first season, there are the occasional flourishes of bloody violence, including victims getting carved up with knives and dead bodies with their eyes gouged out. Because this is not an overly gory series, these moments stand out, and have the full shocking impact. The writers do a fairly good job of keeping Allison's cases just varied enough so that each week's murders never feel repetitive.
Centering all of this is Patricia Arquette as Allison. Appearing in almost every scene of every episode, she carries the series with confidence. In dream sequences, she appears in many different ways, from dancing to a classic tune to portraying a ruthless killer. In reality, she has to play the detective in one scene, the loving mother in the next, and the sexy wife in the one after that. It's clear that Arquette knows who this character is through and through, and can easily play her in any situation.
So, how about that 3-D episode? First of all, this set does come with two complimentary 3-D glasses, so you don't have to find a copy of the TV Guide issue that originally offered them. From there, the episode itself isn't entirely 3-D. A symbol on the upper left hand corner of the screen tells you when to put on and take off the glasses, and there are long stretches of plot with no 3-D at all. Now, I know that the success of 3-D technology varies depending on the type of TV used. On my TV, I did indeed see an illusion of depth, once my eyes took a few minutes to get used to it. The colors, however, didn't come across as well, with all the 3-D scenes looking kind of grayish-blue. After some experimentation, I found that the 3-D effects looked much more convincing with all the other lights in the room turned off. If the 3-D doesn't work for you, or you're just worried about looking like a dorkus malorkus wearing the glasses, the DVD gives you the option to watch the "2-D" version, in which all the 3-D scenes are lit and colored normally.
When not in 3-D, the picture quality is razor sharp, and the 5.1 audio is terrific, especially when the Bernard Herrmann-inspired theme music kicks in. Several episodes have amusing and informative commentaries with series creator Glenn Gordon Caron (Moonlighting) and various cast and crew members. The "Story of Medium" featurette is a nice one, running down the episode list, with everyone talking about the inspiration and challenges behind each one. "Medium in Another Dimension" is a featurette about the creation of the 3-D episode, and the many technical challenges involved. The "DuBois Daughters" featurette follows the child actresses throughout their working day, as they bounce back and forth from acting to tutors to acting and so on. The final featurette, footage of the cast and writers from their appearance at the Museum of Television and Radio's annual Paley Festival, is much too short. You just know there's more of this out there than the one anecdote we get. A semi-humorous gag reel concludes the extras.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The series continues its pattern of beginning each episode with a dream sequence. More often than not, the dreams are fake-outs, in which we're supposed to be surprised when Allison wakes up with a jolt. This gets less surprising and more tiring each time it happens. The better dreams are the more creative and surreal ones, which do a much better job of catching viewers off guard.
Some of the most interesting bonus material in the first season set was the interviews with the real Allison DuBois and her experiences, comparing them to what we see on the show. I hoped to learn more about her this time around, but the real Allison is nowhere to be found on this set.
Medium might not have the flashiness or sexiness of hit series like Lost or cult following favorites like Battlestar Galactica, but don't let that stop you from checking it out. It has witty writing, great acting, and powerful visuals. The depth of the extras on these DVDs only sweetens the deal. Highly recommended.
No need for any disturbing dreams this time around. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
• "Still Life" in 3-D
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