- Skeet Ulrich ... Jake Green
- Kenneth Mitchell ... Eric Green
- Brad Beyer ... Stanley Richmond
- Alicia Coppola ... Mimi Clark
- Michael Gaston ... Gray Anderson
- Sprague Grayden ... Heather Lisinski
- Lennie James ... Robert Hawkins
- Chris Kramer ... Chavez
- Esai Morales ... Major Beck
- Ashley Scott ... Emily Sullivan
Written by Carol Barbee and Jonathan E. Steinberg. Directed by Steve Boyum.
Previously on Jericho
Over the course of the first season of Jericho, the small Kansas town discovered that the nuclear annihilation of several U.S. that cut them off from the rest of the world, as well as from their past, was only the beginning. Their plight rapidly became worse as they faced suffering and death from shortages of food, medicine, and heat. Radioactive fallout in the form of a deadly rain exposed them all to horrible death; fires burned down homes and the town library; the woods were emptied of game and the crops were infested; refugees arrived to stretch their already insufficient resources.
But the challenges became darker as they regained contact with a lawless and violent postapocalyptic world. Threatened by marauders, duped by fake U.S. soldiers, and attacked by rogue military contractors, Jake Green, Jericho's former prodigal son, toughened himself and his town enough to be able to face the most heart-wrenching transformation of all: the ravaged neighboring town of New Bern, once a rival only on the football field and now turned against Jericho by their own fear and anger, deftly marshaled by sheriff-turned-dictator. In the end the outnumbered and outgunned people of Jericho steel themselves to fight for their town, knowing they might well be overrun.
For a complete run-down of the 22 episodes of season 1, check out my overview.
The season finale was intense: after his father is fatally wounded in the initial assault, Jake and his brother Eric have a powerful farewell scene with Johnston, followed by Jake having to stand before his people and tell them the news. In one of several flashbacks to his reckless days we had heard his grandfather telling the story of how a surrounded Allied officer had registered his defiance to a final German offer to surrender with a single word: "Nuts." (This refers to the true story of General Anthony McAuliffe's historic defiance at the Battle of Bastogne.) Even seeing it coming, Jake remembering this story and responding to Constantino's offer of a last chance to surrender with that one word, "Nuts" -- followed, for good measure, by "Go to Hell" -- was a stand up and cheer moment, and the final cliffhanger -- with the Jericho townspeople opening fire on the attacking New Bern army over a sudden to cut to black -- made you yearn for the next episode to follow that very instant.
When fans heard that the next episode wouldn't follow at all -- that CBS had canceled Jericho-- they erupted in fury. Organized efforts and random fan calls to action all revolved around the same idea, implanted ready-made for them in the season finale: the fan response, said to be the largest in history, to CBS would be the same as Jake's defiant answer to Constantino: "Nuts," expressed in the form of 20 tons of nuts and peanuts being sent to the network until, to everyone's amazement, CBS caved and announced that a new half-season of Jericho had been ordered for the spring of 2008.
A New World
That moment is now here, with new episodes starting with three stories that dramatically transform Jericho. During season 1, Jericho was insulated, alone, without resources: Jake's world was their little town and the roads around it, with the stray news reports from beyond seeming like messages from some ephemeral other world.
As the confrontation with New Bern developed, all else fell away: the past was a memory of a different place, different people; Jake and Jericho had been transformed, sealed in a circle of hell in which armed thugs who bore the shapes of old neighbors sought to fight and kill them for what was theirs. As the final battle opened, with his father lying dead behind him and an army advancing toward him, Jake's world telescoped into that single moment. The genius of Jericho is we were there too, in that place where nothing else matters but defending your town no matter the cost.
What's most striking about the new season is that in an instant, with an air strike by the forces of the new American government in Cheyenne, all that is wiped away. The war with New Bern becomes small potatoes as Jericho is suddenly, wrenchingly reconnected with the world. These stories and these characters are so well constructed that you can feel Jake's disorientation: Jericho is hurled into this new world as jarringly as it was into its post-nuke isolation, and Jake, having embraced defending the town with red-blooded passion, feels a strange sense of loss: he's no longer in control of his feud with New Bern and is suddenly powerless to avenge his father.
Larger Scale, Deeper Dangers
Some fans will be as frustrated by this change as Jake is, but the theme is the same as before: fighting to control your own fate when everything around you turns to quicksand. Last year, the dangers came from the anarchy and privation: now the Allied States of America's exertion of total control, its use of private contractors with their own agendas, the prospect of war with the remnants of the Federal government east of the Mississippi, and most of all the dark secret of its link to the terrorist plot make the Cheyenne government as much a danger to the people of Jericho as the anarchy it replaced.
Skeet Ulrich, like Jake, has stepped up to become the most compelling character on Jericho; conflicted, damaged by old and recent actions, a hothead forced by circumstance and a sense of duty into heavy responsibility, Jake is struggling with his role in the town and Jericho's role in the larger world. The supporting cast is all excellent, particularly the fun/heartwarming odd couple of Stanley (Brad Beyer) and Mimi (Alicia Coppola), who effortlessly convey their complicated love and rapport. Lennie James, as Hawkins, continues to excel, but now that his character is confirmed as a good guy we've lost a lot of the spice of season 1, and Hawkins has to work harder to be on a different track from Jake. Esai Morales is an effective addition, representing the difficulty a man of conscience has in a world based in necessities.
Though transformed, Jericho is still one of the strongest shows on television. It deserved to be rescued and deserves to be watched.