Television Series / DVD Review
Jericho: The Second Season
Distributed By: Paramount
First Aired On: CBS
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When the new and innovative CBS drama called Jericho was cancelled after less than a season, fans were shocked. Here was something different…a show that wasn’t a copycat E.R. or NYPD Blue or an offshoot of Law & Order or CSI! This was a show that invited you to think, a show that offered its viewers a chance at problem solving along with the characters as new issues and setbacks arose! How could they do this to us?! Some fans refused to let the show go out this way and they organized a full-scale nationwide campaign which included letters, emails and packages sent to the executive offices of CBS. What was in the packages? Nuts - yes, nuts, based on a story in the last episode of Jericho.
As the story went, an American commander and his troops were surrounded in Nazi Germany. The German commander asked for the American’s surrender and, despite the hopeless situation, the American commander had one word in response to the German commander - “Nuts!” You see, in saying this one word, the American commander had communicated his unwillingness to give up without a fight. And so did thousands of Jericho fans all over the world, as they worked tirelessly on the campaign and bombarded CBS with tons of nuts. CBS unsuccessfully tried to get the creators of Jericho to stop the campaign, but in the end relented. Of course, they didn’t give in completely - they only allowed fans seven more episodes and barely promoted the show, knowing they would cancel it after the fans received a little closure. Wise decision in letting us have the closure, but cancelling one of the truly original shows on television - still a bad move.
Jericho’s first season (for more information on the characters and storyline, visit http://www.g-pop.net/jerichoseasonone.htm) focused on the members of a small town in Kansas who have found themselves cut off from the rest of the world in the wake of a nuclear attack on the United States. The members of the town were faced with the possibility of fallout, lack of electricity and adequate heating in the winter months, lack of medical and food supplies and more. Each time, with the leadership of the Green family and the help of some of the most tenacious and resourceful people in town, Jericho survived.
At the end of the first season, the town faced a new crisis - war with the neighboring town of New Burn. The patriarch of the Green family, war veteran and former mayor of the town, Johnston Green (Gerald McRaney), was killed in the initial engagement between the two towns. When Phil Constantino (Timothy Omundson), Sheriff of New Burn, asks for Jake Green’s (Skeet Ulrich) surrender, the former bad boy turned heroic leader remembers a World War II story told by his grandfather (David Huddleston) and replies with the word, “Nuts.” Jericho braces themselves for the oncoming engagement unaware that a military force is headed to their area, sent by Heather Lisinski (Sprague Grayden), a resident of Jericho believed dead at the hands of Constantino’s men.
Jericho’s second season opens with a bang as we get a taste of the war between the two towns and the havoc it wreaks. Flash forward to the Green residence as Jake Green is reunited with Constantino by Major Edward Beck (Esai Morales), a member of the Allied States of America (formerly the United States) forces in charge of this region of Kansas. Major Beck warns both Jake and Constantino that the war is over for both towns and that reprisals and revenge will not be tolerated. Of course, that doesn’t sit well for either party and you just know that this war isn’t over.
While ill feelings between the towns persist, things are moving forward for the citizens of Jericho who are receiving assistance in their plight first by the new Cheyenne, Wyoming-based government’s military and then by Jennings & Rall, a company contracted by the government for just such purposes. Jennings & Rall supplies the town with money, medical supplies, food, equipment and more, helping the citizens of Jericho get back on their feet again. But, as Stanley Richmond (Brad Beyer) and the people of Jericho soon learn, not all of Jennings & Rall’s business deals are on the up and up.
Meanwhile, we learn that Major Beck’s mission in Jericho is not to stabilize the town, but to locate a terrorist who is still in possession of one of the bombs that weren’t exploded during the nuclear attacks. Beck is told to look for a highly skilled terrorist named Sarah Mason (Sienna Goines), but fans of the show know by now that she’s long dead and that former associate Robert Hawkins (Lennie James) is actually a United States government agent in possession of that bomb trying to track down the terrorist group that caused the attacks. Searching for this terrorist is likely to take up much of Beck’s time and so he appoints Jake Green as the town’s sheriff.
At time goes by, the people of Jericho begin to realize that something is very wrong with this new government. Emily Sullivan points out that the history books she has been given to teach are a rewritten and severely inconsistent history of the country, skewing everything toward a positive view of the new government. Then, Gray Anderson finds himself invited to a conference in Cheyenne meant to rewrite the Constitution. And finally, through the help of a friend in Beck’s military unit, Hawkins and Jake find proof that former National Security Agency Director Thomas Valente (Daniel Benzali) is deeply entrenched in the Cheyenne government. Could this mean that the Cheyenne government is actually behind the attacks? An anonymous informant gives Hawkins enough information to make us believe so.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, remember those mercenaries from Ravenwood? Well, they’re back! J&R have subcontracted Ravenwood to assist in their administration duties. Guess who’s in charge - none other than Jake Green’s nemesis John Goetz, who begins to prove just how much of a sleazy character he really is. He’s truly not above anything, including murdering innocents.
