TV Has a Million Shows. ‘In The Dark’ is One You Might Want To Watch.
Two things are going on with the CW’s new series In The Dark, and they’re both good.
By the end of the first episode, which premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. ET, it has built into a terrific against-all-odds murder mystery.
Also, our main character has a physical challenge she doesn’t shrug off. She doesn’t heroically transcend it. She copes, but she thinks it sucks every minute, and she often reacts and behaves accordingly.
Neither of those attributes would make In The Dark nearly so compelling if it weren’t for Perry Mattfeld’s performance as Murphy Mason, the heart of the show.
Murphy is blind, thanks to an eye disease that shut down her vision when she was 14. That was around 10 years ago, and Murphy has spent this last decade drifting through a spiral of alcohol and impersonal one-nighters.
She seems to have resigned herself to living out a life she doesn’t much like — less because she’s genuinely given up than because she’s built a wide moat. She’s an island protected against everything, including any exchange of actual emotions, that could further wound her.
Often Murphy doesn’t endear herself to viewers any more than she endears herself to people around her. Like her mother Joy (Kathleen York), who works and fails not to be exasperated by what she sees as Murphy’s refusal to even try.
Unlike Joy, however, viewers soon realize Murphy has the full basket of feelings, from hurt to affection to frustration and regret. She just locks them away.
She tells the rest of the world she just wants to be treated like everyone else, with no special favors and particularly no patronizing. That the rest of the world will never fully accommodate this wish helps doom Murphy to a life of frustration at the same time it makes her a splendid TV character.
In any case, Murphy has two friends with whom she does selective sharing. One is her apartment-mate Jess (Brooke Markham), a young veterinarian. The other is Tyson (Thamela Mpumlwana), a teenage drug dealer who saved her life a while back when she was savagely mugged.
She and her dog Pretzel (Levi) troop out every night to the dark street where Tyson and his cousin Darnell (Kester John) service their drug clientele. Probably because of their intense shared experience, Murphy and Tyson have an easy bond she finds with no one else. Certainly no one but Tyson could tell her the reason she enjoys impersonal sex so much is that “it’s the only time it doesn’t matter if you’re blind, because everyone closes their eyes anyway.”
Takes a good friend to point that out, right?
Then one night Murphy and Pretzel head out to meet Tyson and she finds only a body, which she concludes from touching must be Tyson.
She calls the cops, who don’t arrive in a timely manner. By the time they get back to her, they say they found no body and Murphy has drunk enough that they see no reason to take her word that there was one.
One cop, however, lingers a bit. Dean (Rich Sommer) has a blind daughter of his own, so he stays in touch even though he keeps telling Murphy that with no body and no other evidence, he has nothing to investigate.
Murphy, devastated at the loss of her friend and frustrated by the fact no one else seems to care, first heads toward the comfort of oblivion. Then she decides to fight back.
She contacts Darnell, who at first seems even less interested than the cops. She plants a seed, though, and as she and Pretzel launch an independent investigation, she keeps trying to coax him onto the team — which, not surprisingly, gradually becomes an odd squad with multiple unintended consequences for Murphy’s life.
Darnell isn’t your classic sympathetic TV character, either. He’s an impatient, suspicious, cynical street-level drug dealer. Like several other In The Dark characters, including Murphy, he’s designed to grow on you.
The smaller roster of characters who seem like good guys from the start includes Murphy’s Dad Hank (Derek Webster), who has never lost faith in Murphy through all her stumbles and falls.
We get a fair amount of Mom and Dad, because after Murphy lost her sight they started a guide dog business in the hopes that would be something in which she could become engaged.
That didn’t exactly work out, and the business is barely hanging on. Still, it ensures that Joy, in particular, remains in Murphy’s loop, adding another dimension to her story and her new mission.
The surest mark of a good TV series is that at the end of episode one, you can’t wait for episode two. To borrow today’s most overused declaration, In The Dark checks that box.