Where to Find It: The Bright Sessions
The Players: Lauren Shippen, Mischa Stanton, Anna Lore, Elizabeth Laird, Evan Cunningham, Julia Morizawa, Briggon Snow, Charlie Ian, Ian McQuown, Alex Gallner, Andrew Nowak, Alex Marshall-Brown, Phillip Jordan, Alanna Fox, and Reyn Beeler
What Is It: A serialized dramatic podcast, The Bright Sessions starts simply enough. Dr. Bright is a therapist to “atypicals,” individuals who developed, at some point, what are most easily labeled super powers—think mutants in the Marvel Universe. But things do not stay simple as Bright’s clients are slowly revealed and she seems to lose control of the rigid boundaries she once established. Then there’s the AM. Who are they and how dangerous might they be? Oh, and what’s all this about Dr. Bright’s brother?
First of all, as a therapist, I have to praise the show’s use of language. They employ someone with a Masters in Psychology—Elizabeth Laird, also the voice of Sarah, Dr. Bright’s receptionist—and the consulting shows. Dr. Bright talks like a therapist and when the boundaries break down—in wildly unethical ways, it must be stressed—you get that it is not how things should be because the sessions until that moment have been accurately realized.
Next, serialized dramas live and die on the voice actors and everyone is up for it here. If you look at the cast list, most of prior acting experience and it shows. Special shout-out to Charlie Ian as Damien who has a delightfully greasy purr that slips every now and then to show deep-seated insecurity and Lauren Shippen—the writer-producer—as Samantha Barnes who has the biggest transformation over the first two seasons and therefore has to do a lot of heavy lifting.
Finally, the way in which the world and story of Bright Sessions expands is well done. It feels natural and unrushed but never overlong. The ways in which the wider world are revealed make sense as well. A new boyfriend here, a chance encounter there, a non-governmental organization that holds our protagonist in their thrall all over the place. Best of all, given the podcast begins as a character study, at no point does it feel like the writers have let the plot take over. Characters remain central even as bigger events unfurl.
Some episodes to start with: Episode 07 - Patient #12-D-10 (Sam)- While the early episodes hint at it, this is the first really definitive sign that Dr. Bright might have plans for her clients beyond just helping them. Julia Morizawa as the (possibly bad) doctor underplays it perfectly, making the doctor seem like she could go either way—sinister or sympathetic.
Episode 10 - Patient #5-E-3 (Damien)- Darkness arrives to the Bright Sessions (forgive the pun) in the form of this client who becomes antagonist, catalyst, and more very quickly.
Episode 14 - Patient #12-D-10 (Sam)- Sam experiences big leap forward in her therapy and carries the Bright Sessions along with it. Although not immediately clear, this is the one that changes everything.
Episode 15 - Patient #11-A-7 (Caleb)- After the big changes of 14, this is a relatively intimate affair, but that’s why I love it. “True” therapy as Caleb arrives at a big personal revelation and makes a choice that will change his life that—until later revelations—is only about him and the people in his life. It’s a knockout.
Episode 21 - Tuesday, coffee w/ Sam- The ethical violations continue to accumulate as Sam and another client Chloe meet for coffee because Dr. Bright has told one another about each other. Beyond a sign of how this thing seems to be spinning out of the usually in control Bright’s hands, this is a sweet slice of life moment for two clients who are trying to reconnect with the world they have been avoiding because of their abilities.
Episode 24- Zero Hour- Everything changes…again. Impressive how the cast can simulate tension with just their voices and a few sound effects.
*Note- I’m still playing catch-up so I have no Season 3 highlights, yet. I have no doubt that I will.
Schedule- The show is currently on hiatus between seasons but will start season 4 in October. Time to catch up!