In the episode, “Smoke Damage,” the world of our favorite “Medium” is on the brink of serious change. In the midst of investigating a confusing mix of reality and dreams involving arson and two murders, both Allison (Patricia Arquette) and D.A. Manuel Devalos (Miguel Sandoval) struggle with major decisions about the directions of their lives.
As with many “Medium” episodes, “Smoke Damage” begins with a dream. Allison sees a young girl in a warehouse, trapped by fire. She wakes before learning anything more, and for the millionth time Joe tries to convince her it’s only a dream, and not an important vision. It’s a testament to Jake Weber’s acting power that he can still manage to make his skepticism charming, in this case as he reminds her throughout the episode of the strong mathematical odds of her ordinary dreams far outweighing the number of life or death visions.
“Smoke Damage” entertains us the way our favorite vintage “Medium” episodes do. We get to see Allison’s visions, in all their imperfect glory, and we follow Allison as she tries to put each new piece of the puzzle together. There are no possessions, lost hours, or personality changes. It’s just good detective work and perseverance fueled by supernatural influences.
“Medium” has always been good at inspiring goosebumps, and “Smoke Damage” has its chilling moment. When Allison investigates the files at a local firehouse, Frank Davenport, the firefighter/contract killer she’s dreamt of, comes into the tiny office to talk to her. Allison tries to remain calm, but you can see the fear in her eyes. Then he shuts the door, and we can feel that sudden build of panic at being cornered.
Allison second guesses her assumptions when she finds out the murdered woman she dreamt of is Davenport’s estranged daughter. She feels his pain at her loss and mentally decides that her dreams had no important meaning. This change of heart, and her declaration that there’s no new evidence in the case, is probably what gets her safely out of the office. It’s not long before Allison dreams of another murder by Davenport.
Meanwhile, D.A. Manuel Devalos finds out the mayor wants to endorse him as his successor. Manuel is honored, but is concerned about running against the husband of his wife’s close friend. His concerns turn out to be valid, as councilman Benito Velez (Carlos Gomez) makes it clear to Manuel that he’s prepared to air all of the secrets Manuel’s wife Lily has shared. This includes details of their daughter’s suicide and Lily’s subsequent breakdown and prescription drug addiction.
In an unexpected twist, Lily gets angry when Manuel shares his concerns. She tells her husband to go ahead with the campaign, that though she has regrets, she’d done nothing she’s ashamed of. Her anger, it turns out, is because she thinks Manuel is ashamed of her and is afraid of the humiliation a dirty campaign might bring him. When Manuel admits he is afraid of the pain involved in reliving a tragedy, and doesn’t want that weapon used against them, Lily toughly tells Manuel to get a weapon of his own.
This leads us to a treat of a scene, where Manuel calls Benito in to let him know they’ll be competitors. Benito seems surprised, and lays his threats out more openly than before. Manuel is prepared, however, with plenty of dirt on Benito that involves an abortion and skimming city funds. Looks like Manuel is ready to run the political gauntlet already.
Allison throws caution to the wind once again as she goes to visit fireman Davenport’s ex-wife Joanna (Suzanne Cryer), to see if she has anything of their daughter’s the police could use for DNA testing. A familial match of DNA from one of the murder scenes would be enough to get Davenport investigated and eventually found guilty. Allison is lucky that Joanna wasn’t even in on any of the crimes, and she’s more concerned about finding her daughter’s killer. She gives Allison a lock of hair to use, and it’s not long before Davenport is convicted, and offering to rat out the drug kingpin that hired him to kill Manuel’s main witness. It’s a win-win for the D.A., who has his major case back on track, and announces his candidacy for mayor.
Allison is happy to have a resolution to her nighttime dreams, but over the course of “Smoke Damage,” she begins to wonder about her daytime dreams. After all, Allison did once hope to work as a lawyer, a pursuit she gave up to be resident psychic in the D.A.’s office. Many viewers will identify with Allison, as she thinks of her daughter in college and wondering if her own ship of dreams has sailed. Joe assures Allison she’s not done yet, and there’s no age limit on becoming a lawyer.
By the end of the episode, as Allison watches Manuel taking the next step in her career, she tells Joe she’s ready to take the next step in hers. She’s going back to school, to get her degree a little at a time. It’s possible she’ll be looking for a new job anyway, if Manuel wins the mayoral race. The new D.A. Might not be interested in having a psychic on board, so Allison pursuing another career path seems like a wise choice. She can continue to use her gifts in the courtroom, just as she does in the D.A.’s office. She just has to take Manuel’s place and find her own legal precedents and evidence to back up her visions.
After the pilot episode of “Medium,” Firefox News described Allison as “a mother trying to figure out what her role in the world is beyond being mom.” It looks like Allison is still on that journey, only know she’s trying to figure out her role beyond being a mom and a psychic.
Watch “Medium” on CBS, Friday nights at 8 pm ET.
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