Moonlighting with Medium
Some of the following episodes are being shown out of sequence here in the UK. I have noted the US airing sequence under the appropriate epsiodes.
Episode 1 - “Pilot”. UK air date: Sept 06 2005
Last night - 11pm on BBC 1 - saw the UK premiere of Glenn Gordon Caron’s Medium, starring Patricia Arquette as Allison Dubois; a woman who struggles to balance her daily family life and her “gift” at being able to communicate with the dead. But Allison must decide what it is that she wishes to do with her ability. Ever since she was young she has been seeing and hearing voices, having dreams or premonitions, but never actually doing anything about it. When she decides to send some information to a Texan law enforcer with regards to a sexual assault on a six-year-old boy she finds herself being called upon to lend her services. Allison may just have found her true calling, so will she give up hopes of becoming a lawyer in favour of becoming a fully employed medium?
Expectations are always going to be high when you’re talking about a show from the creator of Moonlighting and the reportedly brilliant but short lived Now and Again. The latest from Caron immediately has one remembering similar shows in the past such as NBC’s terrific Profiler and the later Millennium. So does Medium actually offer anything different? At least for episode 1 it manages to draw us in and provide an interesting slant on things. The difference with Allison when compared to - say - Sam Waters or Frank Black is that she is non too certain about who she is or what her purpose in life is. For all these years she has taken her gift and interpreted it as being a nuisance, and yet she can’t escape from it. So with such a heavy burden can she really block it out and live her life like a “normal” person?
The first episode takes things easy and sets up Allison’s situation and introduces her family. She has a husband named Joe (Jake Weber) and three young girls - a perfect family unit it would appear, and for all intents it is, despite a little bickering. Joe is supportive, the girls are loving and Allison is an intelligent woman with a promising career ahead of her. After the initial opening sequence which sets a dark and yet humorous tone we begin to understand that her life is not like everyone else’s. It’s interesting in the way that Medium executes itself; I wasn’t expecting as much humour in it and yet I’m not entirely surprised. Don’t get me wrong, it aint no light hearted drama, but it has the occasional moment of playfulness that threatens to take it down a peg or two. For the most part the humour works and at least for this opener most of it comes down to character interplay, particularly between Allison and the sceptical and cynical Texas Ranger, Kenneth Push (played admirably by Arliss Howard), not to mention her husband.
When it comes to the nitty gritty however, Medium pushes itself into deeper realms as this particular investigation unfolds. Though the opener lacks the kind of disturbing imagery that past shows became more famous for it carries a style that is so far more admirable because of its unwillingness to depict gratuitous shots. Instead the moments are lived through dialogue and the occasional spatter of blood. The storyline here (interspersed with a separate incident) which involves a seventeen-year-old molesting and murdering a young boy is extremely relevant, as it is shocking and its handled well enough for it to not become distasteful. The episode becomes more about character studies and coping with fear and insecurities. For this it opens up a few avenues and makes for some compelling viewing. With a couple of twists thrown in (mainly the opening and closing shots) it sets up what could well be an impressive season.
Medium also goes a little further by introducing others like Allison; one fellow medium sees through her in an instant and offers her helping hand, only for Allison to run out the door as quick as her legs can carry her. So we know there are others like her who feel the same things as she does, but as to whether or not we see any recurring, well that’s uncertain. It’s worth pointing out that the series is based upon the research of real life medium, Allison Dubois, and it is all the more surprising really in that her name is carried over for the show. Now whether or not you believe that Dubois can really see and talk to the dead matters neither here or there, but it does raise some natural questions as to just how much research is put into the show, if the cases we’re seeing are also based on fact and if the Allison shown here is a realistic portrayal of her inspiration. Certainly at the moment the series feels credible because of its naturalistic performances and strong writing, so from here I can only hope that it progresses naturally and becomes a whole lot more involving.
