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Reviewed by Will Harris
elcome back, my friends, to the wonderful world of psychic Alison Dubois, and, frankly, if you still aren’t tuning into “Medium,” we really don’t know what to say to you. After all, we praised Season One of the show and talked about how consistently clever and creepy it was, then we talked up Season Two as being almost as good as its predecessor. Now, we’re in Season Three, and we’re pleased to say that the quality level is still approximately where it was where we left off. But, really, things haven’t changed all that much.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, you understand.
If anything, “Medium: The Complete Third Season” might actually be infinitesimally better than the previous season, if only because it doesn’t fall back on gimmicks like, say, a 3-D episode. The closest thing to a gimmick this year might be the guest stars, starting with the two-hour season premiere, featuring Patricia Arquette’s real-life husband, Thomas Jane, as a former – and now deceased – boyfriend of Alison. Others who make appearances during the season include Kathleen Robertson, Kurtwood Smith, Alan Ruck, Eric Stoltz, Peri Gilpin, Robert Beltran, Adam Goldberg, Larry Miller, Christopher McDonald, Jason Priestley, Ayre Gross, Neve Campbell and Howie Mandell. Of the bunch, the least effective is Stoltz, who takes his role as a serial killer over the top, but the most surprising is the pairing of Adam Goldberg and Larry Miller, who end up providing more drama than you’d ever expect from two guys who are as funny as they are. We also get return appearances from Arliss Howard as Texas Ranger Kenneth Push, Ryan Hurst as Allison’s brother Michael (in an episode directed, ironically, by Arquette’s own brother, David), and Mark A. Sheppard as 19th century murderer Dr. Walker (and, as it happens, one of his descendants, too).
The series regulars get a bit more development this season. Alison’s boss, District Attorney Manuel Devalos (Miguel Sandoval), has a health scare, but beyond that, we’re provided with a bit more insight about both his friends and his family. We see him have an Alison-like encounter with his dead daughter, but, perhaps more importantly, we finally get to meet his wife! Meanwhile, Det. Lee Scanlon (David Cubitt) begins to develop a romantic relationship with Deputy Mayor Lynn DiNovi (Tina DeJoseph). Jake Weber continues to keep things interesting in the homestead with his performance as Alison’s long-suffering husband, Joe. In Season Three, however, he finds himself involved in a situation that, ironically, he might not have found himself in the middle of, if he had only listened to his wife. Instead, he heads off to work one day and ends up being held hostage at gunpoint by a former employee who’s got a cancer-riddled brain and nothing left to lose. When things go awry and Joe ends up seeing one of his co-workers shot to death in front of him, it begins a chain of events which necessitate him having to take time off work to deal with the emotional repercussions of the experience, and by the season finale, he finds himself without a job at all.
Following the trend of previous seasons, the Dubois daughters continue to find themselves blessed and cursed with the same abilities as their mother. Thankfully, they don’t have to suffer through a new dream every night like Alison, but they do receive enough information from the spirit world to find themselves scoring their own storylines once in awhile, and yes, that includes Marie, too. In fact, this season brings us not only the first occasion of the littlest Dubois showing any sort of paranormal abilities but a big, big laugh when Joe realizes that the reason Marie’s been staring at the white noise on the TV screen is not because she’s autistic, as he’s feared, but because she’s able to “receive” the audio and video for premium stations that the family doesn’t subscribe to. (“Okay,” says Joe, taking a deep breath, “the good news is that she’s not sick and we don’t have to take her to the doctor, but the bad news is that she may be a felon because she’s been, uh, stealing cable.”) Bridget gets a few shining moments here and there, including one episode where her abilities allow her to see through Joe’s claim that he’s never done drugs, but count on Ariel to get the spotlight a lot more in the future. Not to belittle the other li’l lasses, all of whom do a fine job, but the older Sofia Vassilieva gets, the more acting acumen she shows. In fact, if Arquette ever decides to give up the series, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if the producers opted to pass the torch to Vassilieva.
There are some particularly clever episodes this season, including one involving a high-school-aged Alison dreaming of the future, another that finds her dreaming the same day’s events over and over again (a la “Groundhog Day”), and still another where we see the Dubois family as dolls. But amongst all this praise, let’s talk for a moment about the disappointment inspired by the third-season finale. Over the course of several episodes, various storylines within the series continue to develop and progress, and by the time of the second half of the finale, the tension has built to a fever pitch. When there are only a few minutes left to that second part, you’ve reached the point where you know -- you just know -- that there’s going to be a cliffhanger ending. You’re wrong, though. Even though there are plenty of changes in store for the next year, the actual conclusion offers the wrap-up of the episode’s mystery in a manner so abrupt that one has to believe it only came about because the producers feared that the show might not return for a fourth year.
Thankfully, there will be a Season Four, and given all the events within those last few episodes of Season Three, the dynamic within the series will have changed enough to add a breath of fresh air to the show. It’s not that it’s really needed, per se, but the fact that the producers are willing to switch things up a bit before getting into a rut is just another reason to love and respect “Medium.”
Special Features: Making it a three-for-three average, the producers of the show have put together another solid collection of extras. In addition to deleted scenes, a gag reel, and the stars, writers and directors chiming in on several commentaries, the trend of putting together solid season-end wrap-up featurettes continues. There’s also a featurette focusing on David Arquette’s directorial stint on the show. But the most entertaining featurette focuses on how Miguel Sandoval has spawned a ping-pong craze among the members of the cast. There’s something weird about a show that’s so consistently spooky having such a good time backstage, but if it helps that great ensemble cast bond even further, I say, “You get your paddle on, Miguel.”