Medium is a TV show set around the character Allison Dubois (Patricia Arquette), who is a psychic. She has the ability to see dead people, and often has dreams of the future or the past. She's also the mother of three young daughters, who are developing psychic abilities as they grow up. Her husband Joe (Jake Weber) is the suffering normal person of the family, having to deal with all this while trying to succeed at his job in aerospace engineering.Allison works as an intern in the office of District Attorney Manuel Devalos (Miguel Sandoval). He comes to believe in her abilities, and approximately Once an Episode she helps solve a murder or other criminal case. Even with psychic powers there is still some drama and mystery, because dreams are often cryptic, dead people sometimes lie, and psychic evidence is not admissible in court.Medium's series finale aired on January 21, 2011.
Action Girl: Subverted. In one episode, Allison seems to be fighting off a group of muggers as if she were Xena. But in fact everything after the initial confrontation was a dream she had after actually getting beaten up.
Also, the first episode featuring Anjelica Huston as Cynthia Keener involves a dream where a young child has turned into a mouse — just like in The Witches, where she played the Grand High Witch.
Adaptational Attractiveness: Averted, or possibly even Inverted. The real Alison Dubois is actually very attractive, and Patricia Arquette, while certainly not bad-looking, made an effort to present the character Alison as just an average, unglamorous mom.
Ambition Is Evil: When Devalos is tapped to become mayor of Phoenix, he wants to know his wife's best friend's husband Benito, a very ambitious but politically weak councilman, won't use their wives' personal information against him. Benito implies that he will (he knows about both Ariana's suicide and Mrs. Devalos' subsequent pill addiction that she later beat (thankfully he doesn't know why Ariana killed herself)) so Devalos counters with $25,000 in stolen funds for an abortion for Benito's comely campaign worker.
Arbitrary Skepticism: Except perhaps not always so arbitrary, especially since Allison's abilities have proven at times to be fallible. Yet, she still often treats them as if there's no way that she can be mistaken. This almost gets into outright deconstruction territory. Joe's extreme skepticism and inhumane insistence that Allison think things through almost fall into irrational... except for the numerous times he is dead right, which ironically gives him just enough credibility to insist on doing the same when it will not work. Likewise, Devalos' and Scanlon's skepticism is not so much doubt rather than "We believe you, but we have to dot the i's and cross the t's."
Bad Future: Subverted, at least two futures seemed to be very good — Allison is a successful attorney without psychic powers and Ariel is Happily Married (Allison is also District Attorney and Scanlon is Chief of Police) — but at a price, of course: Allison is married to someone else and that guy is a murder suspect in the present; Ariel met her husband after he comforted her after her teacher was killed — and he just so happens to be the killer. The series finale future seemed pretty good aside from Joe dying in a plane crash. Unfortunately that part wasn't a dream.
Bank Teller: A somewhat frumpy bank teller who is courted by a bank robber in order to get inside info on her bank, figures out the scam, turns the tables on the gang and steals their cash.
Beard of Sorrow: Joe appears to grow a lovely example at the start of Season Six. Naturally, it's all a dream.
The B Grade: Causes the teacher some very Disproportionate Retribution when the student plants emails in his account and accuses him of rape. She gets him sentenced to 10 years in prison, which sets him up to be accused of murder once he gets out and has to announce himself as a sex offender.
Bilingual Dialogue: Allison gets a case of faulty Translator Microbes that make everyone sound as if they're speaking gibberish (she can still speak and read English) except for a professor who speaks Navajo. It turns out that she and her assistant killed a pair of Navajo bank robbers after hearing them brag in Diné. She gets hers later when she escapes to a foreign country and doesn't notice someone paying attention to her while she's bragging to Allison in English.
Bittersweet Ending: The series finale takes place seven years after Joe dies in a plane crash. Allison, now a lawyer for the DA's office, throws a case after finding proof that Joe is alive, but it turns out it was all just a dream that Joe sent to comfort her in the afterlife that Allison hijacked out of hope he could've survived. 41 years later Allison is reunited with Joe in the afterlife, and the final shots are the actors leaving the set.
