The misleading ads for The CW’s In the Dark do the show a great disservice, leaving the impression that it’s some kind of quirky romantic drama about a blind girl. The main character is indeed blind, that part is true, but you might not guess that the series actually has a murder mystery angle and is far better than it looks from the commercials.
The show’s protagonist, Murphy Mason (Perry Mattfield), isn’t much interested in romance. A heavy drinker, crass, and very rude, she also has no interest in living up to anyone’s beatific stereotype of what a blind girl should be. She’s disgusted by the idea of touching anyone’s face to gauge what they look like, for example. Frankly, she doesn’t care what anyone looks like, not even the string of one-night-stands that flow in and out of her bedroom. Drinking and sex are just a couple of ways she likes to wallow in her own self-pity.
One of the few friendships Murphy has maintained might seem unlikely. She meets teenage drug pusher Tyson (Thamela Mpumlwana) on his street corner most nights not to score drugs, but just to have a smoke (the regular kind) and talk. As we learn later in the pilot episode, Tyson rescued Murphy from a mugging and is one of the few people in her life that doesn’t expect anything from her or pity her.
One night, hungover as usual, Murphy heads down Tyson’s alley and stumbles across a dead body that she’s convinced is her friend. (We don’t get to see the face.) She’s devastated. By the time she gets home and reports this to the police, however, the body is gone and the cops find no evidence of a murder. From her condition, they assume that Murphy was just drunk and imagined the whole thing. Tyson’s cousin Darnell (Kester John) is no more helpful. He brushes off Murphy’s concerns, claiming that the boy texted him that he was leaving town with a girl for a few days. Murphy later receives a text from Tyson as well, but doesn’t believe it’s really him. She knows that Tyson doesn’t like to communicate by text.
Determined to find out what happened, Murphy enlists the help of her concerned roommate, Jess (Brooke Markham), and manages to bribe a kid working at a cell phone store to track Tyson’s phone. Unfortunately, she and Jess find it abandoned under a bridge. This leaves Murphy with no more doubt that her friend is dead. When she informs Darnell of what she found, he says that he’ll handle it and warns her not to get the cops involved. Not exactly buoyed with confidence, Murphy brings the phone to a sympathetic police detective (Rich Sommer from Mad Men) who has a blind daughter, but at least initially, he seems constrained in how much help he can offer.
Episode Verdict / Grade: A-
The TV airwaves are inundated with murder shows. Incorporating a mystery plot isn’t, in itself, particularly innovative. However, it really works in this case. Murphy’s blindness and general state of mind open up a lot of doubts about what really happened, or if indeed there even was a murder.
The Murphy character is terrifically conceived, and Perry Mattfeld’s performance treads a very difficult path of being abrasive without turning unsympathetic. I’m very interested to see where this goes.