Network television has occasionally tried their hand at series with a supernatural element to them, but have rarely managed to find the exact level that gets the ratings needed to survive long. A series that might be one of the stars of a cable channel (or The CW), won’t often deliver the following to keep a home on the “big four.”
NBC thinks it can overcome the hurdle by going back to the well with a new show by a producer and writer of Medium, about a medium.
The InBetween follows Cassie Bishop (Harriet Dyer), a medium who at times sees dead people and at others relives experiences (of people both alive and dead). Raised by Detective Tom Hackett (Paul Blackthorne), Cassie now helps him solve cases as she has, apparently, become a sort of beacon for those who aren’t quite at peace.
What sets this one apart is that Cassie has her own story and adventures, a focal point through the first two episodes that hopefully continues in a more interesting way than simply aiming a boogeyman at us. There’s a girl we meet early on, that isn’t connected to any police investigation, and having Cassie maneuver through such interactions is a draw the show needs to capitalize on.
On the police side of things, our initial investigations with Cassie show two sides of the help she offers up to Detective Hackett. One makes for rather engrossing entertainment, as Cassie is ultimately another tool in the arsenal available to solve crimes. She shares vague imagery or connections that don’t necessarily make sense even to her, or knows who was at a certain place but isn’t even sure that proves anything. The other help she offers is just solving things, though we try to bury it with irrelevant “police work” because she doesn’t simply hand over an address, and that’s just boring, no matter how long the scene of S.W.A.T. moving in is.
When the show pays attention to what it sets up by way of the relationships that pull at each other for more than the usual reasons, it’s a fun, pseudo-tense effort that is, wonderfully, more about its characters than the crimes (which lead heavily toward the psychotic thus far). That could actually sound like a negative in a show like this, because the ghosts and psychic links could easily hinder the show’s ability to get any story out at all. In this case, it isn’t the supernatural that comes through as much as characters that believably live in this world. Blackthorne is hard to fault as a classic, hard-boiled detective who has entered a modern world and has clearly seen it all while raising Cassie. Dyer, of some great Australian series, is often perfectly bored, whether that’s because another traumatic vision comes her way, or another skeptic tries to trip her up.
The problem with shows like this, especially when you have a certain cap on how “weird” you want to get, is that it ultimately has more elements in play that can go wrong than real sells to try to get right. The cases have to be interesting, but have to offer up connections to dead people that also pull viewers in. You need the supernatural to play a significant role, but you don’t want things to go too far toward silly or horror. There needs to be pushback from people who get wise to the use of a medium, but the level of acceptance becomes its own tightrope. The InBetween has a lot to juggle, and so far pulls it off, but it feels like a show that is unsure of itself and/or how to keep it up.
It’s a show caught in its own vice, apparently fighting with this idea that people want to watch NCIS or Wynonna Earp, and nothing, well… in between, and it shows. The stars are going to win over fans, but they have an uphill battle ahead if the show moves forward more fascinated with detailing precisely how crazy people can be than it is with its own characters.