Jericho S1E3/4: Four Horseman/Walls of Jericho
You know, I wasn’t sure how well this show was going to stand up.
I mean, I knew that I loved Jericho, but coming at it from a more critical point of view, I really didn’t know if it was going to work the same way it had before. And, yes, okay, I’m only four episodes in – let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, there’s a lot for them to fuck up yet – but I have just loved coming back to Jericho after all these years away.
To be fair, there are a few exciting mid-noughties stylistic choices that really make one wince: there are a few moments where the camera just spasms in surprise at certain events, tiny zoom-ins and zoom-outs that serve to underline nothing but that this is a show still trying to find its feet in the way it looks and sounds. Speaking of sounds – if the music could calm down one little bit for a hot second, instead of yelling the emotional plot points into my ear before they’ve actually had a chance to happen, that would be great.
I think a big part of how well Jericho has endured is how impressively forward-facing the series is right now. Lost was tripped up, pacing-wise, by the constant reliance on flashbacks, but Jericho is all about chaos and the immediacy of dealing with a rolling stream of problems that just won’t stop coming. It makes for such compelling television, to see the way that these characters interact with each other and the new world around them at large, as they attempt to handle the mess of issues that keep rocking up to ruin things.
And a lot of that, this week, ties in to Robert Hawkins and his family. Now, it kind of goes without saying that Lennie James is just the best actor in this show, and Jericho actually makes the best of that by giving him the juiciest role. I’ve always preferred big twists to be embedded in the show the way that Jericho handles this particular one, where we know everything about it but the single, central piece. They’re delivering the secrets of his past in a distinctly matter-of-fact way – nobody is sneaking around, acting strange, delivering oblique monologues about season-long arcs and themes under the guise of normal conversation. These scenes work even when you know what the big secret happens to be, because the characters are acting like real people instead of plot-delivery machines for the benefit of the audience.
And any situation with high stakes tends to boil down relationships to their bare essentials, which is a great way to establish the characters function within the world of Jericho. My favourite example of this, from this little duo of episodes, is Stan Richmond, Jake’s best friend from back in the day – there are little moments peppered through their scenes together where the show just captures that affectionate, long-held, slightly cantankerous but ultimately loving friendship that blossoms in places where you might not have many people to choose from.
This is also the beginning of the sweetest, saddest little arc in this first act of Jericho: Gracie and Dale. Despite the fact that both characters how clearly spent their whole lives in Jericho, there is a distance between them and the rest of the residents – Gracie, because she was basically robbed of everything she owned in the panic following the initial attacks, and Dale trapped without his family and already dealing with a chronic case of teen angst. I like the way the show allows them to find this softness with each other, something that exists between just the two of them, even as the town explodes into chaos around them. It’s a reminder that, amongst everything awful that’s happening here, there is some humanity left. There needs to be, otherwise this show wouldn’t be worth watching.
Jericho is setting up relationships, characters – a few love triangles, though, honestly, they’re probably the least interesting things about the show so far. But there are moving parts being solidified into place as we round on the bigger chunks of the plot that we’re moving towards for the rest of the season, and I’m impressed with how they’re establishing some of their major relationships (and some of their major conflicts, to boot, though we haven’t really gotten into those yet – apart from Lennie James hard-talking someone to death in the forty seconds that Jake was out of the room). So far, this show is already standing up well. Doubly so now that they’ve dropped the obnoxious noughties soundtrack that they spunked all their pilot budget on.
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(header image via DVDBash)