Realizing how corrupt and immoral the Allied States of America truly is, Hawkins and Jake gather up all of their proof and the bomb and set out for Texas. Apparently, Texas has remained independent while the rest of the United States has either allied with the Cheyenne government or with another government based out of Columbus, Ohio. With Texas the only holdout veering toward an alliance with Cheyenne, Hawkins and company see that the only way to defeat Cheyenne is to expose them to the Texas government.
Alas, this mission would finally be carried out in the last episode of Jericho as the series was cancelled once again by CBS. I just knew it would be, despite the promises that if Jericho garnered higher ratings this season, CBS would consider a third season. Well, perhaps the show would have gotten higher ratings had it not been a midseason replacement with little to no advertising other than the web and less spacing in between episodes. In fact, in my opinion, it was the lack of advertising and multitude of weeks in which the show was not aired which killed the ratings in the first season. It’s hard for a show to go on hiatus and come back as strong as it was at the start, especially when the show is brand new. But I’m ranting and this is not a rant but an interview.
The second season of Jericho certainly felt rushed. I loved the style of the first season with the folks of Jericho undergoing trial after trial and showing their mettle during the toughest of times. I liked the way the characters were fleshed out over time. Unfortunately, with CBS giving the show only seven episodes, the storyline had to be rushed a bit - 21 episodes crammed into a seven episode timeframe. However, despite rushing the storyline, the producers and writers came up with something wholly believable and completely conceivable. It was rushed in that the small, intricate workings behind the Cheyenne-Jennings & Rall plot and all of the atrocities by New Burn and Ravenwood Administrator Goetz were not seen by the viewer, but alluded to. However, those allusions coupled with what we did see made perfect sense. There was a definite cohesion to the storyline.
Another complaint may be that some of the cast played a lesser role this season. With the resumption of romance between Jake and Emily (which felt a bit rushed thanks to time constraints), Ashley Scott got a little more air time. But characters like Gray Anderson (Michael Gaston), Gail Green (Pamela Reed), Mary Bailey (Clare Carey), Skylar Stevens (Candace Bailey) and the Hawkins kids (Sterling Ardrey and Jazz Raycole) weren’t seen much. However, Darcy Hawkins’ (April Parker-Jones) role was elevated quite a bit thanks to her offer to aide her husband in information gathering by working in the office of Major Beck.
Despite these minor complaints, I loved the second season and wish the show never had to end. I especially enjoyed the addition of Esai Morales as Major Beck. I’ve been watching Esai Morales’ career since I saw him in La Bamba in 1987 in which he played the half-brother of singer Ritchie Valens. I’ve always thought he was underrated as an actor. Morales expresses emotions with such intensity in his eyes, voice and stature, it sends chills down your spine. Chris Kramer was a cool addition to the cast as Chavez, friend and co-worker to Robert Hawkins. D.B. Sweeney was incredibly sleazy as Goetz, a character you simply loved to hate and not something I’m used to from this actor who usually plays the likeable oaf. I also enjoyed Emily Rose as Trish Merrick, an employee of Jennings & Rall who was not always on board with the way the company did things.
Jericho: The Second Season DVD contains a few extra features worth checking out, most notably the alternate ending of the season finale, Patriots and Tyrants. Having only seven episodes to work with, the creators of the show were asked to film two endings to the season in case the show were to be picked up for a third season. The episode that actually aired was not the original ending. In fact, the unaired ending was the original, offering the possibility for a new and very intriguing storyline. I actually like the unaired ending a great deal more than the aired one. The deleted scenes, although not plentiful, were interesting and I wondered at the reasoning behind cutting some of these scenes other than time constraints. Rebuilding Jericho is a featurette in which we learn the rollercoaster ride that the cast and crew were put through thanks to a shocking CBS cancellation which led to a fan uprising culminating in the show’s reinstatement for seven episodes and possibly more. The featurette showed just how much work it took to get everyone (cast and crew) back together and finish seven episodes in the time and with the money allotted for the project. No easy task for sure, but the producers, crew and cast did an amazing job. Nut Job is a featurette which describes how fans brought the show back and is a sort of thank you from the cast, crew and producers for all the work…and nuts…it took to get the job done.
Now, $23.00 may sound like an awful lot to pay for seven episodes plus an alternate ending and a few decent special features, but as a fan of the show and someone who thinks CBS definitely jumped the gun in cancelling this series, I say that the price is perfect. For those of you who want both seasons in one DVD set, you should check out Jericho - The Complete Series, but be warned, the special features are different in this set. I’m quite happy with my Jericho: The First Season and Jericho: The Second Season DVD sets and wouldn’t trade them for anything. In fact, I can’t wait to watch them again!