Blatant Lies: Allison claiming to sleeping normally in the episode she had to be slapped out of sleepwalking at a highway by Joe.
Ariel. Only some of the time, though. Allison and Joe are clearly happy that she's turning into such a mature, responsible young woman.
The mantle has long since been passed to Bridgette.
Future Marie, who's angry that her dad never visited after he died (this was a dream, unfortunately it was sent from the afterlife).
Brother-Sister Incest: An odd version. James Van Der Beek and Morena Bacarrin play brother and sister, but he kills her and his girlfriend gets plastic surgery to look exactly like her.
Bury Your Gays: A version of this is shown in "You Give Me Fever", where a boss actually gives a deadly fever to his employee-slash-boyfriend, in order to get money to produce the antidote, and the guy blows himself up to avoid anyone else getting the virus. In the end, it turns out that the boss has a fatal allergic reaction to the antidote, and the boyfriend's ghost taunts him.
Joe's (deceased) dad, who occasionally scares Allison in order to get her to do/cause something in a rather roundabout way. For example, he shows her the day he died of a heart attack, which causes Allison to note that Joe is almost the same age as his father and grandfather when they died of heart attacks. Although he's a lot healthier than his relatives, he goes to the doctor who tells him to try meditation, but during his first attempt on lunch break he's interrupted by another coworker who turns out to be the president of the company. He's thrilled to find another person who meditates and invites Joe and Allison to dinner. Joe's dad later reveals that he knew Joe was perfectly healthy and that this was his way of guiding Joe into office politics, which Joe simply doesn't do. While his "help" does lead to positive outcomes, it's also really annoying for Allison when she realizes she's been scared for no reason.
Another perfect example: Joe is offered the chance of joining a co-worker in forming a new start-up. It seems like a great opportunity until Joe's dad appears to Allison claiming that Joe leaving his job is a bad idea and tells Allison to say to Joe the words "Versailles is running on fumes", since he will know what it means. Joe doesn't know what it means either, until he finds out that one of the company's investors is called The Versailles Group. He gives up the project... only for Joe's father to appear to Allison again and say he made the whole thing up: he foresaw that the company would become a reasonable success but it would cause Joe to eventually have 70 hour work weeks and not spend time with his family. Joe's dad didn't want him to make the same mistakes he did. Once again, Allison was annoyed, but quickly got over it.
Charles Walker is this. In "Doctor's Orders", Walker used Ariel to coerce Allison into hitting her friend's father, who was a doctor, causing her to get locked up, where he reveals that he's working through a butcher instead. He reappears in "Blood Relations" and almost nearly succeeds in killing Allison by manipulating a girl to kill herself, framing his great-great-grandson, causing him to be locked up in jail to keep him from being inebriated, and played the part of him to lure Allison into his trap.
If there were some sort of sentient being in control of Allison's visions, they would certainly be this. She goes through unbearable psychological torture because she can't just see the tell-all dream she has at the end of every episode at the beginning. Not to mention the jeopardy this puts other people in as a result.
The regular cast has their moments too, perhaps most usually Devalos.
Crapsack World: Serial killers and mass murderers aren't all that common in real life, but they seem to crop up quite often in the Medium universe.
Devalos' daughter Ariana after learning her then-defense-attorney father's client was the man who raped her several years earlier. Because she hadn't reported it, he was able to rape (and videotape) many more women.
The runaway girl in "There Will Be Blood" appears to most of the Dubois females in their (for once) pleasant dreams, asks "Is this what you do with your gift?" and then kills herself by slitting her throat, shooting herself in the head, and walking onto thin ice, respectively. Oddly, the girl herself doesn't seem to know about this.
The ex-history teacher who's accused of rape by a Tracy Flick-expy due to The B Grade. He serves 10 years in prison and after getting out is then set up for another girl's murder and eventually kills himself in prison. Fortunately as a ghost he's able to show Allison that there's proof he's innocent of murder.
And a more Freaky Friday incident in the season 7 premiere "Bring Your Daughter to Work Day".
