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Reviewed by Will Harris
ere it is: the season they said would never happen.
When “Jericho” finished its freshman year with a season finale that found Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich) standing up against the town of New Bern, speaking for everyone in Jericho when he echoed the sentiments of Gen. Anthony McAuliffe during the Battle of the Bulge and screamed, “Nuts!,” the credits rolled just as the battle between the two towns began. But when CBS announced that it would not be renewing the series for a second season, it seemed all but certain that that was where “Jericho” would end…until, that is, the show’s fans decided to scream, “Nuts!” Refusing to lie down and accept cancellation, the supporters of the series sent tons and tons – and we’re talking literally here – of peanuts to CBS. It was enough for the network to backpedal and give the show a stay of execution, offering up a seven-episode second season.
Granted, the first thought you probably have is, “Seven episodes? What a gyp!” Certainly, there were plenty of fans who felt the same way upon hearing that announcement, but the necessarily-streamlined season actually worked wonders for the quality of the series, forcing the writers to cut away much of the extraneous material that had so bogged down the show’s first season.
For a series that was supposed to be dealing with the repercussions of a nuclear attack on the United States, the early episodes of “Jericho” were highly prone to getting caught up in the minutiae of the interpersonal relationships of the townsfolk. Not that that wasn’t somewhat to be expected, given the producers’ initial claims that they wanted to offer somewhat of a “Little House on the Prairie” feel, but given that the concept of the series was so dark, it felt far too often that opportunities were being missed, with tantalizing plot threads being dangled in front of the viewers without being followed up on quickly enough. After the series returned from its network-forced midseason hiatus, however, much of the sentimentality was shelved, the amount of action was increased significantly, and as a result, things began to move along at a much faster pace.
With Season 2, “Jericho” maintained that velocity. The result of the battle between Jericho and New Bern which had just begun at the end of the previous season was quickly explained in a flashback sequence, with the sequence itself framed within the introduction of a new character: Major Edward Beck (Esai Morales), of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. Maj. Beck is in charge of the reconstruction efforts to restore Jericho's power and communication with the outside world, but he also stymies Jake’s efforts to extract revenge on Phil Constantino, the sheriff and town manager of New Bern, for the death of his father. As a result, Jake starts to react emotionally rather than rationally, which earns him a stern talking-to from Jericho’s resident undercover operative, Robert Hawkins (Lennie James).
Although Season 1 introduced a tremendous number of characters, Season 2 has separated the wheat from the chaff. Jake and his brother, Eric (Kenneth Mitchell), are understandably at the forefront, though the storyline of Eric’s relationship with local tavern owner Mary Bailey (Clare Carey) is now barely referenced. In fact, the relationship between Stanley Richmond (Brad Beyer) and Mimi Clark (Alicia Coppola) is really the only romance that gets any play this season, and that’s only because it plays directly into the overall plot arc. Hawkins and his wife, Darcy (April D. Parker), have now built a sufficient rapport for him to incorporate her into his secret plans, but their kids are almost never seen. The show’s other young players from Season 1, teenagers Dale Turner and Skylar Stevens, only make small appearances, and most of the other second-tier characters only turn up when they’re needed for a specific plot thread. Heather Lisinski (Sprague Grayden) returns from the Nebraska army camp where she was left at the end of Season 1, however, and becomes a liaison to Maj. Beck.
There are precious few moments wasted in the second season of “Jericho.” The writers have fun providing details of the overall state of America that were so sorely missing in Season 1, including a discussion about the rewriting of textbooks to reflect recent events and spin the blame for the bombings in a specific political direction, along with much talk of rewriting the Constitution to remove the Second Amendment. The private military company of Ravenwood provides an ominous presence, thanks to the slimy John Goetz (played in surprisingly ominous fashion by D.B. Sweeney), while the corporate entity, Jennings & Rall, starts off seeming rather FEMA-y but ends up decidedly Haliburton-esque. Most importantly, however, Hawkins finally finds out who was responsible for the bombings in the first place.
Those who actually tuned in for Season 2 know how many twists, turns, and outright shocks it includes. While things are wrapped up satisfactorily at the end of Episode 7 – or, at least, agreeably enough that when it ended, viewers didn’t scream like Charlie Brown after Lucy’s pulled the football away from him for the umpteenth time – the overall quality of the season was such that it was always inevitable that the show’s fans would’ve wanted more. Unfortunately, there just weren’t enough of them for CBS to be able to rationalize the approval of a third season. We can only hope that, with the DVD release of “Jericho: The Second Season,” there will be a sufficient groundswell to warrant a continuation of the “Jericho” saga, as there are many more stories which might yet be told.
Special Features: CBS/Paramount knew full well that the show’s diehard fanbase would want bonuses, and they provided several nice ones. There are two featurettes, “Nut Job” and “Rebuilding Jericho,” which detail the resurrection of the show, how the fans were directly responsible for saving the series, and the excitement the actors had at returning to work. There are also deleted scenes and audio commentaries from the stars and producers. Most tantalizing, however, is the alternate unaired ending to the final episode of Season 2, which would’ve set up Season 3 in a big, big way. Sigh.