Medium: The Complete Fifth Season (DVD)

See the world through her eyes.

When we last saw super-psychic Allison DuBois (Patricia Arquette, Lost Highway), she and her family had been through Hell and back, facing not only the usual murderers and kidnappers, but also a brief bout of unemployment. Oh, and that whole writer’s strike thing. Now, as the fifth season of Medium begins, Allison is back on her feet, and ready to tackle new cases, while also dealing with usual family crises at home.

Allison is back working for District Attorney Devalos (Miguel Sandoval, Blow) and gruff cop Lee Scanlon (David Cubitt, The Perfect Son), where she’s called upon to use her psychic gifts to help solve cases. Her husband Joe (Jake Weber, Dangerous Beauty) is starting his own business with the help of a new benefactor. Eldest daughter Ariel (Sofia Vassilieva, Eloise at the Plaza) is learning to drive, middle daughter Bridget (Maria Lark) continues to develop her own psychic gifts, and youngest daughter Marie (Miranda Carabello) has more lines than ever before.

I woke up with a strange, unexplained desire to compile this episode list:

• “Soul Survivor”
Psychic phenomenon is everywhere as the season begins, when Allison investigates a case in which a murdered man has possessed his wife’s new husband.

• “Things To Do in Phoenix When You’re Dead”
The only witness to a crime might be a ghost, one who’s reluctant to tell her anything. Meanwhile, a doll has strange, drug-like effects on Ariel.

• “A Person of Interest”
Obsession is the theme of this episode, as Allison is driven to build something out of an old microwave she finds at a crime scene, without knowing why. This obsession might end up endangering her family.

• “About Last Night”
Allison blacks out while driving home, experiencing several hours of lost time. Could she have unknowingly hurt or killed someone?

• “A Taste of Her Own Medicine”
Devalos asks Allison to help locate a high-profile politician’s missing daughter. Scanlon learns he’s going to be a father.

• “Apocalypse…Now?”
Allison dreams of a futuristic post-nuclear wasteland, which might be tied into a mass murder case.

• “A Necessary Evil”
The ghost of Allison’s rival, Agent Cooper (No, not that Agent Cooper, a different one) appears, with an offer to help her find a killer. Can he be trusted, even in the afterlife?

• “Truth Be Told”
Allison develops a new ability, to be able to tell instantly if someone is lying. This is put to the test after Joe is sued for allegedly stealing another company’s ideas.

• “All in the Family”
Joe’s unbelievably obnoxious sister moves in after breaking up with her unbelievably obnoxious husband. Commenting on this from the sidelines is the ghost of Joe’s unbelievably obnoxious father.

• “Then…And Now”
On the eve of Marie’s fifth birthday, Allison wakes up five years in the past, with an opportunity to help Devalos change his mind on an important case that will come back to haunt him in the present.

• “The Devil Inside” Parts One and Two
A religious fanatic starts stalking Allison, believing her abilities to be against the will of God. Joe’s new financier, meanwhile, wants Allison’s psychic advice on the stock market.

• “How to Make a Killing in Big Business” Parts One, Two and Three
Allison is offered a lucrative job by a multi-billionaire, one with his own psychic. It seems like a dream come true, but all of Allison’s impulses have to do with a serial killer still being hunted at her old job.

• “The Man in the Mirror”
While investigating a murder, Allison falls into a coma. Then, a man (Jeffrey Tambor, Arrested Development) wakes up at a hospital, claiming to be Allison.

• “The First Bite is the Deepest”
Allison is assigned to a kidnapping case, which leads her back to her disgraced former friend Cynthia Keener (Anjelica Huston, Addams Family Values).

• “The Talented Ms. Boddicker”
Change is in the air, as Joe leaves for San Diego with a new job opportunity and Scanlon prepares to become a father.

• “Bring Me the Head of Oswaldo Castillo”
After suffering some health problems, Allison fears she’ll lose her psychic powers…permanently.

How to describe Medium? At this point, the show can officially be described as “long-running,” and yet it doesn’t get the fan obsession you see for mega-hit shows like Lost. That’s because Medium, despite its “psychic who hunts criminals” premise, is more low-key and slice-of-life than other shows of its kind. Yes, there are murders and suspense and shootouts, but the emphasis continues to be on the home life, on the ordinary, everyday challenges we all face. Some might look at this and call the show “tepid,” but it actually works in this case. The writers consistently make Allison’s home life every bit as interesting as her cases. Ordinary stuff—like Joe’s sleep depravation, Ariel wanting to go on an overnight skiing trip, or Bridget drawing suggestive images in art class—are all just as captivating as the murder of the week, if not more.

That said, it’s this season that Allison’s home life and work life finally collide. Now that her secret is out, Allison’s semi-fame draws danger to her. A stalker attacks her in her own home, she faces another killer at gunpoint, and more. I suppose it was only a matter of time before the writers went in this direction, but I wonder if the show has lost something. Allison’s home is no longer the safe haven it was, and could be in danger at any time. This adds suspense, but it makes the characters a little less relatable.

Some of the suspense works, however. When Allison is compelled to build a machine in her garage, it’s amusing at first. Then, when we see what she’s making, it’s frightening. Actor Jake Weber successfully sells the shock of this, and viewers can relate. He really gets put through the wringer this season, dealing with the ongoing unpredictability of Allison’s abilities. Often, she gains these compulsions from her dreams and visions, and they won’t let her go until she’s acted upon them. Thanks to his careful balancing act between loving support and fearful worry, this season is Weber’s best work on the show. Arquette is the star, obviously, and she does fine work throughout, especially when Allison has to stand up for herself, defending her abilities to skeptics. The rest of the cast fulfills their roles with their usual likeability.

This set treats viewers to a couple of multi-part episodes, which lets the writers go deeper into plots and character development than they could in stand-alone episodes. The best of these has to do with Allison’s religious fanatic stalker, which, in its second half, takes some fun twists, making it like a classic spooky ghost story. The three-parter, in which Allison is offered a job by a take-no-prisoners multi-billionaire, does a good job of taking Allison out of her comfort zone, but it’s more predictable, and I’m certain viewers will know how things will wrap up long before it happens.

As expected for a recently-made series, the 18 episodes on this five-disc set look great, with bright, vivid colors, and deep, rich blacks. The audio is nice as well, with clear dialogue and immersive music and sound effects. Of the four featurettes, two take a look behind the scenes at the creation of season, with emphasis on the episode “Apocalypse…Now?” The other two featurettes emphasize the actors having some fun interacting with each other.

If you’re familiar with Medium, then you already know what to expect from this fifth season. For newcomers, know that this is “comfort food” TV. It doesn’t have the flash or sexiness of more high-profile shows, but it’s enjoyable for what it is.

The Verdict

You read my mind: Not guilty.

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