After a successful first year staring in January 2005, MEDIUM is now in its fourth year of interviewing ghosts and tracking down their killers. It will return in January 2008. When I first saw the trailers for the show, I didn't know if I would be all that interested. After all, the concept of a psychic solving crimes isn't new and has been often times been nearly run into the ground by movies, books, and television episodes of characters that get haunted by apparitions.
But "Do you believe in ghosts?" seems to be a popular perennial topic. People love arguing over the afterlife and what shape it will take. Interestingly enough, at the same time MEDIUM was airing, GHOST WHISPERER was already in development at another network. GHOST WHISPERER focuses more on relationship-driven plots, but does occasionally deal with crime victims.
From the very beginning, though, MEDIUM was all about the crimes. Think of it as CSI with ghosts. Court TV also offers PSYCHIC DETECTIVES, a reality-based recreation of criminal cases that were solved, or at least investigated, by real psychics. There is plenty of interest in the subject, and the market doesn't appear to be nearing saturation yet.
In fact, the show is based - somewhat - on the real life of Allison DuBois, a practicing psychic who once interned at the district attorney's office in Glendale, Arizona. The character Allison DuBois, portrayed so charmingly by Patricia Arquette, is also a wife and mother of three daughters. Haunted by her dreams and contacts with the afterlife, Allison is drawn to solving crimes. In the opening season, she was met with staunch resistance but eventually won a position in the district attorney's office.
Now in this third season DVD collection, Allison is an old hand at shepherding ghosts and solving crimes. As she's gone along, though, the crimes have gotten more personal and hit closer to home. Jake Weber plays Allison's husband, Joe. He's, literally, a rocket scientist. Together, they couldn't come from more different backgrounds, but they make everything work. Their relationship is the backbone of this show, and Jake's reaction and struggles with dealing with Allison's "gift" is what brings me back again and again.
I love how the whole family gets along. Joe is adrift in a sea of estrogen and female stress, yet he's got his own problems as he battles job pressures and Allison's dreams that haunt them both at night. Not only that, but the stress that Allison and his kids bring into his life isn't something he can talk about with any of his work buddies. Allison is the hero of the show, but Joe is my personal hero. The way he deals with everything, the way he's just one inch away from constantly being overwhelmed, makes me root for him all the time.
Season 3 brings a lot of the action into the family arena. The past couple episodes have touched on the family, but as the girls have gotten older and come into their own powers, more emphasis has been placed on that. The girls - Bridgette, Ariel, and Marie - are amazing in their own right. They're not perfect. I like the fact that they come across as real kids with real issues and real rebellion at times. Marie is played by Madison and Miranda Carabello. Bridgette is played by Maria Lark. Ariel is played by fan-favorite Sofia Vassilieva.
The season opener is a two-part story, "Four Dreams Part 1" and "Four Dreams Part 2", has Allison and Bridgette working together to solve one of Allison's cases. Marie's problems surface in "Profiles in Terror" and tie into Allison's battle with an abrasive FBI profiler whose findings don't agree with hers. "Mother's Little Helper" focuses on Allison and Ariel as they share dreams. One of the strongest episodes of the season is "Second Opinion" because it involves the possible future Marie, and Allison's fears. Those fears are the same ones faced by many parents in the world today. This one hit especially close to home for me because I've had to deal with a cancer scare with my own daughter. This is the kind of writing that makes an episode of MEDIUM double-down with excitement and emotional weight.
The episodes involving the volatile relationship Joe and Allison share are the best. That relationship gets touched on in "Ghost in the Machine" as the result of a camera Allison gets for Joe as a present. The idea of a camera (although it's a camcorder in this case) that can show images from the future or past isn't new, but the episode still manages to throw an edge on the story. "Apocalypse, Push" reunites Allison with the Texas Ranger she first helped in the series' premiere episode, but it also features Joe as he has to deal with issues that again make him a real character to me and the show's fans. "Very Merry Maggie" has Joe worrying about his health, and Allison is so busy that she can't give his situation or mental drain the attention she otherwise would.
The best of the Joe-centric episodes come at the end of the season, though. In "Joe Day Afternoon," Joe gets held hostage at his job. The problems he has to deal with as a result crop up again in "No One To Watch Over Me" as he has to go back to work and still has a lot of residual fear. "Head Games" and "Heads Will Roll" features Joe's decision whether to join a lawsuit against his employer. I love Joe. My heart goes out to him. I know he's a fictional character, but Weber just plays him so well that I believe if he really existed, this is just how he would be.
In addition to her husband and daughters, Allison also has a brother. Michael has some of the same powers Allison has. He's featured in "1-900-Lucky" where his job as a hot-line psychic leads him into the same crime investigation Allison's already working on.
When the family isn't featured in the spotlight so much, the season relied on the fabulous and intriguing natures of the crimes Allison becomes involved with. "Be Kind, Rewind" slams Allison with haunting dreams about losing her legs, and plays the emotional card that brings in the viewers. Dr. Charles Walker, Allison's recurring foe that first appeared in first season's "Penny for Your Thoughts," puts in an appearance in this season's "Blood Relation." These episodes are always chilling.
"The Whole Truth" is a heartbreaker because it involves Allison's search for a little boy. These episodes where a ticking clock is involved always fuels the interest and I can't help but love them. "Better Off Dead" has a twist involving ghosts that is fantastic and fun. "Very Merry Maggie" is creepy, and shows how much the series can bounce back and forth between fun, interesting, and downright scary.
"The One Behind the Wheel" puts Allison at risk, and those episodes are always crowd pleasers. I can't help but be more interested when Allison is menaced. No matter what the other people in her life think, she's always alone ultimately. "We Had a Dream" has a psychic killer who tracks her down to her home. Allison's younger self puts in an appearance in "The Boy Next Door" and gives viewers a glimpse of what her life was like as she was growing up. "Whatever Possessed You" has two investigations that ultimately pull together in a surprising way.
The final three episodes of the season pull a lot of things together and build a larger, more emotional story. "Head Games," "Heads Will Roll," and "Everything Comes to a Head" builds tension and the threat level to Allison, Joe, and their marriage as outside pressures threaten to cave in on them. And Allison has to go outside her normal activities to bring a killer to justice.
MEDIUM is an amazing show. I love the episodes because most of them are self-contained and don't require constant attention to the series to understand what's going on. You can dip in and out of the season and keep up - except for the continued shows. But that's what I pick the DVD sets up for: to see the episodes I might have inadvertently missed and to revisit favorite episodes.
If you're a fan of the series, the third season set is out and keep the same great standards as the first two sets. If you haven't seen the series before, this season rounds out the series and makes the characters even stronger than before. You can start here with this one and know what's going on.
Unfortunately, special features are almost non-existent. I would love to see some behind-the-scenes stuff, some interviews with the real Allison DuBois and maybe the district attorney she worked for, as well as background on real-life cases that the medium solved. I love the show, but I would love finding out more about the real person it's based on as well.