A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Messages about loyalty and friendship are clear despite iffy messages about casual sex and intoxication. Sensitive points are also made about disabilities, about tendency to turn those with disabilities into some type of "hero" or "message" instead of an ordinary person.
Positive Role Models
Murphy is a fallible woman on a redemption arc -- her penchant for intoxicants, cigarettes, and meaningless sex are setups to show her progression as a person who in early shows says she doesn't care about herself "at all." Other characters can be rather thinly sketched and unrealistic, like her doctor pal who is somehow always available for investigatory drives around town (don't doctors work long hours?).
Violence & Scariness
A disappearance and presumed death is at center of this show's mystery, but violence is muted; we see a vaguely human shape wrapped in a sleeping bag, which Murphy thinks is a character's dead body. A character is vaguely threatening: "You talk about my family to the cops again, we're going to have a problem."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A main character has frequent no-strings sex with near strangers. We see characters kissing, ripping off their clothes (she gets down to a bra and boyshorts, no nudity), then feet moving rhythmically as a man moans. Later, a woman shops in a drugstore for the morning-after pill, jokes about her sex life being an "expensive habit." She also jokes about her roommate's relationship with another woman, speculates that they'll be "talking about feelings and touching each other's boobs" in bed; a character tries to buy sex toys in another scene. Characters refer to being "horny" and getting "boned."
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Cursing and iffy language: "ass," "horny," "boned," "loser," "nuts" (referring to testicles); a woman repeatedly tells a barking dog to "shut up."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A main character frequently guzzles from beer and liquor bottles and smokes cigarettes; alcohol enables her to make risky choices about sex and how she spends her time, is clearly a coping mechanism for her depression. Drugs play a part in the murder that launches this show's mystery.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that In the Dark is a dramedy about a woman who's jolted from a life of alcohol and casual sex by the disappearance of a young friend (who also happens to be a street-level drug dealer). The show's main character is a strong and relatable woman with a complex personal life, and her disability is used to make sensitive points about the way disabled people in general, and blind women in particular, are treated by those around them. We also see her in any number of risky and/or iffy situations: drinking liquor straight from the bottle, downing cocktails at the bar she hangs out in, going to the hotel room of a married new acquaintance, napping at work. Sex is represented by kissing followed by the removal of clothing (she gets down to her underwear), and the camera's focus on non-private body parts moving rhythmically while a man moans. We also see a woman buying morning-after pills and hear talk about virginity, a man not having "boned a blind chick" before, as well as other jokes about body parts. Violence is muted, but we see a presumed dead body wrapped in a sleeping bag, and there's lots of talk about murder. Cursing is rare ("ass") but there's other questionable language: "nuts," "horny."
Is It Any Good?
This series is trying to be two shows, only one of which works: a sparkling dark dramedy about a relatably fallible heroine, and a blah murder mystery that should have been pronounced DOA. First, the good: Mattfeld's Murphy is an entertaining great big mess who viewers can't help liking, even though her character initially comes off as a high-concept gimmick: a blind woman who's a drunk, nearly friendless, and with a sexual addiction telegraphed by a drugstore employee greeting her familiarly and asking if Murphy's there for "the usual": morning-after pills, which Murphy apparently prefers as a method of birth control. Why? asks every viewer familiar with the pill's reputation for causing fantastic nausea, given that Murphy's in the same drugstore where many gentler over-the-counter methods are easily available. OK, we can let that pass, because the dialogue is pretty great, and Mattfeld is appealing delivering it, particularly during one of the many moments when a side character assumes something stupid about her blindness. (When asked if her "other senses are heightened," she scoffs, "That's not a thing. I'm not Daredevil.")
However, when Mattfeld's not living her louche and watchable ordinary life, things sag a little. The doomed Tyson is a type, and so are the no-goodniks who populate his big-city world (by the way, never has Toronto less believably played a large American city, supposedly Chicago in this case). It's not especially buyable that a teen street dealer and an adult woman are great pals, and Murphy's investigation into Tyson's death is even more challenging suspension of disbelief. A person with no training, no particular investigative skills, and a serious disability is gonna get those bad guys where the cops fail? Only on television would such a thing work, and even when Murphy's inquiry does go well, these scenes are no more animated than those in a dull procedural. At least said procedurals usually have a juicy case at the center; this one is painfully unarousing. Wrap up that murder quick, and let's get back to watching Murphy against the world. Because that's a show that cooks. The mystery part of In the Dark is simply unappetizing.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.