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Reviewed by Will Harris
n Plain Sight” is a series which took the majority of its first season to truly take flight, and in today’s television climate, that’s the kind of thing that can lead a show to a really short run. Fortunately, the combination of a couple of familiar faces – Mary McCormack and Lesley Ann Warren – and an easy-to-grasp premise (who doesn’t understand the concept behind the Federal Witness Protection Program?) was enough to bring in a strong initial audience, and those who held on for the long haul found a series which had intentions which went far beyond the average crime procedural.
For those who weren’t around for Season One, Mary Shannon (McCormack) is a U.S. Marshal with the Federal Witness Protection Program, and between her partner, Marshall Mann (Frederick Weller), and their supervisor, Stan McQueen (Paul Ben-Victor), they keep track of all of the witnesses in Albuquerque, NM, and, more importantly, strive to keep them safe. It’s funny, however, to look back at Bullz-Eye’s review of Season One and read where it was suggested that one of the show’s biggest problems was “that Mary’s work life tends to be way more intriguing than her personal life.” The lives of the witnesses in Season Two are arguably just as compelling as they were during the show’s inaugural season, but whereas the saga of the Shannon family didn’t seem to gel in Season One, it’s sure as hell firing on all thrusters now.
Mary spends much of Season Two dealing with the emotional repercussions of having been kidnapped in the previous season’s finale, much as her sister, Brandi (Nichole Hiltz), is trying to handle what she’s gone through with the death of her drug-dealing boyfriend. Both of them, however, have their hands full with their mother, Jinx (Warren), who’s a major-league alcoholic in serious denial of her condition – so much so that she actually asks Brandi to attend an AA meeting in her stead and get her paperwork signed. It’s an awful thing for a mother to ask a daughter to do, but Brandi’s weak and seeks her mother’s approval, so she does it. In the end, she’s forced to admit what she’s done to Peter Alpert (Joshua Malina), the gentleman who runs the meeting, but although he’s obviously less than pleased at first, he and Brandi soon find themselves in a romantic relationship. As for Jinx, despite trying to avoid acknowledging her drinking problem, she’s forced to deal with it well before the end of the season, and when she does, it’s a powerful episode.
But let’s get back to Mary. In addition to her aforementioned struggles, she’s also trying to figure out where she stands with her longtime male companion, Rafael (Cristian de la Fuente). It’s something he’s trying to work out as well, since he’s been interested in taking their relationship to the next step for quite some time now. Mary’s avoidance of long-term commitment is no surprise when one considers the effect that her father’s departure from the family had on her, and that particular non-relationship – she hasn’t heard from dear old Dad in many years – gets turned on its head when a woman (played by Laura Prepon) shows up who claims to be her half-sister.
Yep, there’s a lot of family drama in “In Plain Sight: Season Two,” but there’s still plenty of time for witness protection. Arguably the best episode of the season is “Training Video,” which features guest star Martin Landau as Joseph, a witness who, many decades after going into the protection program, decides to leave in order to attend his son’s funeral. It’s a heart wrenching affair as Joseph learns about all that he missed. “One Night Stan” gives Stan a rich back story as it forces him to deal with a case from 1988 which has come back to haunt him, while “Duplicate Bridge” serves as a strong spotlight episode for Marshall, with one of his charges – played by Clarke Peters – struggling with the realization that he may have been responsible for a bridge collapse.
Last time around, we suggested that “In Plain Sight” had the potential to become a TV classic. After viewing its second season, we’re more certain than ever that we were right.
Special Features: No featurettes, surprisingly enough, but there are deleted scenes, a gag reel, and three commentaries, featuring input from McCormack, Weller, and executive producers David Maples and Paul Stupin.