Gambit Roulette: How Scanlon's brother gets revenge for his death. In addition to a campaign of night-terrors that severely compromises Lee's mental health, he teams up with the ghost of a prostitute to make false visions for Allison to lure Lee and her killer, a semi-Knight Templar sheriff, to the same spot where they'll kill each other. He knows he'll succeed due to ghosts being able to see into the future, but while Lee is dead he can see just a little farther and knows he'll survive.
Ghostly Possession: Has happened so far to Allison and Ariel. Also, an early nemesis of Allison's was a dead serial killer who kept killing by possessing people.
Averted, as far as I know there's no mention of any light/afterlife for Medium's spirits, and even if they seem to be at peace (such as Joe's dad or Ariana Devalos) they come back if there's something serious enough to warrant it.
One spirit did talk about Heaven and Hell. She made it to Heaven but couldn't get in until Allison helped her settle her affairs. She could sense Hell sucking at her feet the whole time.
Hot for Student: Indirectly causes a lot of emotional stress for Ariel: her college interviewer's dead husband fathered a child with one of his students, and asks Ariel to erase the file with incriminating photos on his (now his wife's) computer in exchange for a perfect interview with his wife. Ariel does so, but then decides to do the right thing and restore the file. The interviewer returns to tell Ariel that she's going to help the baby financially, but unfortunately for Ariel's future she also thinks that she planted the file after being dumped by her husband. Even the dead husband is stunned despite knowing what would happen.
The very next episode, Ariel starts losing time Futurama-style, jumping hours, then years into the future where she's Happily Married to a friend from high school and they have an adorable daughter. She's certain the time-skips have to do with a teacher who was murdered right before the decade-long jump, and right before her mom is about to tell her how the teacher's kid ties into all this, she's thrown ahead another seven years — where her mother is dead, killed that same night. Desperate for answers, she goes to see the dead teacher's son, who's the spitting image of high school sweetheart husband who's about to kill her — and then she wakes up, safe in the present and a few hours before her teacher's murder by her teenage babydaddy (he had a full-ride scholarship and wasn't about to risk it for his desperate ex-lover). Also, despite now knowing it was all just a dream, Ariel really loved her daughter. Needless to say, after all that Ariel really, really needs a hug.
It's a Wonderful Plot: In the season 2 finale "Twice Upon a Time," Allison dreams what life would be like if she married her old childhood friend instead of Joe after being throughly embarrassed at a court hearing which turns out to also be part of a dream, which gives her a clue as to how the impossible appeared to be possible.
Jacob Marley Apparel: In "Will the Real Fred Rovick Please Stand Up?", the ghost of a mascot of a local college football team is still wearing a beaver costume, since he died during a game.
Jump Cut: Used fairly cleverly: a boy offers Ariel the use of his car as a napping area between exams; she begins to turn him down but in mid-sentence we cut to her waking up in the car. It's then revealed that this wasn't a jump-cut, is was literally how she experienced the moment, and her life starts jump-cutting further and further and further, well into her twenties. Naturally it turned out to be All Just a Dream.
The disease specialist who took a vaccine for a super-virus he planned to let loose via his unsuspecting lover in order to get a research grant was killed due to either being allergic to the antidote or his own body being too overworked by both the vaccine and medicine for the common flu. The dead lover finds this hilarious.
The language professor who, with her assistant, killed two Navajo bank robbers and stole their loot because they didn't think anyone could speak their language was in turn robbed and killed by someone because she was in a country where no one spoke English and didn't notice a guy paying extra attention while she was bragging to Allison on the phone.
Bob Sherman, the insurance salesman played by Kelsey Grammer in "Death Takes a Policy", who conned desperate patients into undertaking risky experimental procedures and profiting off their deaths and murdered his former business partner by staging an accident in the shower. The guy was such a Smug SnakeManipulative Bastard that Allison had visions of him as the Angel of Death. Near the end of the episode, he has apparently gotten off scot free and is relaxing in a tropical island... only for him to be visited by the aforementioned Angel of Death doppelganger:
Angel: Be careful, bathrooms can be very dangerous places. Did you know, that 47% of all accidental deaths take place in the home, and that 61% of those happen in the family bathroom? (drops a bar of soap) Watch that soap! ([Bob tries to pick up the soap, slips and dies])
There have been several, the most egregious instance so far being a patient-killing doctor played by Oded Fehr who kills the one person who could've implicated him and then transfers to a hospital in another state, where he will almost definitely continue killing, considering how by the end of the episode he's proudly admitted twice to Allison (who wasn't Genre Savvy enough to record either confession) that he fully believes it's up to him to decide who lives and dies.
