Friday, November 18, 2011

Jericho (Season 1)


An excellent (if often tense) show that examines the social, political, interpersonal, and practical aftermath of a large scale nuclear assault which leaves most of the United States in shambles.  The tiny town of Jericho, Kansas, all but untouched by the nuclear attacks that decimated the rest of the country, must learn how to live in this new world.  Together, the townsfolk deal with isolation, food and fuel shortages, horse thieves, small-town politics, medical crises, unlikely romances, survivalist robbers, betrayal, incompetent leadership, murder, infidelity, refugees, bitter cold, unexpected pregnancies, ineptitude, opportunistic mercenaries, and extremely unreasonable neighbors. 

The nuances of these struggles are quite sophisticated, as the leaders try to balance the tensions between safety and liberty, self-preservation and mercy, capitalism and cooperation, punishment and justice, and so forth.  Some of these problems have very definite real-world relevance, and Jericho is a fascinating microcosm of the United States as a whole.  I'm glad the creators decided to explore these issues in a television format, as opposed to trying to cram everything into a two hour film as originally planned.

The series focuses primarily on reformed-and-extremely-useful bad boy Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich) and his family--including his longtime mayor father (Gerald McRaney), tough-as-nails mother (Pamela Reed), and milquetoast younger brother (Kenneth Mitchell).  A parallel storyline follows the exploits of mysterious-and-surprisingly-well-prepared Stranger With a Secret Robert Hawkins (Lennie James) and his wife, kids, and shady colleagues.  Like any good series, there are plenty of characters to love--see, e.g., the aforementioned Green and Hawkins familys (except for the younger Green brother, of course), as well as stranded IRS agent Mimi Clark; disillusioned Dr. Kenchy; and likable criminal Jonah Prowse. And, of course, plenty of characters to hate--see, e.g., Gray Anderson, pretender to the mayoral throne; obnoxious and incompetent Deputy Bill; suspicious Sheriff Constantino.  The acting is quite good--even the loathsome and infuriating roles are well-acted.

Sadly, there are some continuity and plot issues (the "coldest winter in recent history" lasts all of one episode, and an urgent food shortage is alleviated by "sharing", even though everyone's already on half rations), and I'm told the science is quite suspect (how to prevent nuclear fallout, the effects of an EMP, etc.), but I suppose that's to be expected.  I look forward to seeing where the writers take the show in the rather truncated second (and final) season.

It's a compelling show, to be sure--very edge-of-your-seat.  I can see why fans were so desperate for a renewal (especially after the season finale).  However, I recommend against marathon viewing, for mental health reasons.  Too much nuclear holocaust in one sitting is bad for the soul.

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