Medium: The Final Season (DVD)

The breakfast cereal based on this show should be called Medi-Yums.

For seven seasons, Allison DuBois (Patricia Arquette, Lost Highway), a legal-consultant-and-mother-of-three-and-oh-by-the-way-she’s-also-psychic has seen many ups and downs. She’s faced evil murderers and suburban family crises. Behind the scenes, the series Medium survived a writers’ strike, multiple time slots, and a jump from one network to another. Knowing ahead of time that this would be the final season, executive producer Glenn Gordon Caron (Moonlighting) and his team took time this year to bring Allison’s journey to an end with eyes on both change and closure.

Working for the Phoenix, Ariz., district attorney’s office, Allison has used her supernatural gifts to catch killers and crooks, with the help of (Miguel Sandoval, Repo Chick) and tough-guy cop Lee Scanlon (David Cubitt, The Perfect Son). At home, she’s aided by and occasionally struggles with her family—husband Joe (Jake Weber, Dangerous Beauty), and daughters Ariel (Sofia Vassilieva, Eloise at the Plaza), Bridget (Maria Lark), and Marie (Miranda Carabello).

This episode list keeps waking up its spouse in the middle of the night:

• “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day”
The show does the Freaky Friday thing, when Allison and Bridget wake up in each other’s bodies, and spend a day in each others’ shoes.

• “The Match Game”
Allison starts seeing icons over peoples’ heads, showing who is a match with you. She tries to stir romance between people she meets, which gets complicated when a murder suspect gets involved.

• “Means and Ends”
Scanlon’s dead brother is haunting him, keeping awake for days on end and making him edgier than usual. Also, a phone call from Ariel’s new college roommate might be more than what it seems.

• “How to Kill a Good Guy”
Scanlon’s ghostly brother leads him to a crime scene out in the desert, for their final confrontation.

• “Talk to the Hand”
After suffering a kitchen burn, Allison gets a skin graft on her hand, which develops a mind of its own and starts going all Evil Dead 2 on her. Could the skin have belonged to a murder victim?

• “Where Were You When…?”
Allison keeps having flashes of a major disaster in the city, but doesn’t know when it will happen.

• “Native Tongue”
Everyone Allison meets appears to be speaking gibberish to Allison. With no way to understand anyone, her struggles to communicate with Joe are all the more heightened.

• “Smoke Damage”
Devalos contemplates a run for mayor, and if he can run a clean campaign without having to dig up sleazy dirt on his competitors. Meanwhile, Allison suspects a heroic firefighter of being something far less than heroic.

• “The People in Your Neighborhood”
A registered sex offender moves into Allison’s neighborhood, and the locals aren’t pleased. After seeing the man’s past in a dream, though, Allison wonders if the guy isn’t the monster others think he is.

• “Blood on the Tracks”
Joe’s mother is diagnosed with a terminal illness, but she is confident she will survive, because Allison once told her she’d live for years. Who is right and who wrong?

• “Only Half Lucky”
Allison’s unbelievably obnoxious stepbrother (now played by an unbelievably obnoxious David Arquette, Scream) returns, with a new, high-paying job. Allison learns he’s being haunted by a dead career coach, who might have ulterior motives.

• “Labor Pains”
Allison’s infamy as a psychic comes back into the forefront when a distraught husband abducts Allison and tries to force her, at gunpoint, to use her powers to find his missing wife.

• “Me Without You”
The final episode jumps forward into the distant future, to show where the characters’ lives have gone after a horrifying tragedy.

Change and closure. Those are the two big themes facing the characters as Medium comes to its conclusion. Perhaps it seems contradictory at first, but not when seen in context. It’s all about ending one chapter of life and turning the page to start the next.

Most of the characters surrounding Allison are moving on to new places, either physically or emotionally. Joe gets a huge promotion, Devalos runs for mayor, Ariel is off to college, and so on. This has Allison rethinking her own place in life. Despite raising three kids and putting God knows how many psycho killers behind bars. She feels that she hasn’t accomplished enough in her life. This has her longing to return to law school—remember that this is where she began back in the first episode, before she went all psychic crimefighter. Allison’s questioning of herself and her future is the arc of this season.

As Allison grapples with her destiny, the writers take opportunities to wrap up every other loose end. Allison’s brother and Joe’s mother get very nice sendoff episodes. The best, though, goes to David Cubitt as Scanlon, who, after all this time, gets a ghostly visitation of his own. Scanlon’s evil brother haunts him, but, unlike Allison, Scanlon can’t see or hear the ghost, but we do. This makes it creepy and frightening to see how the ghost influences Scanlon without him knowing it—kind of like that movie Always, except evil. Although he eventually came around, Scanlon was usually the most skeptical about Allison and her gifts, but now, in the final season, he comes full circle, with a Medium-ish experience that’s all his own. When the big moment happens, it’s excellently written and acted, so that Scanlon “crosses over” while still being Scanlon. This season is easily Cubitt’s finest work on the show.

There are a lot of great character moments throughout this season. The premiere is a comedy-heavy episode with Bridget and Allison switching places, opening up Bridget’s personality in new ways we’ve never seen before. Youngest daughter Marie connects with her dad, as her own psychic visions tend to involve whatever Joe’s subplot of the week is. Devalos frets over running for mayor, knowing his family’s dirty laundry will be in the media if he does so. This leads to some emotionally powerful scenes between him and his wife (Roxanne Hart, Highlander). Similarly, as Ariel leaves for college, she delivers a beautiful soliloquy to little sister Bridget, as a fine example of how both characters and their relationship have grown since the series began.

It all comes to a head in the series finale, and…wow. Of the many ways for a show to end, I can’t believe they went with this one. Showing how everyone ended up in the distant future is one thing, but to do so while also having them face a shocking tragedy? That makes the finale almost too difficult to watch. I imagine many viewers will think, “I’ve followed these characters for seven years of my life, and then this happens?” In some ways, it’s appropriate, given the show’s overall themes regarding the afterlife and the unseen all around us, but in other ways, it’s jarring, forever altering what we know about these characters. It will be impossible to go back and view past episodes and not be reminded by what happens in the finale.

Anchoring all of this—not just the finale but or this season, but the entire series—is Patricia Arquette. Throughout it all, she’s played Allison with strength and confidence as well as caring and humor. Her Allison always felt real, no matter what freaky stuff the writers came up with each week. Psychic powers and evil murderers are fun and all, but it was really Arquette and her down-to-Earth interactions that grounded the show and made it accessible to viewers. That was true back in the first episode when Allison stepped off that plane surrounded by cops, and it’s just as true in the face of a truly mind-bending last episode.

Audio and video continue to be stellar, as expected for a recently made series. A series of excellent featurettes look back at the making of the season, as well as some sentimental thoughts on the series as a whole. The writers and producers do a fine job of defending the choices they made for the ending.

The show has always had great special effects, such as practical gore effects at crime scenes or funky CGI for dream sequences. Too bad, then, that the big special effects scene in “Where Were You When…” looks so laughably bad. I mean, we’re talking N64 graphics here. Other effects this season are passable, but this one? Yeesh.

By putting family and day-to-day dramatics above the “crime-solving psychic” gimmick, Medium tread its own path for seven years. It’s a procedural, a family drama, and a supernatural/spiritual show, without ever once letting one of those elements dominate the other. The show has consistently refused to be forced into a single, easily-definable genre, instead establishing its own identity. There’s never been another show quite like this, and there probably never will be again. It deserves to be seen, just because of how different it is.

The Verdict

I’ve seen decades into the future, where Medium is still not guilty.

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