Medium: The Complete Fourth Season (DVD)

What no one else sees, she brings to light.

For three seasons, we’ve watched as psychic and medium Allison DuBois (Patricia Arquette, Lost Highway) used her gifts to help the Phoenix, Ariz., district attorney track down various murderers and psychos, while also dealing with the daily crises around the house 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).

But now, everything’s changed. At the end of last season, Allison was “outed” as a psychic in the media. The district attorney was discredited and lost his job, Allison lost her job, tough guy cop Lee Scanlon (David Cubitt, The Perfect Son) gets demoted and, through another set of circumstances, Joe lost his job. Medium: The Complete Fourth Season has the characters dealing with an uncertain future.

This episode list speaks from beyond the grave:

• “And Then”
Allison’s face is all over news the as “that psychic lady,” which isn’t making it easy for either her or Joe to find work. When she starts having dreams that relate to a missing child case, she has no one in law enforcement who will listen to her. That’s when she meets Cynthia Keener (Angelica Houston, The Addams Family), an investigator for a missing persons phone hotline. Could Cynthia’s help be what Allison needs to both catch a creep and get back on her feet?

• “But for the Grace of God”
Ariel goes back in time in her dreams, seeing what her mom was like as a free-spirited teenager. Her dreams could also contain a clue to a case Allison and Cynthia are working on.

• “To Have and to Hold”
Joe might have a shot at a new job, but his prospective employer’s daughter turns up missing, and Allison is asked to help find her. If she impresses the man, Joe could get the job. If the man thinks Allison is nuts, things could get even worse.

• “Do You Hear What I Hear”
While investigating the abduction of a deaf girl, Allison loses her hearing and needs Cynthia’s help to get by.

• “Girls Ain’t Nothing but Trouble”
Allison finds some work consulting for an unscrupulous defense attorney. Now on the other side of the legal fence, Allison is faced with the age-old lawyer dilemma, how do you defend a man you know is guilty?

• “Aftertaste”
Former D.A. Manuel Devalos (Miguel Sandoval, Blow), Allison’s ex-boss, returns to Phoenix, starting his own legal practice. Allison complicates things when she dreams of one Devalos’s biggest supporters involved in a crime.

• “Burn Baby Burn” Parts One and Two
Allison’s loyalties are divided when Devalos and Scanlon are on opposite sides of an arson case. She’s also dealing with a double visit from her mother-in-law and the ghost of her father-in-law.

• “Wicked Game” Parts One and Two
While investigating the abduction of an 18-year-old girl, Allison dreams of Cynthia’s long-missing daughter, who also disappeared 18 years ago. As Allison tries to sift through the differences and similarities between the two cases, her friendship with Cynthia is tested to the limit.

• “Lady Killer”
It’s twice the Arquette as sister Rosanna Arquette guests as a seductress accused of murder. Scanlon is quick to discover that there’s more to this woman’s steamy nighttime activities than meets the eye.

• “Partners in Crime”
Joe decides to try the inventor thing, establishing a tenuous business relationship with an investor, Meghan (Kelly Preston, Twins). But business is anything but good for Allison, when she is reunited with FBI Agent Cooper (no, not that Agent Cooper, a different one), who she believes committed a murder.

• “Car Trouble”
Despite their money woes, Joe surprises Allison with a new car. Unfortunately, a ghost is the car’s permanent passenger. Also, Meghan reveals that she’s not quite what she seems.

• “Being Joey Carmichael”
Tensions increase between Joe and Meghan, while Allison dreams of a young boy who might have become an adult killer.

• “Drowned World”
Joe’s business relationship with Meghan ends in an unexpected way, Devalos ends up in a new role, and Allison finds work of a different sort when a couple pays her to sense whether their house is haunted. Allison now worries about the past, with a murder that might have occurred in the house, and about the future, as multiple careers hang in the balance.

When I watched the third season of Medium on DVD, I wasn’t as impressed with it as I was with the first two seasons. This show initially caught my attention thanks to how quirky and non-formulaic it was. Here was a show that had detectives chasing serial killers, lawyers arguing it out in courtrooms, all with a supernatural element to it, and yet the most interesting stuff was the main character’s home life and her interaction with her husband and kids. Even though the show is loosely based on a real person, it still would have been easy for the writers to make the “psychic solves crimes” angle the meat of the series. Instead, the light, down-to-Earth tone turned out to be its best feature. In season three, though, the emphasis was more on Allison’s cases, and, worse, many episodes fell into a predictable pattern. Medium was on the verge of dullness.

