Last night I saw a truly great episode of a truly great television show, Medium. The episode was so well-written, so solid, so creative and imaginative, that I immediately put this episode in my top five (yes I said five) list of favorite episodes out of any and all episodes of any and all television shows I've ever seen.
Be aware that this write up does contain spoilers for the episode if you have not seen it.
One of the best new shows out there is Medium and I should really do a node on it. It is about a psychic woman, Allison Dubois, working for the District Attorney helping to solve crimes using her abilities. It showcases excellent acting, writing, and plot premises I've never seen, or at least never seen done the way they're done. But the episode last night, out of the dozen or so episodes that have already aired going back to last season, was the best so far. I truly feel it deserves a Peabody Award, even better than a 1992 winner, Star Trek: The Next Generation's "The Inner Light."
The episode, entitled "The Song Remains The Same," begins with a dream. The opening sequence is excellently done, as far as dreams on TV go. It accurately depicts any number of dreams we've all had. Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" plays while the character Allison (Patricia Arquette) dances to it; it looks like a music video in that it's all contrasted out to just red, black, and white and behind her and rolling through her are musical notes. When Allison awakes the song is still playing and you get the sense that it is playing on her alarm clock radio, something that can happen quite often when it doesn't wake you up right away. But no! it is not her radio. She gets up and searches for the source of the music but cannot find it. It is so loud that she cannot hear anybody talking very well; we hear what she's hearing, the song almost totally drowning out anything anybody is saying. But we can see what the other characters are saying by reading subtitles. She figures out that the music is coming from her head. The whole concept of the dialogue of other characters drowned out by the music to the point where we need subtitles was a clever - dare I say ingenious? - plot device.
She tries to go to her doctor's office - but she finds out that the doctor is out. She also finds out, after being given a flyer by somebody, that a young woman in the area is missing. Outside the doc's office the music starts skipping (imagine being forced to listen to a song over and over again - in your head no less! - and it begins skipping!) The song skipping, and not skipping, depending on where she walks, leads her to find a bloody iPod on the ground in a wooded area. The song stops, finally. It was her psychic powers at work again - this time in truly creative fashion - leading her to a clue. This turns out to be a major break in the case and leads her to meeting an area Catholic priest whom the kidnapper had confessed to (the song comes back again and just recites the line "He's the one" over and over when she first encounters him).
As if all these creative, clever plot devices aren't enough, the episode delves into the Catholic religion, her apparent dislike of it, and the role of Priests in regard to confessions and their relationship with God. (He does not want to reveal who confessed because it is his duty not to, but Allison pressures him to, and the priest goes through a well-acted moral dilemma). I like how this subplot is delicately handled with great regard and sensitivity to the Catholic religion, despite the mystical nature of the main character and the fact that the series so far is largely secular.
The priest holds onto his belief that he should not reveal who the kidnapper is, but that doesn't matter. The police find out who it is after the man commits suicide. It looks like all hope is lost in finding the missing woman.
Another layer is added to the story where the family is planning a trip to Salt Lake City, Utah to attend a family wedding. Allison repeatedly has dreams of the plane crashing outside a quiet, deserted farm. Husband and wife argue over flying or driving (he wants to fly, she wants to drive - obviously) to Salt Lake City. They end up driving after it is revealed that one of her daughters (who is also psychic) is having the same plane crash dream.
Midway through the trip they stay at a motel; after checking in the husband finds out that their plane landed safely anyway!
The plots intersect when Allison, driving the family's jeep down a country road near their motel, ends up at the farm from her dreams. The jeep breaks down and she wanders into a barn looking for help. This is where she finds a small-scale model of the town (reminiscent of Beetlejuice). After her cell phone rings and she begins talking to her husband, the model begins shaking. It turns out that the missing woman was buried beneath the model, beneath the floorboards!
I find it interesting that her psychic powers in this episode do not give her an accurate picture of the future like they usually do. In fact, they lie to her in a sense in that the plane didn't crash. But it pushes her to choose another path than the one she'd planned and leads her to the missing girl. This is not a traditional Hollywood view of psychics and how their powers work and I found that delightful. The entire episode, everything about it, was delightful, from beginning to end! The song, the subtitles, the priest, the religious aspects, the dreams, and how she found the girl, all excellently woven together to make for a very solid, very delicious, very entertaining hour of television.