The Dead Zone: Babble On

Johnny: "We can't let them die. Can we, Daddy?"

Very good, even though the denouement was utterly transparent. It was obvious that the floor stripping was causing Johnny's poltergeist-y nightmare visions, and it was easy to guess that Johnny's father was institutionalized because he was psychic, and that he was stalking the little girl because of his visions.

But even though I could practically write most of this story myself, I was still oddly moved by the ending. There was an emotion to it that transcended the material. And I thought the casting of Johnny's father, Herb, was outstanding; the man resembled Anthony Michael Hall and was about the same age, but he still "felt" like Johnny's father. (Note from later: Michael Cudlitz! No wonder I thought he was good!) And I didn't get that the little girl was still alive, and that the event was so far in the future, so that was a good twist.

The one thing I thought was missing was a scene exploring the conflict we know existed between Gene Purdy and Herb Smith. Having Gene think Herb was a schizophrenic and a pervert was interesting, but it really didn't go anywhere.

Bits and pieces:

— The title, "Babble on," was clever. I assumed it referred to "babel," a confusion of sounds or voices, and not Babylon, a hedonistic ancient city.

— Bangor Cultural Center go boom. I was surprised that Johnny didn't stop the explosion, although he did save all the people.

— I liked all the floor scenes: Johnny going through the floor in his vision, lying on the floor to get visions, and so on. And the mallet reminded me of Stephen King's The Shining which, coincidentally, was also about a father and his psychic son.

— Johnny did a little B&E. Bad Johnny. And hey, a file that was thirty years old: wouldn't it be in a dusty box in the basement?

— Was the long-haired little boy who played young Johnny the same one who played him in the pilot? No, that couldn't be: it was four years ago.

— Nicole deBoer was not in this episode.

Definitely worth watching. Three out of four stars,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Really gripping and moving. At times confusing as the visions blurred with real life. Yes, I saw that Herb was psychic too pretty early on, but watching Johnny struggle through it was compelling. "Was he... Like me?" You make a good point that there could have been more Gene and more about the conflict of having your best friend committed to an asylum when you're also in love with his wife, and also apparently his clergy. But I thought it was good to see his integrity and that Johnny saw his integrity. He's a complicated man.

I thought it was good that Johnny had Walt by his side for a lot of the digging. Despite my love of Walt, even I'd begun to tire of the buddy-cop-esque episodes earlier in the season. But Johnny needed someone particularly level-headed and nonjudgmental for this one. It was a nice parallel to "no questions asked" in that regard. It would have been nice to draw out the Johnny:Walt::Gene:Herb parallel as well though. Perhaps with a brief JJ appearance, which also could have reflected the generational Smith father/son thing going on. I guess the skateboarding was a nod to that.

I also thought we'd previously established that Herb died when Johnny was a teenager (15 is stuck in my head). Johnny got in trouble with him for taking Sarah up to the abandoned mines, right? This version is more compelling, but I wish it had been established from the beginning that Herb "died" when Johnny was very young. And I'm a bit confused about when Herb actually died. It seems like they told young Johnny he'd died when they had him committed. Johnny says he died in the asylum sometime after that. I suppose we do know that he did die and didn't just wander out like the school administrator said people did. Otherwise he'd have tried to get back to his son and would still be trying to protect Ally and the others. How tragic... And all for something so far in the future that it never should have been his vision at all. Just sad.

The last vision/memory indicates that Johnny was developing psychic abilities even before he hit his head on the ice, which is a new revelation. At first I thought he should remember having visions, but maybe he convinced himself he just had a particularly active imagination. Clearly his father wanted him to keep it just between them; he knew people thought he was crazy. So Johnny repressed all those memories, and his father's apparent madness and disappearance from his life.

Even though it's sad about Herb, the episode feels good at the end. A thing has been resolved and laid to rest. We learned more about Johnny and the people we care about (Gene, Vera). KES

Anonymous said...

a pretty gripping episode this one was as johnny is lying on the couch fast asleep when his tv goes to static and he calls the place where bought the tv but it's not the tv it's his father trying to tell him something is coming. the next day he finds his father's things that he has and has a vision of him and johnny as a little boy. that night he has a nightmare and talks to purdy about it and gene considers him to go to a shrink but johnny refuses. johnny keeps on having nightmares about his father when he calls gene and went to the psychiatrist that his father saw. ally is a little girl that his father was protecting as johnny finds her at the building where the gas leak was and saves both of their lives.