Now at this moment in time Medium really hasn’t done anything to stretch itself. We’re merely getting to know everyone and yes, it can feel a little too heavy on the family side of things. While it’s no bad thing it makes me wonder where things are heading, and just how much of Allison’s family time will show up on screen. It’s clear that Caron wants to present us with a character that is different, but is also the same as us. Just because she has this unique ability doesn’t mean that her life can’t be lived in a normal fashion. Unfortunately (and this may be a good thing) I’m no psychic and so I have no idea where this show is actually heading. It most definitely needs to be able to balance Allison’s home life and her working life, whilst making her work interesting at the same time, or else what’s the point right? If it can latch on to some of the things that made its predecessors so interesting then we could be on to a winner. I’m sure over the next few weeks of this 19-episode run we’ll find out if it has all been worth it. So far so good.
I may revisit this blog on a weekly basis as the series rolls on, so check back for more thoughts.
Episode 2 - “Suspicions and Certainties”. UK air date: Sept 13 2005
The second episode in the series brings us closer to District Attorney, Manuel Develos (Miguel Sandoval), who was established in episode 1, but remained largely a background figure. Without a phone call from him in a while, Allison has started to wonder if her services are really needed. The call finally comes from the D.A. and she gets excited, motivating herself at the prospect of using her abilities for something worthwhile. Develos informs her that he’s seeking the death penalty for a serial murderer and rapist; despite a wealth of evidence and a confession it isn’t necessarily enough to sway jurors to seek the penalty in Arizona. Allison is called in as a jury selector, which initially she doesn’t respond well to. Soon into profiling 144 questionnaires from prospective jurors she finds that she is beginning to show considerable talent, while also discovering that her abilities extend far beyond what she initially had thought.
Again, much of Allison’s family life heads things up, which includes her husband’s opinions and her own battle with tedium. For the past week she’s been depressed as she goes through the same routine day of watching game shows and getting the kids off to school before sitting around and doing little else. At one point she even thinks of hitting the drink to cure her unhappy state. So far it shows us a vulnerable side to Allison, to equally her strength provides a good counter balance. This episode also takes her out of the house a couple of times, when she’s invited to join her husband, Joe at a restaurant to meet his friends. We continue to see that even out of work Allison can’t help but use her abilities. When she picks out a few odd things in a discussion, which she tells her husband about it immediately unsettles him. Again we get a little family quarrel, while he tries to understand what she’s talking about, and if she even knows what is real and what isn’t.
Humour still plays a part in the series; again it’s used lightly to open the episode off the back of one of Allison’s dreams. Soon afterward she sees Joe’s father, who says to her “I’ll be damned if I know what my son sees in you”. To which she replies “You already are damned.” Enter Joe as the camera pans and the old man is gone. Only later does Allison inform Joe that she’s off to check the bed to make sure his father isn’t there.
And with all this, episode 2 manages to keep a dark streak. The cases themselves are becoming increasingly disturbing. This time a man named Ivan Kinetko (played by John Mese, who fans will recognise from Profiler‘s third season) has been killing pretty women and then storing their bodies, while having sex with them. As several court meetings play out, Allison’s dreams become more vivid; she begins to see Kinetko’s murders, but it all becomes disorienting for her. She insists she can’t be wrong about anything and yet the doubts are there. So this harks back to what Joe was asking her originally, which jokingly turns into labelling her as a forgetful psychic. In the end she’s still human and prone to simple mistakes, even if she won’t always admit to it.
Episode 2 is a good follow up to the first, although the most confusing thing so far is that the dreams that round off an episode don’t tend to continue in the next one (although this episode did manage to finish on a more coherent note). At the end of the first episode the criminal who she had visions of looked like he was going to be further explored, unless I missed something. Still, the centre of the story is Allison and her work is beginning to take shape. From here things should be built upon and her relationships at home and at the office can become more involved. I’d still like to see more in the way of investigations, but the chances of that are looking slim, with so many other pieces to fill in. It’s clear that her family life is of huge importance to the writers and I am still interested in finding out where it will all lead to. Most importantly is that the series has to try and not be too overbearing, otherwise it might begin to grow tired. That said, the cast chemistry is great and the material is handled well. No big complaints so far.
Sept 18 2005:
Congratulations to Patricia Arquette on winning this year’s emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.
