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The Dead Zone - The Complete Second Season
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After a near-fatal car wreck, Johnny Smith (Anthony Michael Hall, in a role played by Christopher Walken in David Cronenberg's 1983 adaptation) is left in a coma for six years. When he awakens, he discovers that he has developed amazing psychic powers, allowing hi m to see into the life of anyone he happens to touch. Stephen King's thrilling novel comes to life once again in this series created for television. This 5-DVD set contains all 19 episodes from Season Two.
- All 19 episdes with cast and crew commentary
- Behind-the-scene feature
- Various interviews, deleted scenes, and storyboards with each episode
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On Disc One is a two-part episode in which Johnny Smith (played by Anthony Michael Hall) and Sheriff Bannerman (played by Chris Bruno) go into a copper mine to save some trapped teenagers. During the attempted rescue, Bannerman is severely injured when a cave-in occurs. If Bannerman dies, the door will be open for Johnny to finally be with Sarah and his son. Johnny, however, chooses to fight for Bannerman's life by going into his mind and giving him a reason to live. On Disc Two, there's an episode where Johnny has the opportunity to stop Greg Stillson's bid for Congress by supporting the opposing candidate, Harrison Fisher (played by guest star, Gerald McRaney). The only problem is that when Johnny shakes Fisher's hand, he sees Fisher as part a Navy Seal team in Vietnam destroying a village of innocent women and children. Fisher immediately senses what Johnny saw and doesn't know what to do. The thing is that Fisher's a good man and he can beat Stillson in the election. What to do is the question. Another episode on Disc Two deals with an elderly man (played by Robert Culp) that Johnny befriends. The man used to be a spy for the American government. Now, he's kept under a kind of house arrest because of the knowledge that's inside his head. When Johnny gets too involved with the man, the government starts putting pressure on him to back off or else, not to mention moving the man to a different location. On Disc Three, there's an episode where Johnny unintentionally causes the death of a low level mobster who was planning to murder his boss in order to protect the woman he loved. When Johnny finally discovers the hidden reasons behind the mobster's actions, he decides to put his life on the line and to do what the man was unable to accomplish. In still another episode, Johnny finds out this his best friend is dying from a heart disease, but that he will receive a donor's heart at the last minute. The catch here is that it will be from his friend's sister (played by Ally Sheedy), who dies in an unexpected car accident. The sister is in love with Johnny and wants to begin a relationship with him. Johnny tries to change the outcome so that both will live, but in the end it finally comes down to whether or not Johnny allows his friend to die, or his friend's sister to live and what that will set in motion. On Disc Four, a particular episode has Johnny seeing a vision of himself kissing the beautiful woman that he's sitting next to in a restaurant bar and then the both of them being murdered by a would-be mugger. Everything he attempts to do to change the future causes a different, but equally fatal outcome. He also finds himself attracted to this lady and realizes that it could affect her decision about accepting a marriage proposal. Last, but not least, on Disc Five is an episode that will lead you into Season Three. A man from the future (played by Frank Whaley) warns Johnny about the death of his wife and daughter and wants Johnny to save them. In return, he'll tell Johnny what happens when Armageddon arrives. What he shows Johnny will have you running out to buy the boxed set of Season Three.
These were just a few of the great episodes in the second season of The Dead Zone. All the guest stars played their roles to the hilt and made you care about the finale. You either wanted them to live or to die, depending of their character. The episodes also show you just how difficult it would be for a man of Johnny's ability to help those that he comes into contact with. Most of the people he tries to help don't believe in his visions and distrust him. That, however, doesn't deter him in his efforts to help. There was one episode in which the airplane that he and the Reverend Purdy were flying on was going to crash. When Johnny attempted to warn the captain of the plane, the Air Marshall on board arrested him. What would you do if you were him in this situation? Or, if you were a passenger on the plane, wouldn't you think the strange-acting guy was nuttier than a fruitcake? There were a number of times when watching the various episodes that I would've held back on what I'd seen in my visions if I were Johnny, keeping my mouth shut and allowing nature to take its course. No, not Johnny! He jumps right into the dilemma with both legs kicking. And, of course, every action has a reaction. You can't always change the future of something without creating a worse scenario. I will say that Anthony Michael Hall deserves a Golden Globe Award or something for his magnificent performance in every single show. Talk about a hard-working actor. This man is in just about every scene in every show. Mr. Hall also has the character down perfectly. This is a very talented actor who deserves a lot of credit for making this television series work. No brag, just fact. As far as the extras go, all five of the discs in the set have bonus features on them that deal with the making of a particular episode, how the whole show is produced and how they try to stay within the budget, not to mention numerous interviews with the guest stars. Now, if only Season Three and Season Four are as good as Season Two, I'll be one happy camper.
