The Dead Zone - The Complete Second Season
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // Unrated // $49.99 // June 8, 2004
Review by Shannon Nutt | posted June 23, 2004
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Based on Steven King's popular book, The Dead Zone is one of those few television series that surpasses the source material on which it is based. Last year, I was lucky enough to review Season One, and now I'm back to let you know that not only is Season Two just as good…it's actually better.

Anthony Michael Hall stars as Johnny Smith, a young man who has psychic visions as the result of a horrible automobile accident. He was in a coma for six years, and when he woke up, he found his fiancé (Nicole deBoer) married to the town sheriff (Chris Bruno) and raising a son who doesn't even know that Johnny is his father.

Season One ended with a great cliffhanger, in which Johnny foresees the end of the world at the hands of a slimy politician (Sean Patrick Flanery) running for Congress – and Season Two picks right up where Season One left us.

Here's a summary of what you'll get to see in Season Two (Warning: Moderate Spoilers Ahead!):

"Valley Of The Shadow" - Johnny is busy trying to connect his apocalyptic visions with Greg Stillson (Flanery), but is sidetracked when a young boy is kidnapped by a serial killer who seems to think Johnny is a prophet sent from God.

"Descent" - In part one of a two-part story, Johnny and Walt (Bruno) head into a mine shaft to try and rescue some trapped teenagers. But Walt is critically injured in the rescue and winds up fighting for his life.

"Ascent" – In the conclusion, Johnny must use his psychic abilities to try and save Walt – who is deep in a coma. As a result, Johnny is able to find out more about the man who married his fiancé…and comes face to face with an entity that may be God himself.

"The Outsider" – Johnny has a vision that a pharmaceutical company is about to release a drug for women that will affect the birth of thousands…if not millions of babies.

"Precipitate" – In one of Season Two's best shows, Johnny gets a blood transfusion and realizes he can see into the lives of six people…one of which he knows is going to die. The rest of the episode is spent with Johnny as he tries to stop this tragedy from happening.

"Scars" – Determined to stop Stillson from winning the election, Johnny uses his powers to team up with the opposition, Harrison Fisher (Gerald McRaney). But when Johnny finds out a dark secret about Fisher's past, will he be able to continue to support him?

"Misbegotten"– This is the weakest episode of the season, as Johnny is kidnapped by three women who hope he can use his abilities to solve a murder that happened in an abandoned house many years ago.

"Cabin Pressure" - Flying home a commercial airliner with Reverend Purdy (David Ogden Stiers), Johnny foresees the plane exploding. He must now convince the pilot and crew to listen to him or face disaster.

"The Man Who Never Was" – Robert Culp guest stars in this great episode that has him playing a man with a secret past.

"Dead Men Tell Tales" - Johnny saves the life of a mob boss when he warns him about an upcoming hit. But he soon finds out that he may have caused the wrong man to get killed.

"Playing God" - This is not only my favorite Dead Zone episode, it's one of the best hours of television I have ever watched. Johnny throws a party for an old high school buddy (Lochlyn Munro) who is in desperate need of a heart transplant. But when Johnny's visions show that his buddy's sister (Ally Sheedy) must die in order to give her brother a heart, Johnny must make the difficult choice in selecting which one of his friends are going to die. It's a powerful, moving episode that really showcases what is great about this series.

"Zion" - Johnny's physical therapist, Bruce (John L. Adams), attends the funeral of his father (Louis Gossett, Jr.) and finds himself using Johnny's powers to go back and find out what his life may have been like if he had followed in his father's footsteps. Another powerful episode, with some great acting from Gossett and Adams.

Note: It was here that the 13-episode second season of The Dead Zone was supposed to end, but USA commissioned six more shows – intended to focus more on action and less on the ongoing storylines. These additional episodes became known as "The Summer Six" – which actually consisted of seven episodes, since one was included from the original thirteen that was delayed for political reasons (it is noted below).

"The Storm" - While Johnny's friends plan an "intervention" for him at one of Purdy's country retreats, Johnny sees the coming of a great storm – one whose powerful force may have something to do with his psychic abilities.

"Plague" – At the school science fair, Johnny foresees all the children of the town getting sick and dying. He must now convince a government investigator (Stephen Tobolowsky) that the plague is real – even though there is no apparent trace of it.

