Jericho S1E7/8: Long Live the Mayor/Rogue River
You know, if there’s one thing that Jericho does right (who am I kidding, there are so very many things), it’s horror.
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I think that’s what really appealed to me in that first watch-through, back when I was a baby horror fan just beginning to explore what the genre could contain – by this point in the season, the sheer terror and horribleness that comes with existing in a world that has already demanded some sacrifice of humanity is starting to sink in, but it’s this particular double-hander that really drives that home.
The first episode this week, Long Live the Mayor, is pretty much set-up and housekeeping for what comes next – a race against time that sees Eric and Jake heading out to a distant hospital to collect supplies for their critically-ill father, only to find that the hospital in question is occupied by the single remainder of a military group (an always-welcome Theo Rossi) sent to take out the remnants of the sick and irradiated.
I adore anything that takes a haunted-house approach to storytelling, and I think that exactly what Rogue River does, as Jake and Eric attempt to navigate the corpse-ridden hospital and find what they need to in order to get their father out of his illness alive. There is something so visceral about the presence of the almost still-human bodies, of the sick and the murdered, strewn around this place – it’s a great, vividly unpleasant setting for an episode, and one that really captures just how far so many places have had to stray from their humanity to survive (and a reminder, of course, that Jericho is not safe from the same nightmare at some point if they don’t keep their defenses up).
But to keep horror really horrifying, you have to be able to bring out the humanity of the people we’re meant to be scared for. Rossi does a brilliant job as the traumatized and terrified single survivor of the massacre – a massacre, the episode reveals in a bleak twist, he was part of enacting – but it’s Eric (Kenneth Mitchell, looking so unsettlingly like Tottenham Hotspurs striker Harry Kane that it physically pains me not to make a pass into the box to set him up for a one-touch finish every time I see him) who really sells it for me this week. Jake is hardened (from what, we’re just starting to understand), but Eric just doesn’t have the same frame of reference to navigate this – after his collected attitude to everything that’s been going on back in Jericho, there’s something deeply humanizing about seeing him clearly trying to hold back tears as he navigates the hallways of corpses and the dead, and the fear of facing someone who might want to kill them.
Elsewhere in the show, there’s a very different kind of horror going on – a home invasion. The Hawkinses (never know how to write that, going to stick with this for now), with the Green brothers out of town and the rest of the family incapacitated, are descended on by the rest of the police department as they try to work out just What the Fuck is Up with Robert Hawkins and his family.
Quite honestly, I would have been fine with a whole episode just around this plot (in fact, I would have been even more fine with a whole bottle episode just set inside the house with as few takes as possible, but maybe I’m getting ahead of myself). For one, it puts Lennie James at the front and centre of the story once more, and especially his relationship with his family – but this time, instead of the sharp edges aimed at one another, the family comes together as a unit against the invading forces. It’s one thing to see Lennie James at war with his family, but that can only last so long before it gets old. Seeing them work together, even if most of them aren’t even sure what they’re coming together to protect, is a far more intriguing dynamic. The show manages to pitch it really nicely – even though we know that the sheriff’s department are right to suspect Hawkins, we’re still thoroughly on his side here, if only because he’s finally working things out with his family.
This is a really solid two-hander for Jericho, and a good chance to get a little deeper into Eric (no, not like that) as well as move the Hawkins’ family dynamic forward a little further. Things are moving – even if where they’re moving to isn’t exactly pleasant.
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(header image via NotreCinema)