Now along comes season four, and the writers and producers have decided to kick their own show in the butt. Having Allison and Joe out of work at the same time was just the jolt of drama this show needed to keep from getting stale. It puts both of them out of their comfort zones. In the past, Allison could just go to Devalos and Scanlon, tell them about whatever kooky dream she’d had the night before, and then they’d get to work figuring out how that related to the mystery of the week. Now, Devalos no longer has the resources to help Allison, and Scanlon has to distance himself from her because of newfound notoriety. Even Cynthia, Allison’s new contact in the crime fighting business, has to meet with Allison secretly, because Cynthia fears she too will lose her job if her supervisors learn she’s associating with a psychic.

That’s the other way in which Allison is out of her comfort zone—her secret is out. The world at large now knows she’s a psychic. This makes her more infamous than famous, as most of the people she encounters thinks she’s, at best, a weirdo or, at worst, a con artist. People who are merely OK with Allison’s abilities are few and far between. Instead of awkwardly hiding her gifts from everyone she encounters, Allison must now awkwardly defend the use of her gifts, which is a new challenge for her. This is also the challenge for daughter Ariel, who starts her freshman year of high school this season. Word spreads throughout the school not only that Ariel’s mom is the famous psychic lady, but that Ariel has psychic powers of her own. Ariel’s quick to learn that this sort of fame has its plusses—being asked for readings—and minuses—being considered a freak.

Joe is the other major character dealing with change this season, and, as a result, this season is Jake Weber’s best work to date on the series. He perfectly sells Joe’s frustration at not being able to provide for his family, as well as his embarrassment over the ultimate of humiliations, having to ask his mother for a loan. The latter half of the season has Joe trying to get back on his feet by signing a deal with a new business partner, one who turns out to be highly unpredictable. These are the types of worries that a lot of folks have, and the Medium creators are able to get just the right amount of dramatic weight from them, without overdoing it.

Then there’s the new face in Allison’s life this year. At first, it’s hinted that Cynthia has abilities much like Allison’s, but then this element of her character fades into the background, as Cynthia’s interest is more in finding missing children than it is in psychic phenomena. I’m unclear as to what the nature of her friendship with Allison is. They seem to get along, but then Allison and Joe have lines about how they don’t like Cynthia and how she rubs Allison the wrong way. This made me wonder if I’d missed something. Similarly, Cynthia’s exit from the storyline seemed awfully abrupt and slightly out of character. Despite all my criticisms how this character is written, though, Angelica Houston brings her usual professionalism to the role, and makes the character her own. Her Cynthia is a sharp, independent woman, hiding the pain of tragedy in her past. The “Wicked Game” two-part episode explores Cynthia’s character while cranking up the tension between her and Allison, and when Cynthia finally has her big meltdown, Houston sells it excellently.

All this human drama is nice, but viewers should note that this is also the kinkiest season of Medium yet. With an emphasis on missing person cases, there are a lot of scenes featuring captivities, like girls chained to walls in dank basements and a man undressing in front of a helpless young boy. Nothing too graphic happens on screen, but the idea of what’s happening is creepy in that get-inside-your-head kind of way. It seems that while the creators were taking their characters in new directions, they also wanted to push the envelope with the murderer/criminal scenes as well.

The video and audio quality on these discs are stellar, with crystal clear images and robust sound. The “Making of Season Four” documentary is a nice run, running through the highlights of the season, with a look at how some of the more elaborate dream sequences and set pieces were created. A second documentary looks at the Angelica’s Houston’s work on the show, and a third is a short behind-the-scenes look at how an animated dream sequence was made. Most of the episodes have deleted scenes with commentary by series creator Glenn Gordon Caron (Moonlighting). This is nice, but why not commentaries on entire episodes? The usual silly gag reel rounds out the extras.

Rather than play it safe and go through the motions, the creators of Medium instead chose to push the show’s narrative forward and force their characters into new emotional territory. The risk paid off, with a season full of great acting, writing, and production values.

The Verdict

Not guilty. But, then, you knew that already, didn’t you?

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