Lionsgate // 2002 // 492 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // July 11th, 2007
"It's kind of like we're in some kind of dead zone."
If you've seen The Dead Zone's sixth-season opener, you know that changes are in store, as one major mystery is resolved and another puzzle unfolds. The Dead Zone: The Complete Fifth Season may go down in history as the last season before everything changed. Johnny's still trying to figure out how to stop Armageddon while getting involved in people's lives through his psychic gift.
Or will it? No matter what changes The Dead Zone makes in its sixth season, Johnny's still a psychic with a conscience that won't let him walk away when he might stop a tragedy. Still, there's a whole fifth season out on DVD to examine.
The Dead Zone: The Complete Fifth Season contains 11 episodes on three discs:
* "Forbidden Fruit" -- Johnny tries to talk Miranda out of marrying Stillson. Johnny takes action to stop Janus based on clues in his visions.
* "Independence Day" -- Bruce asks Johnny not to discuss any visions about him for the next 24 hours. Then Johnny sees Bruce lying bloody in his car after a chain-reaction crash.
* "Panic" -- Johnny sees trouble as soon as he lets in a teen running from killers. Johnny uses visions of the past to save himself, the teen, Walt, and J.J. from the thugs.
* "Articles of Faith" -- A religious figure says he wants to create peace between Christians and Muslims, but the murder of a young Muslim man casts light on his links to hate crimes.
* "The Inside Man" -- Johnny has a brilliant plan to foil armed robbers trying to steal one of John the Baptist's finger bones from a museum: he dons a ski mask and joins them. Too bad he didn't foresee how Purdy and J.J. turning up could change the equation.
* "Lotto Fever" -- The guy who grabbed Johnny's phone number for takeout after the psychic refused to divine the winning lottery numbers is angry. He won a million, and now he wants his life back.
* "Symmetry" -- This one's confusing, since Johnny's jumping into the minds of an attacker, a victim, and a would-be rescuer. Can he escape "some kind of vision loop" which could trap him in a coma anew?
* "Vortex" -- Johnny's vision of a child's death in a minefield sends him into a cult's commune. A drugged Bruce spills the beans about Johnny's apocalyptic visions.
* "Revelations" -- When he checks out the story of a woman who claims to be Purdy's daughter, Johnny finds that he wasn't the only one whose life was changed forever by a carnival. Johnny encounters another Wheel of Fortune.
* "Into the Heart of Darkness" -- When Sarah's kidnapped before his eyes, J.J. says the attacker wore a clear plastic mask, the calling card of a psycho Johnny believed dead. Could he be alive and seeking revenge on Johnny?
* "The Hunting Party" -- Johnny sees a murder take place in a podcast studio, but the body vanishes. The trail leads to more bodies and an assassination plot involving Stillson.
"That girl was totally into you. You know, you may be able to see everything, but sometimes you're completely blind," Bruce (John L. Adams, Just Deal) tells his friend Johnny. Johnny's wondering why the diner waitress went away steamed; it's because he was clueless as she dropped broad romantic hints. But then if Johnny could piece together everything, The Dead Zone wouldn't be any fun.
By now, viewers know that Zone is an odd sort of mystery in which Johnny Smith (Anthony Michael Hall, The Breakfast Club), who was in a coma for years as a result of a car accident, touches an object and has a psychic vision, but doesn't get the whole story. Torn by conscience, Johnny has to do some detective work to save the day -- and he fails once in a while.
That's what makes Malcolm Janus an interesting villain in the opener, "Forbidden Fruit." The ghostlike operative seems to know enough about Johnny's visions to intentionally scramble the psychic's visions. Even his private comments in his office are misleading enough to sucker Johnny into helping him get rid of an enemy. This seems to be a recurring theme this season, with other nasty characters trying to manipulate Johnny's visions for their own ends turning up in "Vortex" and "Into The Heart of Darkness." In a touching rather than chilling way, Sarah uses Johnny's visions to send a last message to Walt and J.J. when she believes she's about to die in "Darkness."
A favorite episode this season, "Panic," tells two stories at once as Johnny sees how his grandfather helped a Japanese family escape a lynch mob just after Pearl Harbor and uses his visions to elude the thugs who have invaded his home. I've seen the hostage situation before, but Johnny's visions add heart to it.
If you're looking for the usual mystery, "Lotto Fever" might disappoint. The story's played mostly for laughs (some of them good ones) as Johnny tags along with a disgruntled lottery winner on a crime spree.
I saw one stray line at the edge of the picture in "The Hunting Party," but the rest of the episode transfers were clean. Sound was equally well done.
This set has four commentaries, with "Independence Day," "Articles of Faith," "Revelations," and "The Hunting Party." The best are the ones led by the actors who directed episodes: Chris Bruno in "Independence Day" and John L. Adams in "Revelations." If you want insight into the character of Greg Stillson (Sean Patrick Flanery, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles), listen to the commentary on "The Hunting Party."
Deleted scenes from three episodes -- "Articles of Faith," "Revelations," and "The Hunting Party" -- are included. The scenes from "Revelations" were good, adding character moments; the scenes from "Articles of Faith," on the other hand, would have been a distraction.
The extras package is rounded out by "A Day with JLA," in which John L. Adams takes viewers on a tour of the set, and "The Other Side of the Camera," in which Chris Bruno and Adams talk about directing for the first time. Adams's set tour is interesting, although it seems aimed at hardcore fans who might remember the faces from a second-season DVD featurette. The actors-turned-director mainly discuss the attitude and perspective a director needs; it's good, but it's not a how-to.
As I said in my review of The Dead Zone: The Complete Fourth Season, this is comfort food TV, even with visions of Armageddon woven into the mythology. You know Johnny will solve the puzzle in the end and make a positive impact in the lives of everyone involved (except in mythology stories, where he needs to fail in order to fight another day).
The Dead Zone has also reached the self-referential zone, with jokey lines about stuff like cell phone dead zones, a reappearance of the Wheel of Fortune, and an abundance of characters who know Johnny's backstory.
The Dead Zone: The Complete Fifth Season provides 11 more well-crafted, though decidedly old-fashioned, mysteries involving Johnny Smith's psychic visions. While there are changes afoot on The Dead Zone, knowing what happens later won't dampen your enjoyment of the fifth season.
Creatively, The Dead Zone could keep going for a few more years; its chance to do so probably depends on whether the show gains new viewers when it starts its run on local stations this fall. While it's not an attention grabber like Lost or Heroes, The Dead Zone explores its hero's visions with reliable consistency.
Not guilty. There's life in The Dead Zone yet.
Review content copyright © 2007 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 492 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* The Other Side of the Camera
* A Day with JLA
* Audio Commentaries on "Independence Day," "Articles of Faith," "Revelations," and "The Hunting Party"
* Deleted Scenes
* DVD Verdict on The Dead Zone: The Complete Fourth Season