As The CW prepares to say goodbye to its two Golden Globe-winning comedies, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (the series finale airs Friday at 8/7c) and Jane the Virgin (the final season airs Wednesdays at 9/8c), many are wondering whether or not the young network, which found success on the back of any number of costumed superheroes, will be able to maintain the small amount of prestige pedigree it has found.
While it doesn't look like there will be a reprieve from the superheroics any time soon (Arrow will end next season after a shortened Season 8, but the network is already developing a Batwoman series to join its handful of other superhero shows), the good news is that the upcoming series In the Dark, premiering Thursday, is exactly the type of show the CW should be aiming for as it looks to the future.
The series, which counts Corinne Kingsbury, Ben Stiller, and Michael Showalter as executive producers, follows Murphy (Perry Mattfeld), a hard-drinking, apathetic, blind woman in her 20s, as she — with the help of her guide dog Pretzel — attempts to solve the apparent murder of her teenage friend Tyson (Thamela Mpumlwana) after the police see no reason to move forward with an investigation because the body has disappeared and Murphy wasn't exactly sober when she stumbled upon it.
The slightly darker, more adult tone of In the Dark is unlike most of the shows that currently air on The CW, but it explores many of the same themes one might find in said shows as Murphy struggles to find herself and her purpose in the midst of her spiraling grief. It also balances the seriousness of Tyson's death and the subsequent investigation with a well-placed sense of humor, so the subject matter never feels suffocating. The laughs often come courtesy of Murphy, her relationship with her best friend and roommate Jess (Brooke Markham), or at the expense of her coworker Felix (Morgan Krantz), but they also never feel forced or out of place.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jane the Virgin, and even the zombie-centered series iZombie, which is also coming to an end this season, have helped to change viewers' perspective of The CW. All three shows have tackled a number of complex issues over the course of their respective runs, and although Murphy might not appear to have much in common with Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez), or Liv Moore (Rose McIver) on the surface, she's another memorable CW heroine who has the potential to offer a unique perspective to the network's viewership base.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was a platform to explore mental illness through musical comedy. Jane the Virgin used the telenovela genre to start dialogues about representation through the heartwarming stories of the three generations of the Latina Villanueva family. And iZombie offered a new spin on the popular zombie genre by exploring its undead heroine's loneliness and depression as she took on the personalities of the people whose brains she ate to retain her humanity. Murphy's story has the opportunity to not just shine a light on the blind community but also normalize the experience, as she is not at all defined by her blindness (though it should be noted Mattfeld isn't blind in real life, which might be something viewers will take issue with).
Oddly enough, through the first three episodes of the series, which see Murphy going toe-to-toe with Tyson's drug-dealing older cousin Darnell (Keston John) and following up on the few leads she has managed to uncover, the investigation at the center of the series might just be the weakest part of the show. It is the vehicle through which the series explores Murphy's reluctant emotional growth, but it also lacks an obvious, immediate pull. The investigation into Tyson's death feels a bit more Riverdale Season 1 than Veronica Mars Season 1, because we still know so little about Tyson himself. Hopefully this will change as the series moves forward and we learn a bit more about Tyson through Murphy, his family members, and various flashbacks.
But even if the mystery doesn't become much more engaging or fulfilling, the investigation does lead Murphy down new paths in her personal life, which carries the show. Her search for the truth sees her befriend Chloe (Calle Walton, who is blind), the young blind daughter of Dean (Rich Sommer), a police officer with whom Murphy works on the case, as well as open herself up to the possibility of having a real, honest relationship with someone (Casey Diedrick's Max) rather than a series of meaningless one-night stands with losers she picks up at the local bar. It reveals that there is not just a lot of potential for Murphy, but for In the Dark as well.
The largest obstacle standing in the way of the show's success is the fact the series is premiering in April — it could easily get lost in the overwhelming number of shows returning or premiering this month. It could also just as easily fall through the cracks as we all awake from our winter slumber and venture outside to feel the warmth of the sun's rays on our faces. The similarity in title to Hulu's Into the Dark horror anthology also isn't doing the show any favors. But In the Dark is a good show with a lot of promise, and it deserves to be seen and not buried, burned off, or overlooked.
In the Dark premieres Thursday, April 4 at 9/8c on The CW.
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