"Deja Voodoo" – After meeting an attractive young woman (Reiko Aylesworth) at a restaurant, Johnny must live the same moments over and over again – until he can prevent her death…and his own.

"The Hunt" – This is the episode that was originally made as part of Season Two's first thirteen shows, and had its airdate postponed. In it, the United States government hires Johnny to help track down a noted Arab terrorist…one who might be using a dialysis machine. The noted terrorist is never mentioned by name, but it's more than clear in the episode who they are referring to. The episode's airing was postponed due to the American invasion of Iraq near the time it was originally scheduled to air.

"The Mountain" – On a fishing trip with Walt, Sarah (deBoer) and his son, Johnny has a vision of a plane crash that happened a few years back. The four of them are led by a local ranger into the mountains to search for the downed plane…but the ranger has an agenda of his own that has to do with the cargo the plane was reportedly carrying.

"The Combination" – Johnny foresees the death of a fighter in a championship bout, but can't convince him that the fight will end in his demise.

"Visions" – Returning to the ongoing storyline from earlier in the season (and hinted at in each of the "Summer Six" episodes), the conclusion to Season Two has Johnny encounter a strange visitor (Frank Whaley) from the future who may just know the answer to Johnny's visions about the end of the world. As with the first season, we get a great cliffhanger here – setting up Season Three (currently airing on the USA Network – Sunday Nights!).


Each episode is presented in widescreen anamorphic at the 1.78:1 ratio. There are four episodes per disc (except for Disc Five, which houses only the final three shows) and there is a slight bit of compression/pixilation noticeable in the background of a few scenes, although it's nothing distracting. Colors are properly balanced, and the shows (which is shot on 35mm film and transferred to the digital format for DVD) have a great look to them.

The audio is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital sound, with the only noticeable problem being that the audio on the menus is much louder than the audio in the actually episodes (which also occurred on the Season One discs). Fortunately, there's no major swings in audio levels during the actual shows. Although not a highly aggressive track – it's a reasonably active one from time to time, and nicely done for these DVDs.

Other studios releasing TV shows could learn a lesson or two from these Dead Zone discs. The extras are simply wonderful, with Commentary Tracks for all nineteen episodes, and including commentaries from stars Anthony Michael Hall, John L. Adams and Chris Bruno. We even get commentaries from the guest stars of episodes, including Robert Culp, Louis Gossett, Jr., Frank Whaley, and Reiko Aylesworth. And of course, there's commentary from the crew, including co-creators Michael Piller and Sean Piller; and Executive Producer Lloyd Segan. I know of no other show on DVD where so many different people are involved in the commentary tracks – and I think it goes to show just how proud those involved are of the program…and deservingly so.

Many episodes also include a look at selected Storyboards, Deleted Scenes, and/or Interviews with one of the guest stars. Like many of the commentary tracks, the interviews here are a real gem – as we get to see the likes of Robert Culp, Louis Gossett, Jr., Ally Sheedy, Frank Whaley, Stephen Tobolowsky and Reiko Aylesworth talk about their experience on the show. Most impressive, perhaps, is the kind words almost all of these guests have to say about Anthony Michael Hall – especially from the likes of Culp and Gossett, Jr., who both go out of their way to note what a fine young actor they think he is.

Finally, spread out over the space of the five DVDs are featurettes (running about 5 to 10 minutes each) entitled Making Of An Episode, that take the viewer through each stage of how an episode goes from idea, to script, to screen, to your TV. These are broken down into the following segments: Script Writing; Casting; Costumes; Location Scouting; VFX Meeting; Production Meeting; Directing; Cinematography; Acting; Assistant Directing; Editing; VFX Materials; and Sound Mixing. Along the way, we get to meet many of those who are involved behind the scenes of each Dead Zone episode, and learn a little bit about what they do.


Top to bottom, this is a great boxed set. It's a great show, it's holds up to repeat viewings, and it has the kind of bonus material that every television show release should strive to match. Like the episodes themselves, The Dead Zone – The Complete Second Season set seems to be a work of love from those who make the show. It was the most fun I've had watching DVDs this year, and it deserves nothing less than a spot in the "DVD Talk Collector Series"!

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