The Dead Zone: Here There Be Monsters

Dana: "Johnny Smith. You had to go piss off Mayberry."

Road trip. Bad idea.

This episode reminded me of a creepy short story I read as a teenager, about a guy on a road trip who was stopped for speeding in a small town where the townfolk had sharp, pointed teeth – and the Twilight Zone twist was that they had a town barbecue, with our guy as the entree.

We can sort of see things from Deputy Simmons's point of view – small town, big murder, Johnny and Bruce were strangers, and Johnny did have something to do with a famous serial murder case. I could see the hysteria driving the nice townspeople of Hobbs Landing to beat up Johnny; I could even sort of accept them trying to lynch him. But burning someone at the stake for witchcraft in this day and age? I just didn't buy it, and for me, this episode just didn't click.

Bruce, a black man with dreadlocks, looked particularly out of place among the all white New Englanders, and there was definitely a strong feel of small-town racism and ignorance in them beating up Bruce and persecuting Johnny. "Dreadlocks, warlocks... fellow travelers if you ask me." Maybe they should have done an episode about prejudice instead of witchcraft. Okay, okay, I know that the witchcraft thing could be a metaphor, but still.

When Johnny asked him for help, Purdy was at first ready to mount up, but he decided to reneg because of his new "political alliances." (Greg Stillson?) That was disappointing; I expected better from Purdy. At least he sent Dana to help Johnny. Dana, who is usually abrasive and prickly, was uncharacteristically pretty darned nice throughout. She even gave Bruce her car.

Bits and pieces:

— Anthony Michael Hall was particularly good in the scene where he was touching the evidence and channeling the killer. But then again, he's always good.

— Mommy killer and Johnny both chanted the name, Baphomet.

— The sign said, "Hobbs Landing - Pop. 2735 - "The Town That Time Forgot." Hobbs Landing is supposedly along the coast of Massachusetts, which brings Salem to mind. Would a town as small as Hobbs Landing even have its own courthouse?

— Johnny and Bruce don't like the same music, and Johnny isn't interested in plunging into what's currently hot. "You're so far behind now, it's like you're going in reverse."

— Johnny was so concerned for Bruce's safety that he was actually nasty to Bruce in order to get him out of town. Didn't work, but it was sweet of Johnny, just the same.

— Sarah, Walt, and little Johnny were conveniently out camping and couldn't help Johnny; they weren't in this episode at all.

— "Witchcraft? That's a word spin doctors dream about."

This was my least favorite episode of the first season. The other courtroom drama, "Unreasonable Doubt," was wildly better.

One 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:

ChrisB said...

I didn't connect with this episode at all. The story was absurd and the law was bad.

Each season has to have the dud episode -- methinks this one qualifies.

Anonymous said...

My main problem with the episode is the "nice" ending. I would have appreciated seeing the stupid mass pay for their crimes of hysteria. How about a law suit for medical bills? The deputy losing her job? Some semblance of justice besides the small hint of all being under arrest? The father being charged with accessory after the fact? Obstruction of justice? I'm supposed to be happy with just seeing the main characters survive? No, I don't think so.