Jericho S1E1/2: The First Seventeen Hours/Fallout

by thethreepennyguignol

So, with the Lost recaps finally behind me, and lockdown still continuing, and a lack of anything better to do – it seemed only right that I choose a new TV recapping project. I honestly have really enjoyed having a weekly recap to watch and write for every week, even just for that little hint of normalcy and routine that has been forcibly ejected over the last few months, so something had to take Lost’s place.

And, with the help of my delicious Twitter followers, I’ve decided on a show which I’ve been dithering around for a long time now – Jericho. Now, part of the reason that this show makes a lot of sense to me as a follow-up to Lost is because it is one of the highest-profile spiritual successors to the wildly successful Lost series; shows like Fringe and FlashForward filled airtime in the mid-noughties as networks tried to find the high-concept, high-mythology genre show that would land them the same success as Lost did for ABC.

And Jericho is probably the one with the messiest – and therefore most interesting – life story. After a super-successful pilot, the rest of the first season (2006-2008) delivered painfully low viewing numbers, canned by CBS after a single season, a would-be mistake better left unremembered. But what differentiated it from other failed shows of the same post-Lost era was a passionate fanbase that aggressively petitioned the network to bring Jericho back – eventually, they grudgingly agreed to a seven-episode second season, before cancelling the show again and leaving a series of comics to fill out the rest of the third and fourth season. Constant rumours about a reboot, a movie, something to give the fans what they wanted, swirled ever since, but even a ravening fanbase couldn’t bring it back to life. The Walking Dead slid into the Lennie-James-Post-Apocalypse spot in 2010, and Jericho just looked like a false start in bringing that genre to life.

But! I’ve always had a real soft spot for Jericho. I watched it not long after it first came out, and yes, thank you for asking, it’s because I had a crush on Skeet Ulrich, and something about it just landed for me. I’ve always found post-apocalyptic stuff particularly compelling, and there was something about the doomed nature of the show – both on and off-screen – that always intrigued me. Much like my love for the brilliant Carnivale, there’s a mystique about a promising show cut down in its prime that I just can’t say no to.

Which brings me to the first couple of episodes for this recapping project: The First Seventeen Hours and Fallout. If there’s one thing these episodes have to do, it’s to sell us the title of this show: we’re going to be spending the next thirty or so hours in Jericho, Kansas, and we need to understand exactly what that means. Sure, there’s a mushroom cloud floating on the horizon, but I need to know about the small-town politics, dammit!

Obviously, this comes via Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich), son of the current mayor, returning to the town after a long period away for reasons that are not made clear. And, straight-up, I have to be honest with you here: there will be thirsting over Skeet over the course of these recaps. If you were a fan of my Riverdale recaps why those were ridiculous you’ll know what to expect, but if not, consider this me telling anyone who might object to this union to speak now or forever hold their peace.

And, to be honest in more relevant ways – I think that part of the reason Jericho appealed to me so much when I first watched it back in the day was because of the small-town, rural setting. As I’ve written about before, I grew up in the middle of nowhere, the closest hub of people a tiny village balanced on the edge of a Loch – and I sought out small-town shows as a result (hey, True Blood, what’s up, you horny bastard). Steven Chbosky, who wrote this episode (yes, as in, the Perks of Being a Wallflower dude), grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, and, bitch, it shows. 

I really enjoy watching the reactions of this small town as they try to cope with what has just happened – much like in Lost, I adore seeing people working against the odds to survive with only their wits to help them, and the second part of this opening really makes that land as rain threatens to bring killer radiation pouring down on Jericho. It’s exciting, the stakes are high, the fear and panic and confusion is well-drawn and occasionally genuinely scary – and, amongst it, the human conflicts remain the most interesting.

One of the best things about Jericho, consistently, is the way that it takes small-town politics and history and strains them against the enormity of an event like a nuclear apocalypse. There are only hints of it here, nods to scandals not-yet uncovered, to history that hasn’t been exposed, but as someone who grew up on a steady drip of the village gossip, the tone is exactly right.

And the best way to expose all the cracks in that facade is to drop someone like Jake right into the middle of it again – someone who’s history has clearly left some mess behind. I don’t think Jake is Ulrich’s finest performance – he does better with an asshole, usually, if you’ll ignore the awfulness of that turn of phrase – but I think he’s a solid leading man, and one who only gets more interesting as the show unfolds.

Of course, if we’re talking about interesting characters, we need to discuss Robert Hawkins (Lennie James). As soon as he wanders on-screen, you just know that this guy is a cut above everyone else we’ve seen so far. New in town, and hiding out in a bunker with his family, with apparent knowledge of the attacks across the USA, Jericho tantalizes with what’s to come with him, and I already know it’s going to be great. It’s Lennie fucking James, for Christ’s sake – if anyone can elevate a show like this one, it’s him.

There’s a lot more to say about these two episodes, but I really want to deep-dive into certain characters and aspects later in these recaps – if you are planning on reading them, I would really recommend watching the show to keep up, or at least having a decent grasp of the characters and arcs that this first season covers. I’m genuinely super excited about these recaps, and I really hope that you are too! Feel free to hop into the comments to share your thoughts or memories of Jericho, or hit me up on Twitter or Tumblr to chat with me!

If you liked this recap, and want to see more stuff like it, please feel free to jump into some of my other recapping projects – the Fifty Shades of Grey book series, the first Harry Potter book, Doctor WhoGame of Thrones, and American Horror Story, to name a few. I also write about movies with my brilliant co-editor over at No But Listen. If you’d like to support my work, please consider supporting me on Patreon, or buying my books!

(header image via Amazon)