While it's not exactly subtle to posit a post-apocalyptic U.S. as the equivalent of Iraq, it does lay out a new grid for Jericho.


Airtime: Tuesdays, 10pm ET
Cast: Skeet Ulrich, Lennie James, Kenneth Mitchell, Esai Morales, April D. Parker, Ashley Scott, Brad Beyer, Alicia Coppola, Sprague Grayden
MPAA rating: N/A
Subtitle: Season Two First Three
Network: CBS
US release date: 2008-02-12
We’ve already been canceled. What are they going to do to us?

-- Carol Barbee, New York Times (13 February 2008)

Sometimes the only way to end these things is to start removing elements from the equation.

-- Major Beck (Esai Morales)

Jake (Skeet Ulrich) is looking surly. Again. Following the dustup with New Bern that ended the first season of Jericho, Jake and his townsfolk are feeling slightly less than triumphant. Now, at the start of Season Two, he's hauled in to a farmhouse dining room by the newly installed military forces from Cheyenne. Spotting the New Bern cop who tortured his brother Eric (Kenneth Mitchell), Jake is quick to attack, the grunting, grinding tussle between tribal opposites broken up by a couple of troops in helmets and desert camo fatigues. Enter Major Beck (Esai Morales). After he listens to the New Bern officer's explanation, Beck turns to Jake. "What's your story?"

Grrr. Jake's story is of course, opposite. Jake's face turns pained as he recalls Eric's abuse and the New Bern campaign of terror. "They attacked us," he says through gritted teeth. "Cost me my father." With these fighting words (and reminder that Gerald McRaney is no longer with the show), Jericho begins anew. Beck lays down his law. In case Jake "didn't get the message earlier today, I have the means to make this stick," Beck says, the tribal nonsense is over. Jake glares some more, then follows Beck outside to be apprised of his new status: officially reprimanded.

Jericho is back. And it's turned into Battlestar Galactica.

The basic storyline of the new, seven-episode season, ordered up after a coterie of hardcore fans deluged the CBS offices with nuts to protest the show's cancellation last year, is the transformation of the post-apocalyptic U.S. into Iraq, circa 2008. Occupied by forces with large weapons, humvees, and a basic lack of knowledge concerning local history or commitments, the forces represent the new government of the Allied States of America. Rebuilt following the "September attacks" ("six months since the day that changed the course of human history," according to a TV report), the A.S.A. has named an emergency president, former junior senator from Wyoming Tomarchio (George Newbern). Watching the news with Jericho's erstwhile sheriff, Jimmy (Bob Stephenson), in the hospital, Bill (Richard Speight Jr.) sighs: "It's the same story over and over again. What is it you think you're gonna miss?" Jimmy wants to know why the new flag looks different from the old one, suffering pangs of nostalgia. Bill's got a handle on the new flesh, however, long-living: TV Is the ways and means to popular support. Long feeling afraid, alone, and deprived, the reconstituted nation is a function of mass dissemination of particular information.

Jake and Eric, no surprise, are feeling distrustful. And as before, Jake is bolstered in his anxiety by Hawkins (Lennie James), super-secret agent with an expert's grasp of useful techniques (weapons, communications, torture), now on the run from former boss Valente (Daniel Benzali), who speaks with Beck via TV monitor, to underscore his evil Big Brothery affect. Beck means well, insistently. "There will be no vigilantism in my jurisdiction," he tells Jake more than once. "There will be no revenge killings, period." In order to "make it stick," he enlists Jake as sheriff, recalling his work outside Kandahar, when he'd find "the guy" to recruit as big-front ally in order to win over the community. With Jake as the newly "guy," Beck supposes, he'll be able to work out deals with Jericho, to "administrate" as he's been assigned to do.

Not trusting the bigger scheme behind such administration, Hawkins (supported by his super-cool wife Darcy [April D. Parker]), still has hold of evidence against the government he used to work for, and suspects the attacks were not perpetrated by Iran and North Korea, as the news is reporting, but rather, by some nefarious types from inside the government, currently housed in Cheyenne, a much-described Mecca of electricity and running water. As Hawkins and Jake connive to find out who's responsible for what, an old spooky buddy of Hawkins shows up, Chavez (Chris Kramer), who provides for action set pieces (, who provides for action set pieces (Jericho's fallback ploy, when plot trails off), but also gives Hawkins a bit of backstory.

Both men's doubts about the A.S. agenda are confirmed almost immediately. In next week's second episode, "Condor," Eric and Mayor Grey Anderson (Michael Gaston) debate the merits of newly delivered textbooks that feature rewritten history, specifically, "the decline and fall of the First Republic," celebrating aggression and decrying the fact that, as Eric observes, "We pulled out of Nam in '75 too early." Oh no no no, warns Erica adamantly, this celebration of hawkishness will not do. Slightly less furious (as he has not been tortured), Grey counsels wily infiltration, an effort to engage with the panel now writing a new constitution. Again, the Green brother responses tends to be rage, but Eric, at least in this instance, agrees to stand down and let Grey see what's what.

The revived Jericho is made like the Green brothers. Even if it continuers to lapse into the sentimental business embodied by hardworking farmer Stanley (Brad Beyer) and his independent-minded girl Mimi (Alicia Coppola) (by way of too many plinky piano scenes and circling camera kisses), at least now the stakes are more clearly defined. Mimi the accountant who loves order takes aim at the new ordering force in town, Jennings & Rall (read: Halliburton), when Trish (Emily Rose) entices Stanley to sign an illegal contract that guarantees he'll be paying back J&R for the rest of his life. Mimi's outrage at the company is granted a brief airing (and Trish is less insidious than she is a version of those brand-new MBAs sent to Baghdad to plan traffic patterns, her optimism and naïvete performed on her J&R blog), but it establishes J&R's unscrupulous intentions.

Such intentions are more plainly manifest in Ravenwood, J&R's private security contractor (read: Blackwater). As it becomes clear over the second season that Jake's mysterious past is more complicated than "hauling supplies" overseas. His work for Ravenwood, he announces, has left a bad taste in his mouth. In this season's third episode, "Jennings & Rall," Jake remembers an event in Iraq that sounds a lot like the recent Blackwater “incident” that left 17 civilians dead in Baghdad. Noting that that company's shooters were not held accountable, Jake concludes, “Ravenwood is a wholly owned subsidiary of Jennings & Rall, it’s their own private army. And anything, anything that Jennings & Rall does is judged by a different set of rules.” When Jake concludes that "These guys, they don't answer to anybody," Eric offer this bit of solace: "Jake, this isn't Iraq." Grrr. Jake knows better. "Maybe, maybe. But the rules are the same." And so the brothers nod, as ever, grimly, redefining themselves as insurgents against the occupation that so baldly curtails their rights, leeches their resources, and considers their population expendable.

While it's not exactly subtle to posit a post-apocalyptic U.S. as the equivalent of Iraq (or Afghanistan, as Beck's experience reminds you), it does lay out a new grid for Jericho. Now the tribal warfare and thirst for vengeance, while still troublesome, are recontextualized. The panicky, survivalist backdrop has given way to the metaphorical strategies of old Star Treks or new Battlestars, lobbing political and cultural critiques via SF. If the allegory seems obvious, it's hardly irrelevant.





Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.


JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.


All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.


Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.


Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.


Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.


'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.


Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.


Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.