The ghost of your great-great-great-great grandmother just appeared to Appellate Judge Mac McEntire, and she said she wants you to read this review. Actually, that's not true. I mean, really, why would she say that?
Our reviews of Medium: The Complete First Season (published June 14th, 2006), Medium: The Complete Second Season (published November 6th, 2006), 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.
When others see nothing, she sees the truth.
Medium is loosely based on the experiences of real-life psychic Allison DuBois, who has allegedly used her abilities to assist law enforcement agencies around the country solve cases.
Although it doesn't receive the hype that you see for Lost or Heroes, Medium keeps going strong on the air with a devoted following, and with Medium: The Complete Third Season, now on DVD.
Facts of the Case
Allison DuBois (Patricia Arquette, Lost Highway), lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband Joe (Jake Weber, U-571), and their three daughters, Ariel (Sofia Vassilieva, Eloise at the Plaza), Bridget (Maria Lark) and Marie (Miranda Carabello).
Allison is a consultant for the District Attorney's office, where only her boss, D.A. Manuel Devalos (Miguel Sandoval, Blow) and tough cop Lee Scanlon (David Cubitt, The Perfect Son) know that she is a psychic, as she provides clues to murder investigations through her dreams and her conversations with the dead.
I don't what this episode list means, but I'm certain it's related to the case:
• "Four Dreams" Parts One and Two
• "Be Kind, Rewind"
• "Blood Relations"
• "Ghost in the Machine"
• "Profiles in Terror"
• "Mother's Little Helper"
• "The Whole Truth"
• "Better Off Dead"
• "Very Merry Maggie"
• "Apocalypse, Psuh"
• "The One Behind the Wheel"
• "Second Opinion"
• "We Had a Dream"
• "The Boy Next Door"
• "Whatever Possessed You"
• "Joe Day Afternoon"
• "No One to Watch Over Me"
• "Head Games"
• "Heads Will Roll"
• "Everything Comes to a Head"
One aspect of the series I enjoyed during the first two seasons has how non-formulaic it was. In many episodes, the murders and crimes took a backseat to Allison's family and all the quirky slice-of-life events that come with a family of five. This season, though, the series feels like it has fallen into a regular formula. Consider the "dreams vs. evidence" argument. In almost every episode, there's a scene in which Allison informs Devalos and Scanlon about something she saw in a dream that may or may not relate to that week's case. They don't believe her at first, stating that they can't trust clues from dreams, but she insists and they eventually come around. You'd think by now that she'd proven herself by being uncannily correct so many times that they wouldn't give her the skeptic routine every time she has a dream. To be fair, Allison, a former law school grad student, should also know that police need evidence before they can arrest and/or convict someone, and she shouldn't have to be reminded of this every single week.
These repetitious scenes are part of a bigger problem with this season and its reliance on formula. Typical episode: 1) Allison has a weird dream just as some sort of horrific murder is committed, 2) she and Joe get the girls ready for school in the morning, 3) Allison investigates the crime with others at work, 4) the killer is seemingly caught, 5) Allison has another dream that reveals more about the case, 6) whatever subplot that was introduced in the breakfast scene is resolved, 7) the real killer is caught this time, and 8) roll credits. The show that once struck me as different and unconventional now feels too much like some of the other police procedurals on the air, even with the psychic angle. When Allison spends the entire episode "The One Behind the Wheel," it's exciting because it's something new and different. But it used to be that every episode felt new and different.
Then, as the season chugs along toward the season finale, we get six serialized episodes in a row, which first deal with how a hostage crisis affects Joe, and then with a nasty serial killer, a failed court case, a potential lawsuit, and a new best friend for Allison. On one hand, it's nice to see the writers tackling a longer project, which gives them room to add in a lot of longer dramatic scenes that would normally be rushed in a single episode. On the other hand, it comes across as the writers hoping to compete with the hit serialized shows that are all the rage these days. Even though it all comes together in its own way, it leaves viewers hanging just enough to wonder what will happen in the upcoming Season Four.
Despite my above criticisms, there is a lot to praise about this season of Medium as well. The actors are excellent across the board, with Arquette leading the way. She skillfully balances being the tough detective type with the loving mother type. Weber gets a lot more to do this time around, as his character endures a traumatic experience. Sandoval gets to drop his guard a little when we get a look at his home life, and Cubitt has the "rugged, world-weary cop" routine down to a science by now. The three girls, normally the show's big scene-stealers, don't seem to have as much screen time, but they are still charming.
The show's production values are top-notch as well, with every episode looking like it could be a big-screen feature. The DuBois home looks warm and comfortable, if a little messy. Crime scenes, meanwhile, are appropriately gory, with blood sprays and mangled corpses to be seen. The dream sequences that kick off every episode sometimes show a lot of imagination, such as when Allison and her family are transformed into dolls. There are far fewer dream fake-outs this season, so there's a lot less of the producers tricking you into thinking Allison is in danger only to slap you in the face with "it was all a dream." Instead, the opening dreams reveal the first hints of that week's murder, like so many detective shows do. This might be following the usual cop show format, but it beats the fake-outs any day.
It's time for another thrill-packed game of "Intentional or Coincidence," in which we look at similarities between this season and other movies/TV shows to determine if the reference is a coincidence or an intentional shout-out (or, dare I say it, a rip off):
• In one episode, young Marie prefers watching the static on TV instead of any programs, just like the little girl from Poltergeist. Intentional or coincidence?
• In the same episode, Allison meets a brilliant FBI agent named Cooper. The TV classic Twin Peaks also featured a brilliant FBI agent named Cooper. Intentional or coincidence?
• When Allison dreams of herself in the middle of a magical snowstorm, the music is very, very similar to Danny Elfman's snowy themes from Edward Scissorhands. Intentional or coincidence?
The audio and visual quality here is good all around, as is expected for a series possibly made with these DVDs in mind. Two episodes get commentaries from producers, directors, writers, and actors. They're both good ones, in which the participants share their love of the show while offering plenty of behind-the-scenes tidbits. Seven episodes come with deleted scenes, but most of them are short "cut for time" moments that don't add much to the story overall. The best of the featurettes is "The Story of Medium Season 3" and "The Making of Medium Season 3." In these, the producers, actors, and more give an overview of some of the season's highlights, such as deciding which directions to take characters, and a look at some of the more complicated set pieces and special effects. "Directing with David Arquette" has everyone talking about Patricia Arquette's brother David (Ready to Rumble) who directed one episode this season. "Drawing on Dreams" is a look at how an animated sequence from an episode was created, and "Acting is my Racquet" is borderline pointless footage of Sandoval and other actors horsing around while playing tennis, ping-pong, and badminton. A semi-funny gag reel and a few trailers for upcoming Paramount DVD releases are also included. It's a nice collection of bonus features, but they don't have as much depth as the features from previous season box sets.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The box states, "Some episodes may be edited from their original network versions." Is this a music rights thing? Or was there some previously censored gory scenes that were edited back in? There's no explanation. (While I'm being nitpicky, the episodes "may" be edited? Like the people who made these DVDs don't even know?)
Although I'm still enjoying Medium, I have to admit there were times when the show bored me this season. That's because the fresh non-formulaic writing of the first two seasons now feels a little more written-by-blueprint. If you're thinking about checking out this series, start with the first season. I'd say Season Three is for the fans only.
We were all ready to hand in a "guilty" verdict, but the district attorney gave such a passionate speech in his closing remarks that we've changed our minds. Medium: The Complete Third Season is free to go, as long as it promises better writing next season.
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Scales of Justice
• Cast and Crew Commentaries on Select Episodes
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