Episode 3 - “Night of the Wolf”. UK air date: Sept 20 2005
I’m not sure it’s such a good idea to introduce another family twist this early on in the series. Episode 3 is focused a lot on Alison’s daughter, Bridgette (Maria Lark), who we discover has inherited her mother’s ability to communicate with the dead. Although Allison tries to reassure her husband that it doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll further escalate, I can’t help but feel that it’s a plot device that will later be expanded upon. It’s all handled very well, and it does explain somewhat why Bridgette talks in an unusually adult manner. We also learn that she’s highly intelligent, which alienates her from the other children at school.
On the case side of things we get a fairly interesting story of a woman who lies about the identity of the man who killed her fiancé. Allison’s dreams that lead up to the revelation are cryptically handled, and are effective at keeping the viewer non the wiser, until the final moments when you can judge if it’s either silly or brilliant. There’s certainly a far fetched feel about some of the events in this episode, but there’s an awful lot of issues to juggle, which means that certain things don’t balance out too well.
A good episode, that builds upon family relations, but doesn’t quite pack a punch.
Note: This episode was aired fourth in the United States
Episode 4 - “Coming Soon”. UK air date: Sept 27 2005
It’s inevitable that after having the viewer spend time with Allison, Joe and Bridgette we get to learn a little about their eldest daughter, Aerial (Sofia Vassilieva). Sticking to formula this episode alternates between family drama and case studies. The set up here is that once again Allison has been having nightmares, but this time it’s of a man who is a well respected Samaritan. At the same time she announces to Joe that she’s “late”. Could a fourth child be on the cards or is something else troubling her? Being that they have three girls already means that a boy might be nice, which naturally brings up deeply personal issues for Joe who feels that none of the girls really take after him. In this episode Aeriel seems to be just like her father, after spending some time with him, but soon it is revealed that she is all too similar to her mother.
“Coming Soon” is interesting because it doesn’t actually deal with a present case. Now it’s not my intent to spoil things, although I fell like talking about it so I’ll provide my comments in a nice, spoiler-free box, which looks a little something like this:
|The following text contains spoilers. Click and drag over this box to view.|
|So as we follow Allison we learn with her. The further she explores her mental abilities the more she discovers. It started off with her being able to communicate with the dead, then she could look into people’s minds, and now she finds that she is psychic. For the duration of this episode her investigation on Jared Swanstrom (spookily played by Reed Diamond) proves to be very frustrating. She’s convinced that he has killed six women, and subsequently disposed of their bodies in the desert. But of course this man is a local hero; he’s the good Samaritan, attends church regularly, volunteers at a homeless shelter and has recently foiled a robbery attempt in his street. And yes, he certainly is a good man. Allison soon takes it upon herself to follow him around town in order to catch him in the act, but at every turn her suspicions are put wrong. The police waste their time because of her and not even Develos will buy into her suspicions, because he simply feels she’s stressed or her sudden feeling of sickness is brought on by a possible pregnancy. But in the end she’s right again, and in a pretty neat twist we find out that Swanstrom will indeed commit these awful acts within the next seven to ten years.|
I’m liking how Allison begins to grow more, however far fetched it all might seem. But then I’d have to praise the writers for never writing in a ridiculous fashion. There’s a lot of credibility when it comes to Allison, and naturally a lot of that can be attributed to Arquette’s skill in portraying her. But I’m also finding that Jake Weber just keeps getting better as the series goes on. Joe is the guy whose side we could all be on; he is stuck somewhere between supporting his wife and trying to comprehend her abilities. He’s a great actor who has brought a lot into the series so far. Another aspect of the show which could easily become gimmicky still manages to interest. I’m talking about the dream sequences which throw the viewer off the scent. Whenever Allison dreams usually people she knows or is close to substitute the victims or the criminals she sees are turned in cryptic figures. In the case of this episode her daughters appear to be troubled, but if it digs deeper it will begin to show a psychological part of her which deals with her insecurities and turns them into nightmares.
