Three seasons into it, The Dead Zone
has cemented its stature as one of television's most ambitious and compelling series, combining action, psychological drama, and elements of sci-fi and the supernatural in twelve episodes contained on three discs in this handsome, bonus-filled package. Based on Stephen King's 1979 novel (later a feature film starring Christopher Walken), The Dead Zone
was adapted for TV by Michael and Shawn Piller, with actor Anthony Michael Hall (previously best known for his roles in the mid-'80s hits The Breakfast Club
and Sixteen Candles
) as star, co-producer, and occasional director. Hall ably plays Johnny Smith, who has recovered from a six-year coma to discover that he now has some rather remarkable powers; merely by touching other people, or objects touched by others, Smith has visions that illuminate events that have happened, will happen, or that are taking place elsewhere. He has put this ability to use as a psychic, working with the police in the Maine town in which the stories take place.
Understanding all of this may take a while for the uninitiated; not only does Smith jump both forward and back in time, but he often sees himself in his visions, and sometimes we're watching the Johnny of the present with the one from the past onscreen at the same time. The Dead Zone has a lot on its hands in each episode, with a stand-alone storyline (a Rep. Gary Condit-Chandra Levy takeoff in "Finding Rachel," a Columbine-esque school shooting in "Cycle of Violence") balancing the ongoing matter of Smith's visions--how they came to be ("Collision" details the car accident that led to his coma and, eventually, his powers), how to interpret them, and whether they're a blessing or a curse. All of that is mixed together with his strange new personal life (his pregnant fiancé, played by Nicole De Boer, married the local sheriff while Johnny was out of commission). And then there's the overriding series theme, which is heavily featured in the first two episodes of this season but mentioned only occasionally thereafter: Armageddon is coming, Johnny alone lives through it, he might even cause it
and maybe he's the only one who can prevent it.
It's a tough act to pull off week after week, but while the show occasionally seems about to collapse under its own weight, it mostly succeeds, albeit without a shred of humor and an ultra-serious, portentous vibe that gets a little tedious. At the very least, The Dead Zone makes for consistently intriguing viewing. The generous bonus features include commentary (by Hall and many others) for every episode, three featurettes, and more. --Sam Graham