It's also at times subverted with gusto, like the aformentioned Navajo robbers-killer and the episode where Allison gets a pair of shades that tell her how many days a person has left to live. The killer-of-the-week gets away from being prosecuted for murder, but turns out that the shades (who were of the guy he killed) show Allison he only has a day to live before they stop working.
A really good one gets the Monster of the Week in Judge, Jury and Executioner. He took his spouse into the woods and gave her a three minute headstart. His father-in-law returned the favor.
Killed Off for Real: Joe in the series finale (which kind of doesn't seem fair to the real-life Joe) and eventually Allison.
Let's Meet the Meat: Allison dreams of talking pigs, and after being tortured by squealing sandwiches feels compelled to save a pig named Barney from the slaughterhouse. It turns out that what could happen to Barney isn't as important as who was fed to him.
Ellen Hollman, when she appeared in the episode "Will The Real Fred Rovick Please Stand Up?". Also, pretty much a Star-Making Role for her in the United Kingdom.
Murder By Inaction: In one episode, a young Allison has visions about one of her friends. She sees that, by knocking on his door, she will stop him from killing himself, and many years later he will rape and murder teenage girls. So a few days later, she decides to not interrupt his suicide.
No Rest for the Wicked: Scanlon's brother punishes him for allowing him to be killed by giving him nightmares that compromise his mental state.
Omniscient Morality License: Sometimes Allison's powers lead her to irrational/illegal courses of action... e.g. when she shows up at a woman's house in the middle of the night, maces her, and kidnaps her baby. Though Allison was just following a vague Gut Feeling at the time, it later turns out that because she kidnapped the baby, the cops were there to arrest a second set of kidnappers who were planning to ransom and sell the baby. As a result, the mother decides not to testify against her.
Only Mostly Dead: Scanlon is shot in the gut to his dead brother's delight, but Scanlon (being dead at the time) can see the future a bit farther then his brother and knows he'll be revived.
Our Ghosts Are Different: They can see the future, for starters. And apparently psychics can take any form they want as a ghost, whereas normal people are stuck with the clothes and age they were when they died. When Allison dies in 2061 she reappears not as an old woman but her "present" self wearing different clothes.
Outliving One's Offspring: In one of the episodes it was revealed that Alison was pregnant with a baby boy and had a miscarriage
Product Placement: Episode 6.07: "New Terrain". The Dubois family rents a Terrain. Several characters extol the virtues of the car. It helps Allison solve a murder by playing out distant conversations through the car speaker. At the end of the episode, they buy the car. When it aired, there were actual commercials during the breaks.
Prophetic Fallacy: It would be easier to list the episodes where this trope doesn't come into play. Allison's dreams are usually vague at first, and she has a tendency to jump to conclusions about their meanings.
Allison's half-brother Michael a.k.a. "Lucky" is in denial about his powers, though that doesn't keep the plot from finding him. Allison herself used to drink to block her powers when she was younger. In an episode from the final season, he ends up straightening his life out with some help from a ghost who takes over his body, but has to work with Allison to defeat the ghost's sinister agenda.
When Allison dies, she has Ariel continue being the DA's psychic since she's the only one who can talk to her (while Devalos is grateful, he thinks Ariel should've had her own life first; when he dies, he doesn't have a last message for his wife since he's already said everything he needs to say). Essentially becoming her mother, Ariel gets so stressed out she's driven to drink to drown out her mom ("It really does work!") and leaves. Allison wakes up, is glad that her daughter is going off to college on her own, and severely reprimands the ghost who (would have) started all this ("Pack for someplace warm").