I’m beginning to get into the series now, and I’m finding that these family matters are starting to work because they’re very convincing. Allison is an interesting character who continues to meet new challenges in every aspect of her life; her “gift”, work, family and so on. Now we’re on more understandable terms with her family, and from here I wonder what the writers will come up with next and how they’ll develop each character over time.
Note: This episode originally aired sixth in the United States.
Episode 5 - “The Other Side of the Tracks”. UK air date: Oct 4 2005
Why on earth are the BBC showing us episode ten already? This really in annoying.
So anyway. Another twisty filled episode of Medium and a solid one at that. Allison has been having a recurring dream about two boys trying to race against a train; it’s nothing particularly special but it’s been preventing her from sleeping properly. Her tiredness begins to interfere with her family and work life, until Joe suggests that she seeks help. Meanwhile, Develos is involved in a murder case which involves a fourteen-year-old boy. Develos develops some suspicions, but he could really do with Allison’s help; it’s just a shame that she’s not up to providing any.
To say too much really would be spoiling this episode, because it relies a great deal on some twists. As far as Allison’s personal life goes it’s still problematic. Her dreams have been waking her husband up and she struggles to do her daily chores when she isn’t called upon for her expertise. A lot of this episode focuses on Allison and her visit to Professor Leonard Cardwell (Zach Grenier), which creates an interesting situation for reasons I won’t explain. I could provide spoilers but then it would be nothing that really reveals anything more about Allison, but the progression of the case itself. As for Develos, well he has to get by without Allison and as we see sometimes a hunch can be all that you need. This shows us that Develos is still very much independent, and in times of desperation he can get by and do his job in his own way. There may not be any major developments here but then when this is ten episodes in I suppose it can afford to skip some stuff.
So I just want to tell off the BBC for screwing about with the episode run. I know you read this blog, BBC so sort it out pronto. There, that told ‘em.
Episode 6 - “In Sickness and Adultery”. UK air date: Oct 11 2005
More cryptic dreams haunt Allison, as this time she suspects Joe of having an affair; elsewhere the death of an officer sparks an investigation head by Develos, which will soon reveal one or two twists.
The problem by now of course is that we can be sure that there is no infidelity going on here. Try as they might to throw us off the scent we know by now that Allison’s dreams have other meanings behind them. Even bringing back fellow medium Catherine (Margo Martindale) does little to sway us. But while the storyline is predictable to a certain extent it still has some finer points. Here we get a little bit more out of the working relationship between Develos and Allison, which comes to blows when Allison is asked to testify and lie about how she knew certain facts. Her status as a medium isn’t meant to be exploited to the public, but she would like to be honest about it; back home the same issues crop up when she and Joe argue about how she can never tell anyone, because it would turn the family into a joke. Other things happening involve Joe’s biopsy, giving him two storylines this time around which is handled nicely.
All in all an enjoyable episode.
Note: This episode originally aired fifth in the United States.
Episode 7 - “Jump Start”. UK air date: Oct 18 2005
Allison is involved in a case that looks like the apparent suicide of a girl. It turns out that the Defence Attorney, Larry Watt’s (Connor O‘Farrell) son, Greg (Thomas Ian Nicholas) happened to date her before the incident. Greg is questioned as a suspect, but when new evidence turns up Larry is suddenly brought into the picture. Meanwhile Allison has foreseen Joe’s best friend, Brett (Joey Slotnick) suffering from a heart condition; the hard part is convincing him to have it taken care of.
Jake Weber really deserves an Emmy or something. As each episode gets by he becomes a more and more likeable character who we can empathise with. There’s some nice storylines being tailored for him here, which enables him to branch out a little and develop; he’s starting to get as much screen time as Allison, which proves he’s a strong presence in the series. Of course this is Allison’s show and this time around the writers do a fine job of weaving in several plots successfully. The episode is a little too coincidental and convenient as it happens to allow Allison and Larry to cross paths again, but surely enough it entertains while the facts emerge.
Episode 8 - “Lucky”. UK air date: Oct 25 2005
Due to PC trouble I've not been able to update for a few weeks. Anyway the last few episodes have been pretty good. Might update for final episode.