Jericho Still an Exercise in Frustration, Intrigue

Well, my strange relationship with Jericho -- half frustration, half intrigue -- continues after this week's episode. Since the beginning of the series, I've been kinda expecting that we'll discover things really aren't what they seem. You know, like: There were no bombs, and the town is really the subject of a mass psychology experiment in seeing how people react to the End Of The World As We Know It. It wouldn't be all that hard to pull off -- the experimenters cut the power and communications to the town and start feeding in "satellite" video from "China," dropping "airlifted" care packages from overseas, and so on. How they managed to simulate a mushroom cloud in the distance would have been a tricky thing to make work, but still ....

With every episode since the show returned in February, however, such a scenario is becoming less and less likely, unless we're being misled in ways that would be practically criminal. No, I think what was my reaction to some intermittently poor writing, as I tried to make more of the show than was actually there, is turning into a reaction that is annoyed as it is fascinated. If we can assume that all the backstory with Hawkins, the FBI agent (or whatever he is), is being presented to us fairly, that it's a real representation of what happened, then there's no question that the bombs were real ... and no question, after last night, that the perpetrators were homegrown bad guys looking to completely destabilize the United States and destroy any semblance of central government. Or at least that the perpetrators wanted that to create that impression.

This week's episode with its dramatic emphasis on the completely domestic origin of the nefarious nuclear plot made me realize that the show is a kind of anti-24, a reminder that the greatest dangers to American democracy come from the inside. (All the cornball heartland-of-America stuff the show shovels out is really rather sweet, seen from that perspective: We the people are America, it says, and it's up to us to maintain the ideal, not men in power suits in Washington.) I've been trying to think of another regular TV series that so radically altered the state of the nation, and I can't come up with one. Even after, what? Six years of 24 and all its fear-mongering, the federal government in its world still manages to toddle along; but Jericho blew it all to hell in its first few minutes. And so the show becomes about trying not to let what really matters get blown to hell along with it.

I'm still not entirely convinced everything is as it seems on Jericho. It was awfully convenient this week that Hawkins knew so damn much about what happened. And as the active fanbase at the official Jericho fansite and the keepers of the Jericho entry at Wikipedia have pointed out, the show's geography is a bit wonky -- the town doesn't seem to be in any real place in Kansas at all -- and there are some discrepancies about which cities may or may not have been nuked.

Maybe it's all a dream. Maybe there's something even more nefarious going on than a plot to bomb every major American city. Maybe it's just my wishful thinking seeing stuff that isn't there.


MaryAnn Johanson

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