Walls fall down AKA: Why Jericho (2006) is totally worth a look


Jericho – Walls Fall Down

The pretty, and rather good, cast of CBS’ Jericho.
Image thanks to: http://entertainmentnow.files.wordpress.com/2006/09/jericho2.jpg


AS EVER, HERE BE SPOILERS

MAINLY BECAUSE THIS FINISHED RECENTLY AND HAS SINCE BEEN RENWED WITH ENOUGH EPISODES TO TIE IT ALL UP.

THIS IS A GOOD THING

AT LEAST THEY’D BETTER TIE UP MOST OF THE LOOSE ENDS. IT WOULD BLOW IF THEY FAILED TO SATISFY WITH THIS SECOND CHANCE.

READ ON TO FIND OUT WHY

It didn’t start off that well.

Seeking to plug the Heroes-sized gap in our TV schedule, and having seen trailers for it just after Psych on the Hallmark Channel, Best Beloved and I decided to obtain a copy of the first few episodes and give it a go.

We found, at first, quite an intriguing premise. The pilot episode introduces the main protagonist, Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich), returning to his home town, Jericho, after a five year absence. In Grosse Point Blank style, he tells everyone he’s been doing a different thing in absentia. Incidentally, several reviews have picked up on this, and I’m pretty sure it’s because we’d all like to try this one day!

So, Jake faces up to his estranged family. His father’s a tough but fair man, who’s the mayor. He’s also got an election coming up and is worried that his wayward son may be a liability. Jake’s younger brother Eric seems to be an upstanding figure in the community – even if the cad is having an affair with the barmaid for reasons that mystify me. At least Jake’s mum’s glad to see him. We also meet Emily, a blonde bombshell who has a history with Jake. She has a fiancé now.

There are a few other lead characters. A female IRS agent sent to close down a farm, and a schoolteacher. The most notable is a guy named Hawkins, who’d arrived a couple days before with his wife and two kids. The family have cover stories, so you just know that something weird’s going on. While we’re meeting this fairly average bunch of characters, it becomes clear that larger events are happening outside of this little town.

The President is about to give a speech which everyone seems to be ignoring. By the end of the day, Jake is tired of arguing unsuccessfully with his family for financial help, and drives off in his big black car (which I suspect he stole from the Winchester brothers). When he drives off, a school bus takes a short cut, people go about their day, and the Sheriff’s children play tag outside the family home.

That’s when it happens.

BOOM

One of the best shots in the whole damn series –a small boy stands on a roof, watching the mushroom cloud expand over distant hills.

WOW

Naturally all hell breaks loose – though rather more organised hell than you might expect. The first thing Jake does is almost crash his car into the car driving opposite – apparently seeing a mushroom cloud immediately makes you forget about the brake pedal.

In town, people go from WTF to Holy Shit. Then they start robbing the local store and the gas station. Mayor Green works hard to keep people thinking clearly, and worries about his son. Jake has been keeping busy rescuing the children from a crashed school bus, while his ex-sweetheart, Emily, is trying to protect herself from some escaped convicts.

What happens over the next 22 episodes is the town’s reaction and efforts to survive. They survive the deadly fallout in the rain, and everyone worries about getting enough to eat. For a while, though, nothing really happens until around episode 14. It takes a long time to get going – soap opera elements tend to drag down the more interesting storylines uncovering what the hell happened.

These stories tend to revolve around Hawkins. He does a terrific job of being a conflicted family man with a deep dark government past. Both capable and realistic, he helps out Jake and shares some secrets that give the final moments of the show a real edge.

Then it ends. On a huge cliffhangar.

The good (and bad) people of Jericho may surprise you. If a terrestrial channel ever picks it up in the UK, it’s certainly worth a good look. Be patient, and you’ll find yourself racing breathlessly towards an exciting finale involving characters you suddenly, convincingly care about. The situation they’re in is also one that you identify with, from the most basic ‘what would I do?’ angle.

It isn’t Heroes, but it did manage to pull off an ending that was, if not wholly satisfying, at least made a great case for its renewal.

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