Medium: Season Three
Many people have a deep rooted belief in the paranormal and supernatural. There is a certain fascination they have for communication with the dead, seeing the future or reading minds. Now there are no less than two series of this type on television. One of them, ‘Medium’ has just released its season three DVD box set. Based on the real life exploits of Arizona based medium Allison Dubois, also the television character’s name, this series looks at the professional and personal life of a woman with the ‘gift’. The real Allison has helped with criminal investigations, jury selection and other supernatural work. Whether you believe or not this series works as a solid television drama. It usually combines a professional assignment with something Allison and her family has to deal with on a personal level. This keeps the show from becoming just another in a long line of crime of the week series and provides for character development and continuity between episodes. Medium is well scripted, has excellent actors and is directed extremely well. A series like this could easily have been just another gimmick based show. Instead it holds together more for the dramatic and emotional impact than the ‘gift’ possessed by the main character. While these abilities are central to the plot they do not overwhelm it. It just defines the universe the characters live in and what is possible there.
If you bumped into her on the street you would think that Allison Dubois (Patricia Arquette) was just another soccer mom. She has husband Joe (Jake Weber), an aerospace engineer, and three children; Ariel (Sofia Vassilieva), Bridgette (Maria Lark) and Marie (Madison and Miranda Carabello). The thing is Allison is able to perform feats of supernatural wonder. She can speak to the dead; at times tell what will happen in the future and on occasion even read a person’s thoughts. Her daughters have begun to show signs that they also share this ‘gift’, as it is called. The two older children have visions while the youngest daughter seems to be able to tune into an upper tier cable station that the parents don’t have on their plan. Allison works for the Phoenix Arizona District Attorney Manuel Devalos (Miguel Sandoval). Her unofficial job description is to use her abilities to solve particularly heinous crimes. In the field Allison is usually partnered with police detective Lee Scanlon (David Cubitt) who was reluctant to believe in Allison’s abilities. What Allison does have in common with a typical soccer mom is she is devoted to her family. She loves her husband and daughters and tries to help them navigate the real world as well coping with the family gift. Usually each episode begins with Allison having a vivid dream. The remainder of the episode has her trying to find out the hidden message and how it relates to the problem or crime at hand.
Season three opens with a two part episode called ‘Four Dreams’. As the camera turns towards an everyday crowd of people in the street Allison, in a voice over, muses that what makes us all human is we all dream. In a dream Manuel is seen standing in a pool of water. When he wakes up it turns out he wet the bed. Lee also has a dream. He is in an amusement park with a blonde hair boy, obviously his son. At the end of the day he turns the boy in to the place he rented him and gets his deposit back. Young Bridgette also has a dream. Hers takes the form of a cartoon, The Monkeyheads. In it the mother monkey uses a paint roller to recreate some of the most famous works of art, much to the delight of her monkey child. The child tries to do the same but the results are not as accurate bringing disapproval from the mother. Finally, Allison’s dream is revealed. A man wakes up next to a beautiful, naked woman in Indonesia. She tells him it is impolite to pay for a woman’s affections and not take them. He says he has to go, throws a pile of money on her and takes off on a motorcycle. It skids under a bus decapitating him. As it turns out wealthy families are being murder but apparently nothing is stolen. As the plot progresses it seems that the crimes all involve works of art. On the personal drama side Allison’s ex boyfriend Clay Bicks (Thomas Jane) dies and decides to hang around at her house. Devalos is temporarily blind due to complications from his diabetes. In another episode the arch nemesis of Allison, Charles Walker (Mark Sheppard) returns. He is bent on resuming his habit of taking over the bodies of the living. Yes, he is dead but that doesn’t take a bad guy out of the picture in this series. To make matters worse for Allison she comes across a man with an amazing resemblance to a serial killer from two hundred years ago.
Part of the enjoyment in this series is trying to figure out the clues in her dreams and how they relate to the current case. They also can give insight into the personal problems the family and other characters are undergoing. This duality between being a family based drama and a crime show is the series greatest strength. It keeps the plot device of the powers under control. One particularly interesting theme in the series is how Allison relates to her children. She discovered her talents when she was very young and had some guidance in accepting and learning to use her gift. Now she has to help her own daughters to go through the same process. While Bridgette has a more robust personality and is able to better accept the situation Ariel is more timid and has to be guided more by her mother. Its little touches like this that help this series transcend the pack.
Patricia Arquette comes from a family tradition in show business. She is also one of the more talented of her clan. She gives great depth to her character making Allison into a believable person even if her abilities are out of the normal experience. Arquette also manages to balance the two facets of her character letting the audience accept her as a crime fighter and a mother. As her husband Jake Weber does an exceptional job. He shows the difficulties inherent for a man who has to cope with the most unusual circumstances. One of the best performers here is young Maria Lark. With her fresh, cherub face and beaming smile she captures the audience stealing most of the scenes she is in.
Paramount releases this third season DVD with their usual eye on details. One caveat here is the notice on the box that some episodes have been edited from their original network versions. No details where available as to the extent or nature of the edits. The video is in the now standard television format of anamorphic 1.78:1. It is bright and clear as expected. The Dolby 5.1 audio gives a robust sound field and even a little workout for the sub woofer on occasion. For extras there is an eclectic mix. Selected episodes have a cast and crew commentary. There is a featurette on how the dreams in the series are constructed and integrated into the plot. ‘Acting is my Racquet’ considers the challenges to this type of series. There are featurettes on the over all story line for the season as well as a making of section specific to season three. Last there is a look at Patricia’s brother David directing the episode 1-900-LUCKY. Rounding things off is a gag reel. This is a fun series that will pull you in.