Dinner with Dana (2002) - Jon Cassar
Absolutely idiotic and profoundly annoying episode that revolves around muck raking reporter Dana Bright, who has been a recurring character since the very first episode. In this episode, she gets Johnny over to her house and attempts to seduce him, if by seduce we mean she blinks heavily at him and heaves her bosom about a hundred times. But Johnny's psychic abilities show him the wounded little girl inside this supposedly confident woman! Yes, it's ultimately revealed that when she was a little girl, her father . . . sent her to her room when she was bad! Wait, what?! This is what passes for psychological trauma now? My God, at least she could have been abused or something; did he at least slap her? No, just . . . sent her to her room. Plus, Kirstin Dalton doesn't have any depth at all; she's really a horrible actress who is one of the main problems with the first couple of seasons of this show, I think. This is still probably the show's very worst episode. Utterly risible.
Shaman (2002) - Rachel Talalay
The penultimate episode of the first season and one of the best of the series. Driven by visions of disaster, Johnny finds himself in the Maine woods, but when he stumbles into an ancient cave he realizes that the disaster he keeps seeing occured hundreds of years ago and then he finds himself in communication with an ancient Native American shaman who is receiving visions of the same disaster before it happens. Sound confusing? It really isn't; this episode is masterfully sketched out and the way the episode very quickly orients you to the fact that when both Johnny in the present and the Shaman in the past touch the same object in the cave, they can see and interact with each other is a masterpiece of economy. Adam Beach is the shaman and its a very evocative performance, made even more amazing by the fact that the episode keeps Beach's performance entirely in the Indian language of his people, without even a single subtitle. Seeing Johnny and the shaman trying to communicate about their shared visions and deduce when and where the disaster will strike when they don't even speak the same language is wonderfully engaging. Most shows would have cheated and had the shaman miraculously speaking English, but not so here. This is a gripping and charming episode. A real exercise in legitimate creativity.
Destiny (2002) - Robert Lieberman
The thirteenth episode of the brisk first season and a great finale. Johnny's vision leads him to save several teens from a disastrous fire and when one of the teens turns out to be the son of a wealthy businessman, Johnny finds himself becoming a media icon overnight. Johnny isn't too sure how he feels about this, but that's soon the least of his worries; popular, charismatic Greg Stillson is coming to town to campaign for the local Senate seat and when Johnny shakes his hand at a press gathering, he's given a mysterious vision that eventually resolves into the apocalypse, a vision of Washington, DC utterly destroyed. In this long form version of the novel, where the show has spent most of the first season telling its own stories, it's great to see Stillson and realize that the show is going to give us the novel's story too. What makes this even better? Greg Stillson, so memorably played by Martin Sheen in the Cronenberg movie, is here played by Sean Patrick Flanery, in what, as the show progresses, becomes his best performance, a conflicted, realistic, canny, pragmatic and amoral politician. This is great stuff; when Hall and Flanery meet in this episode, you can already see the sparks flying - these are two actors at the top of their game, imbuing their every moment together with a sense of absolute good and evil. The episode ends on a dark note, Johnny having finally given in to a nagging temptation, Greg Stillson on the march to Washington and Johnny unsure how to stop him. This episode signals good things for Season Two.