"In Plain Sight" certainly veers from the norm in the crime drama genre. In fact, "In Plain Sight" remains consistently compelling for more than a few reasons, but certainly the unique and varied circumstances that the characters face each week play a large part in why the show remains compelling. Mary Shannon (Mary McCormack, who is surprisingly convincing, despite the fact that no prior role would have suggested she would be appropriate for this role) is a U.S. Marshall who works within the Federal Witness Protection Program (WITSEC), securing secretive locations for people who are - for one reason or another - wanted dead.
Joined by her trusted partner Marshall Mann (Frederick Weller) and their boss, Stan McQueen (Paul Ben-Victor), Mary protects witnesses who move to Albuquerque by watching out for their well being. What keeps the show fresh is how each case is different, which forces Mary to have a different approach. Some characters are criminals who are sent into hiding, others testified in trials, while others are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
When the show isn't focusing on Mary's work protecting witnesses, it turns to her personal life. While Mary's outlook within WITSEC is take charge, her home life is full of other kinds of stress. There's Mary's alcoholic mother, Jinx (Lesley Ann Warren) and her troubled sister, Brandi (Nicole Hiltz) that add depth, conflict and small glimpses of resolution to Mary's life at home. A highlight to her day is her boyfriend, Raphael Ramirez (Cristián de la Fuente), who wants to take their relationship to the next level. While the storylines are involving, "In Plain Sight" is watchable also thanks to the character depth, especially in regards to Mary, as she balances her personal life while fighting so hard and so passionately for people she believes in protecting. It's this balance and Mary's struggle to not become too involved with her cases that will continue to make "In Plain Sight" grow and develop more richly each season.
Viewers should start with the first season of the series before proceeding to the second. Towards the end of season one, Mary is mistaken for her sister, Brandi and kidnapped. It's up to Brandi to get the drugs she's been holding to the kidnappers in exchange for her sister - unfortunately, things don't go quite as planned and Mary manages to get herself out of the kidnapping only by sheer force and will.
Meanwhile, Mary learns of her sister's involvement and that her career may be over thanks to her sister having drugs in her house. While a lot happens in season one, it's the end that will shed a lot of light on season two, as it follows the aftermath of what Mary experienced and her coping with killing a man, being kidnapped, possibly losing her job, and her family's secrets.
The second season of the series does quite a fine job of picking up the story threads from season one and progressing the story further. FBI agent Robert O'Conner (Will McCormack) returns in season two, still determined to see Mary and her family held responsible for the drug/kidnapping incident that led to several of his fellow FBI agents being killed. Both Mary and Will McCormack (real life siblings) play off each other - not surprisingly - quite well. The character of Robert makes for an interesting antagonist set against Mary's personal and professional life, as well.
Furthermore, season two also sees Brandi determined to make a fresh start and Jinx having some setbacks with her drinking. Also introduced is office administrator, Eleanor Prince (Holly Maples) who - unlike the rest of the office - won't put up with Mary's demands. Eleanor is a wonderful addition as she rounds out the cast well by offering a verbal sparing partner for Mary, as well as occasional moments of unexpected warmth.
Still, the show wouldn't be as powerful as it is if it weren't for the stories of the people being protected by the witness protection program. Season two has some spectacular episodes centered around some very interesting and even some unexpected cases. In the episode, "In My Humboldt Opinion", Mary must work with a man who has severe social anxiety disorders and relies on marijuana to calm his nerves. The only problem is, without the marijuana, he won't be able to testify in court, so Mary has to figure out how to get him to testify without being under the influence. Another standout episode is "Who's Bugging Mary" that focuses on the battle between Mary and FBI Agent O'Conner.
The differences between episodes is what keeps "In Plain Sight" so engaging. One week Mary is warding off a reporter while one of her witnesses is trapped beneath a collapsed building, another week she has to figure out if one of their witnesses is responsible for a new crime.
