Sunday, October 4, 2009

Return to Jericho

Jericho – Season One, Disk 2

This weekend I took a trip back out to Kansas, specifically to the little town of Jericho.

(Note all episode synopses from Wikipedia’s Jericho pages.)

“Federal Response”
“As Eric and Mary Bailey discuss their extramarital affair, electricity suddenly returns and telephones play a recorded message from the government that "help is on the way". A power spike starts fires in the town library and at the trailer park. Eric's wife, April, informs him that she no longer intends to file for divorce. Hawkins bypasses a government internet block and accesses Jake's passport history, which shows visits to South American and Middle Eastern countries.”

“An ICBM launched in the previous episode detonates; its electromagnetic pulse renders most electronics in Jericho useless. The town's citizens slowly adapt to a life without electricity and outside goods. Jake's former friend, Mitchell Cafferty, steals food and horses from the town. He and other raiders take Jake hostage and it is revealed that Cafferty is the reason why Jake originally left Jericho. Cafferty is eventually captured and vows revenge on Jake. Stanley needs pesticides for his crops, and unwillingly surrenders part of his harvest to the town to receive them. Meanwhile, Robert Hawkins' daughter, Allison, discovers his map, and Robert tells her that he works as a spy for the United States government.”

“Long Live the Mayor”
“Gray Anderson, another of the "Four Horsemen", returns to Jericho. He is suspicious of newcomers to Jericho after what he saw on his trip and wishes to interrogate them. Meanwhile, Emily Sullivan's estranged father, Jonah Prowse, comes to bail out Mitchell Cafferty; he agrees to return the stolen supplies and to stay away from Jericho in return for Cafferty's release. However, Gray and Eric do not uphold the deal, and Jonah breaks Cafferty out. Mayor Green falls ill and though Emily gets medicine from Jonah, Green needs more specialized antibiotics to survive; Jake and Eric travel to a hospital in Rogue River to try to obtain some.”

“Rogue River”
“Jake and Eric travel to Rogue River to obtain medicine for their father, but on arrivin, they see that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has evacuated the town. Dr. Kenchy Dhuwhalia tells the two that that a private military company called Ravenwood was tasked with transporting the patients at the hospital, but instead killed them and looted the hospital. When the mercenaries return, Jake and Eric ambush them and return to Jericho with the doctor, but accidentally leave behind Eric's identification. Gray Anderson questions Robert Hawkins, who tells him that he is a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent; Gray agrees to keep this information confidential. April tells her in-laws that she is pregnant, while Eric decides to leave her for Mary Bailey.”

It was easy to slip back into watching this series after my last view-fest of several weeks past. The storytelling is straightforward (not super-twisty like Lost) and the characters easy to relate to.

Skeet Ulrich gets to shine as a hero again several times over the course of these four episodes, starting with helping to put out fires that threaten the town. Not only do Jericho’s citizens have to deal with the blazes but the harsh reality that they have very limited manpower and resources, so they have to pick and choose which fires to battle. Eric as acting mayor decides that the school is more important than his own home.

In these episodes we finally learn what it was that drove Jake away from his family and Jericho: a botched robbery – in which Jake was supposed to take part, but didn’t – resulted in the death of Emily’s brother. This created a rift between Emily and Jake and Emily and her father, Jonah, who is the town’s chief criminal figure.

Mayor Johnston Green and Jake have a great moment together where Jake tries to explain what has happened to him over the last five years. Johnston cuts his son off and tells him, “a punk kid left Jericho, but a pretty decent fella came back.” Kudos to Gerald McRaney and Ulrich in this scene.

Heather played by Sprague Grayden finally reveals her feelings for Jake in a sweet and funny scene. She’s offering him her beat up pickup for his journey to a nearby town, and as she’s running down all the special conditions needed for the truck to be of any use – it might do 40 mph but only downhill, if you’re shot at remember the tank’s on the left side - she jumps in his arms and kisses him. (Now, I’ve had the opportunity in my life to come to the aid of a few people - once even in snow drift - and no one’s ever done that to me. I guess I’m no Jake Green.)

The mayor’s bout with the flu takes a nasty turn and Jake and Eric have to travel to the town of Rogue River to get some medicine. They run into some Ravenwood company mercenaries who were hired by FEMA to help with the keeping the peace but have gone rogue and are looting and killing innocent people at will. D.B. Sweeney guests as the lead mercenary. He has always been a favorite actor of mine, and I was surprised and delighted to see him in Jericho, even if he’s playing an evil bastard.

There were a couple of stand out moments in this run of episodes: Mary’s bar starts violently shaking and the patrons run out into the street, they look up to see two ICBM missiles arching across the sky. Very chilling. Another entirely different moment is when Johnston’s condition is determined to be critical and Jake, Eric and some others start arguing about the dangers of driving to Rogue River, Mrs. Green tells her sons to “Go. Go now.” Pamela Reed as Mrs. Green does very good work in this series without calling a lot of attention to herself. The look on her face and the tone of her voice when she spoke those three words was amazing - it spoke volumes.
Kudos also for the scene where IRS agent Mimi is grief stricken over the news that her hometown of Washington D.C. is indeed gone. She and Stanley were arguing, her piles of paperwork get scattered all over his backyard, and she collapses in a heap while the camera pulls back and up, up, up in a great crane move with the sun setting low in the sky behind a large tree. Amazing shot, folks. And last but not least, the scene where Stanley is just about to torch part of his field to save his crops from an infestation, the town shows up to help him with harvesting, with no strings attached. Nice moment.

And last but not least, we get to meet the town’s major criminal element, Jonah Prowse, played by the great James Remar (last scene by me in Battlestar Galactica as Richard Hatch’s right hand man). Remar does menacing as well as anyone, but there’s so much more going on behind those eyes. I like how he’s trying to reconnect with his daughter Emily, even though he responsible for the death of her brother, his own son. Can’t wait to see how this works out.

Eight episodes in and I'm still diggin' this show. On one hand I really wish they would do an ultra realistic show about surviving a nuclear attack (it would likely be depressing beyond belief), but Jericho is NOT that kind of show. It's a television network's idea of surviving a nuclear attack, but that's okay. What keeps me coming back is the characters. For all their faults they're heroes and we need more like them today.

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