Serial Killings, Specific Target: "A Cure for What Ails You" combined this with "Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder: 5 strangers, all of whom wanted someone close dead meet on an airport lobby due to a delayed flight. One of them works as a chemist and suggests poisoning them with tainted painkillers. Since none of the people have any connection, the deaths would be blamed on a poisoner a la the Tylenol poisonings.
Any dreams where time travel or alternate futures appear to be involved, such as Allison's vision of a post-apocalyptic world actually what a kidnapper/Crazy Survivalist wants his young victims to think, or Ariel suddenly finding herself 10, then 17 years in the future after her teacher is murdered.
Or a literal episode where she's working on a murder and just so happens to reacquaint with a childhood friend and at the same time begins dreaming about when she first met him she quickly finds out he's likely behind the murder and others and in a dream alters time to stop herself from interrupting his suicide attempt.
When Allison hears the stirring opening strings of Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" when she sees items that can be the components of a bomb.
She also hears a cheerful song while watching her Ill Girl friend from therapy being killed by the doctor.
Y'know, just any episode with a featured song.
Star-Making Role: Ellen Hollman, in the episode "Will the Real Fred Rovick Please Stand Up", well, to viewers in the United Kingdom anyway.
Take That: One episode seemed to be poking fun at Ghost Whisperer's concept of "step-ins," ghosts who take over recently dead bodies for a second chance at life. The "reincarnated" husband was actually a conman using the dead husband's secret biography, and it's the dirty laundry he didn't write about that gets him caught.
Terrible Ticking: In the beginning of the Season 2 episode "The Song Remains the Same", Allison hears a loud song in her head. The song repeats itself over and over until it subtly guides her to the iPod of a missing college student who was listening to the song before her abduction.
Together in Death: The Series Finalehas Joe die in a plane crash and Alison joins him 41 years later, after seeing the girls grow up and have families of their own; in death, they both appear in their mid-thirties and share a happy hello kiss.
Too Soon: Part one of a plot involving a shooting at Joe's workplace aired the week before the Virginia Tech massacre and the Johnson Space Center shootings; the usual "Previously on..." segment was replaced with a note that "there's been enough shooting."
Unfazed Everyman: Inverted, since Allison's abilities are widely accepted as completely normal even though she's the only one (in earlier seasons) with these abilities. Anyone who knows about her secret, including her own husband, still makes wise-cracks about it. Now that Allison's children have abilities too, Joe has become this even more.
Unlimited Wardrobe: The Dubois ladies seem to have a disproportionate number of sleepwear.
Allison's stalker, who thinks psychic powers go against God's plan. Allison tries to reason with him that maybe the psychics are also God's plan, but to no avail.
Allison herself walks the line between these all too often.
We Would Have Told You, But...: Scanlon does this to Allison when the psychic Serial Killer reaches her house, by making it look like the cop-cars meant to protect her were backing off. Then, after telling Allison it'll still be another ten minutes before he can come help her, Scanlon arrives seconds later to her rescue, revealing the whole squad had been waiting for the right time to do so all along and that telling her would have jeopardized their plan.
Allison keeps a lot of guilty secrets, especially like the Well-Intentioned Extremist FBI profiler played by Kurtwood Smith ("Red") who lets his prey go only to kill them later himself; there's also Devalos' revenge for his daughter on his own client. Lucky to not get disbarred for that...
There's also the fact that Scanlon allowed his rapist brother to be killed by Vigilante Woman Laura Prepon ("Donna"), although no one knew at the time. Later, driven to the edge of sleep deprivation by his brother's ghost, he beats up an abusive father in front of his family and later threatens to reveal the wife's dark past to the DA (though that might be the brother talking).
He has now, and Allison doesn't feel like they can be friends anymore, at least until Allison's stubbornness about the whole thing leads to Scanlon nearly being stabbed to death. Now, they seem to be taking it day-by-day. Then there's Allison's general sanctimoniousness regarding her powers, to which Joe finally busts out with this: "Do you know how many sentences you begin with the words 'I know'? 'I know he had a partner. I know he kidnapped that woman. I know taking instructions from a dead soccer coach isn't cheating.' What's it like, knowin' everything?"
Xanatos Speed Chess: Ariel and Joe, and to a lesser degree, Hannah, play this on a few occasions.