The writing is smart and witty (the show's voiceovers actually work quite well, and that's certainly saying something, as they rarely do) and the performances are powerful and moving across the board. Mary McCormack is especially solid as Mary Shannon and is capable of portraying her stress, her joys and her unparalleled determination to do her job and keep her witnesses protected. Overall, "In Plain Sight" works exceptionally well and proves there's still material to be mined in this crowded genre.
13. 2- 1 19 Apr 09 Gilted Lily
14. 2- 2 26 Apr 09 In My Humboldt Opinion
15. 2- 3 3 May 09 A Stand-Up Triple
16. 2- 4 10 May 09 Rubble with a Cause
17. 2- 5 17 May 09 Aguna Matatala
18. 2- 6 31 May 09 One Night Stan
19. 2- 7 7 Jun 09 Duplicate Bridge
20. 2- 8 14 Jun 09 A Frond in Need
21. 2- 9 21 Jun 09 Who's Bugging Mary?
22. 2-10 28 Jun 09 Miles to Go
23. 2-11 12 Jul 09 Jailbait
24. 2-12 19 Jul 09 Training Video
25. 2-13 26 Jul 09 Let's Get it Ahn
26. 2-14 2 Aug 09 Once a Ponzi Time
27. 2-15 9 Aug 09 Don't Cry For Me Albuquerque
VIDEO: "In Plain Sight" is presented by Universal in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Image quality throughout was generally very good, especially considering the show's TV origins. Sharpness and detail were very pleasing; while the show didn't appear razor sharp, it at least boasted good, consistent definition.
The picture did show some slight grain at times, but I'm not sure if this was an intentional element of the photography or not. Edge enhancement and pixelation were kept to a bare minimum, and the elements used seemed to be in excellent shape, with no visible wear or damage. Colors remained natural and seemed accurately presented, with no smearing or other faults. Flesh tones also appeared spot-on, too.
SOUND: "In Plain Sight" is presented by Universal in Dolby Digital 5.1. Surrounds do kick into gear at times to deliver occasional sound effects and mild ambience, but the majority of the audio is spread across the front speakers. Audio quality is fine, with crisp dialogue, well-recorded effects and a full, crisp score.
Commentary for episode "In My Humboldt Opinion" with Executive Producers David Maples and Paul Stupin. Both Maples and Stupin are energetic and often riff on the result, which leads to some very amusing moments. They share the story of how they came to work together on "In Plain Sight" and they also talk about the cast and character development. While the discussion of the cast and how great they are can feel tired during commentaries, it seems genuine here and they end up going into some interesting detail about the supporting cast as well. The commentary never really slows and the energy holds up throughout.
Commentary for episode "A Frond In Need" with stars Mary McCormack and Frederick Weller. Not nearly as lively or as interesting as the commentary for "In My Humboldt Opinion" but there are some interesting facts and comments throughout that will interest fans of the series and actors. Mary McCormack does comment on wanting to redo lines, which is refreshing given how talented she clearly is.
Commentary for episode "Who's Bugging Mary" with stars Mary McCormack and Frederick Weller. Here they seem to be a little more lively and having more fun, throwing out some funny, off-beat comments that results in a lighter, brisker track.
Deleted scenes for the episodes: "In My Humboldt Opinion", "A Stand-Up Triple", and "Rubble Without a Cause", "Duplicate Bridge", "A Frond In Need", "Training Videos", "Once Upon a Ponzi Time" and "Don't Cry For Me Albuquerque". There are some pretty interesting scenes with first-rate writing and performances here that were probably left out due to time constraints, which is unfortunate given that some of them truly do hold up well and could have added to episodes.
Also included on the season 2 DVD set is a gag reel running just under five minutes. There are some funny bits here, as well as your usual retakes, uncontrollable laughter and forgotten lines.
Final Thoughts: "In Plain Sight" offers smart, witty writing and strong, engaging performances from a top-notch cast. The DVD set provides solid audio/video quality, as well as a nice set of supplemental features. Recommended.