Judge David Johnson lives by a simple creed: "Never trust anyone from Cheyenne."
Our review of Jericho: The First Season, published October 3rd, 2007, is also available.
The survivors of the world-changing nuclear apocalypse find themselves hip-deep in a story that will alter the course of United Stated history. The seven episode conclusion to a sadly overlooked and thoroughly badass series finds its final resting place.
Facts of the Case
When we last left our heroes—that would be tough guy Jake (Skeet Ulrich), his useless brother Eric (Kenneth Mitchell), his useless girlfriend, his BFF, fellow tough guy Robert Hawkins (Lennie James), and the rest of the small, but devoted fighting force of Jericho, Kansas—they were squaring off against the neighboring town of New Bern, which was intent on overrunning Jericho and taking their stuff. Meanwhile, the military had been dispatched to put down the uprising in this post-apocalyptic wild west wasteland.
With the Army reconstituted, rival factions of the U.S. government vying for control of the country, and a rogue mercenary unit stirring trouble in his town, Jake and his posse will fight to keep Jericho free of corruption, salvage their lives, and continue to investigate the conspiracy behind the nuclear strikes.
I'm a major Jericho fan, having succumbed to the hype of the galvanized masses set on resurrecting the once-canceled series. The positive word-of-mouth led me to Season One, which I caught up with through reruns and promptly sung its praises. A cool premise coupled with some intricate plotting and great character work earned CBS's "Little Post-Apocalyptic Drama That Could" high honors in my household. So with the second season green-lit, I was in great anticipation. How would the New Bern/Jericho conflict shake out? What would the military's role be? This conspiracy, what's the deal? Would Jake and Hawkins outdo their badass selves from Season One? And would Eric's beard give him at least a molecule of adequacy?
The Answers: a) abruptly and with little fanfare, b) omnipresent, skeptical, and not very helpful, c) you'll find out, d) almost but not quite, and e) nope. The sophomore effort is a suitable follow-up, but it never quite eclipses the coolness of the first season or, more specifically, the final third of the first season. Despite the expansion of the show's scope (moving it from Jericho and it's surrounding towns to the geopolitical upheaval of the contiguous United States), the addition of major characters (Esai Morales as tough-talking Major Beck and D.B. Sweeney as the recurring figurehead of the sinister mercenary crew), and the more serpentine narrative, Season Two failed to deliver the punch it needed to stay afloat. Good television? Sure, but not great and not compelling enough to ensnare more viewers than the faithful.
It's a shame, because the premise and the characters are still great and the season ends on a cliffhanger that dangles a tantalizing and intriguing direction…if the series were to have survived. But that's moot. It's dead. Let us mourn it and move on.
These episodes focus on the "bigger picture," as the every-Midwestern-town for itself mentality of the first season has been traded in for grander storytelling. Too bad, because that's something I enjoyed; the townsfolk trying to make ends meet and defending their crops against the marauders from the next town over.
The stakes are certainly raised in Season Two, but the overly complex plots and the hyperspeed pacing of the stories thanks to a ticking clock on the show's shelf-life, muddied the experience; essentially Jericho became top heavy on the plot angle, less focused on the characters, and it hurt the series. There are still plenty of great moments though: Jake as the peace-keeper; the shocking death of a major character (leading to a poorly constructed retaliatory action that was necessary only because the story demanded but, still, it was a powerful moment); the refreshing lack of Dale the Retail Chain Magnate and his perky girlfriend; Hawkins' entanglement with the mercenaries; and the final scene of the series, a humdinger through and through and a tragic signpost of how cool this show could have been if it had survived the network axe.
Episodes look great in their 1.85:1 anamorphic aspect ratio and sound great in 5.1 surround, both of which shine in the many action sequences this show is known for. The extras are copious and substantial: cast and crew deliver commentaries on each episode, terrific featurettes spotlighting the renewal of the series and the Season Two plotting, deleted scenes, and the unaired final scenes, which had been shot in case Season Three were green-lit…and was in fact awesome.
The swan song—for real this time—of a really cool hour-long show is good times. Bon voyage.
Not guilty. Don't tread on me.
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