Equally important is that Stillson is no longer a thug turned populist demagogue but more of a traditional corrupt politician. This represents the attention paid to developing the key supporting characters. In this version Sarah (Nicole de Boer) is still married with a child, but the child is Johnny's and she is married to Sherrif Walt Bannerman (Chris Bruno), now spared from a fatal encounter of his own with a rabid St. Bernard named Cujo. What would have been a mandatory soap opera love triangle has been avoided, and indeed the two-part "Ascent"/"Descent" near the start of this second season resolves a lot of the inherent tensions in these relationships by bringing them into the open. In this season episodes start focusing on the relationship between Johnny and his son ("Plague," "The Mountain").
The series also takes advantage of three created characters. As Bruce Lewis (John L. Adams), Johnny's physical therapist turned friend, our hero has not only a sidekick ("Precipitate") but a willing ear for exposition and explanation. Then there is Dana Bright (Kristen Dalton), a reporter who becomes interested and then enamored with Johnny, providing another convert in the inner circle who can provide help. Finally, from Johnny's evangelical mother in the novel the series transmutes the Reverend Gene Purdy, who served as a villain at the beginning of the series before Stillson arrived, but now becomes both an ally ("Cabin Pressure," "Plague") and a voice of conscience ("Playing God").
The other key thing about this series is that it deals with a world in which Johnny Smith has a reputation in what can be considered a rather realistic manner. This means dealing with people who are out to get him in various ways ("Valley of the Shadow," "Misbegotten") as well as those who consider him to be a curiosity ("The Storm"). It also provides an interesting episode in which Johnny works with the government to try and "find" Osama Bin Laden ("The Hunt"). We also find "The Dead Zone" playing creatively with Johnny's powers when he has a blood transfusion ("Precipitate") and an interesting encounter with a woman in a bar ("Deja Voodoo"), and shares his visions with not only Bruce ("Zion") but a figure that has been haunting his life ("Visions"). These are probably the episodes that best indicate that this is a show that is both creative and intelligent. I thought the first season was pretty good, but the second is even better.
There are two things to know about the production schedule for the second season. First, the episode "The Hunt" was originally scheduled to be the 12th episode of the season and air on March 30, 2003 but was delayed until July 27 because of the outbreak of the war with Iraq. Second, "Zion" was supposed to be the final episode of the second season but the USA network asked for another six episodes starting with "The Storm." Called by fans "Season 2.5" this includes my favorite episode of the season, "Deja Voodoo," and a pivotal story arc involving the "Burned Man" (Frank Whaley). Good thing the Third Season is on right now because who wants to wait for the next DVD set for anything more than the great extras (even though they are undoing a couple of the points I praised above big time in the first half-dozen episodes).
Indeed, this set has some great extras because one additional thing that makes this DVD a class act is the high involvement of Anthony Michael Hall and others in the commentary track. Every episode has such a track and Hall is on most of them, as are most of the major guest stars, such as Hall's fellow alumni from "The Breakfast Club" Ally Sheedy ("Playing God"), Academy Award winning actor Louis Gossett, Jr. ("Zion"), and Reiko Aylesworth ("Deja Voodoo") from "24." There are several examples of storyboard comparisons with the finished episode and interviews with notable guest stars. In terms of fan friendly DVD extras "The Dead Zone" sets the standard for others to follow.
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