After closing its debut season on a harrowing note, the crime drama In Plain Sight
returns for a sophomore season filled with the same clever scripting and sharp performances built around its unique blend of action and dysfunctional family dynamics. Mary McCormack is again the short-fused, acid-tongued glue that holds the program and its cast of eccentrics together; having recovered physically, if not entirely in an emotional sense, from the kidnapping that ended the show's first season, her Mary Shannon, U.S. Marshal with the Federal Witness Security Program, returns to the double rigors of her job and her contentious family. Neither side gives her much time to breathe in season 2; Mary's cases with loyal partner Marshall (Fred Weller) include a persistent rabbi (Richard Schiff, McCormack's former West Wing
costar), a witness (David Denman of The Office
) who refuses to testify until his missing son is found, an elderly mobster (Martin Landau) who wants to attend his son's funeral, and a pot salesman who cannot appear in court without copious amounts of his own product. Meanwhile, an FBI agent (Will McCormack, Mary's real-life brother) is hell-bent on bringing down her wayward sister Brandi (Nichole Hiltz) for drug trafficking and murder--Brandi was the original target of the men who kidnapped Mary and killed two federal agents in the first-season closer. Add to the mix Mary's mom (the terrific Lesley Ann Warren), who's struggling with recovery from drinking, plus relationship troubles with boyfriend Raph (Cristián de la Fuente) and new office manager Eleanor (Holly Maples, wife of series creator David Maples), who clashes with Mary at every turn, and the result is another collection of smartly written and frequently exciting episodes that, in many ways, surpasses the best of the first season, even in its closing cliffhanger. Said wrap-out was one of many controversies that swirled around the show in season 2; clashes with the network over the handling of the finale led to Maples and co-executive producer Paul Stupin--the show's guiding forces--leaving the program, which was then re-tooled to focus more on Mary's work and less on her family. It's an unfortunate decision that robs the show of much of its color, so fans should appreciate what they can of that combination here.
DVD extras on the three-disc set include commentary tracks for three episodes; Maples and Stupin are featured on "In My Humboldt Opinion," where they recap in detail their history of working on the show, as well as their appreciation for the cast. McCormack and Weller handle two episodes--"A Frond in Need" and "Who's Bugging Mary"--with a lighter touch that focuses on their performances. Deleted scenes for eight episodes are actually moments that could have fit well into their respective shows, rather than the extraneous material that usually ends up on the editing room floor, while the gag reel combines the usual flubs with some moments of genuine humor. --Paul Gaita