Jericho S1E15/16: Semper Fidelis/Winter’s End

by thethreepennyguignol

This double-header in Jericho is all about the only inevitables: death, and taxes. Mostly windmill taxes. But I want to talk about the death.

So far into the series, we haven’t had a major character death that feels like it has shaken the show down to its very core (of course, I haven’t forgotten about losing Gracie earlier in the season, but it didn’t feel like a seismic shift for much more than Erik Knudsen). And, in just two episodes, we get two of them – one that irrevocably changes the Hawkins family, and the next that changes the Greens for good.

So, let’s start with the Hawkinses, Jericho’s resident nuclear bomb storage centre and home to the tensest family dinners in town. This is a really interesting death for the show to explore, not so much because of who dies, but because of how they buy it. Sarah, who’s been scavenging the family for the last crumbs of what she needs to deliver to her higher-ups, holds Robert’s son hostage and threatens the entire family unless she gets her hands on the bomb. The way this episode is shot, the tenseness and claustrophobia of that living room as Robert and Sarah try to battle their way to a conclusion where one of them actually wins, is great stuff – Lennie James consistently elevates this material into something sharp and spiky, and, given some real meaty shit to get into, he rocks it.

But the real shock of this death comes when his daughter is the one to kill Sarah. It’s a twist that’s been well built-in to the series, but one that still feels like a genuine shock when it hits; Darcy’s reaction, broken-hearted that her child will have to live with such an act, is raw and real and powerful. This is the worst thing that could have happened to the Hawkinses, especially from Darcy’s perspective – it’s one thing to have the family living in fear of violence enacted against them, but quite another to know that that violence has made its way inside them in such an inescapable fashion. That violence is internal now, not external, and working out the infection is going to be a hell of a job. There’s no coming back from something like this, and Robert Hawkins knows that, even if it hasn’t sunk in for everyone in the family yet.

And the episode that follows delivers another fatal blow for Jericho’s first family, the Greens, as April takes a turn for the worse and dies after complications from her pregnancy push her over the edge. This episode, Winter’s End, is probably the best of the whole show so far – it’s well into its groove now, the character dynamics and conflicts well-established and easily explored, moving between threads with ease and confidence in a way that I love to see. With the whole episode set around the hospital, set around the futile attempts to keep April alive, things narrow down to the immediate and the important, and that makes for some great television.

There’s so many superb pieces of character work here, but the one that stands out for me the most is the stuff Jericho centres around Kenchy (Aasif Mandvi), the only doctor left in Jericho now that April is six feet under. Traumatized from weeks of failed operations and an inability to help those he desperately needs and wants to, his last-minute operation on April and her child don’t take on the noble tone that most TV doctors are gifted; he’s drunk, he’s angry, he’s scared that he’s going to have to live with another loss on his hands. Once it becomes clear that she’s not going to survive, he storms out, forcing Jake to confront him and beg him to return. I’ve only got good things to say about Mandvi’s performance here, but there’s a line delivery after Jake asks him to come back to work on April where he gestures to an already-grieving Eric and asks if Jake really wants him to say it in front of him – it’s a sensational bit of writing, the first time the show acknowledges that April isn’t going to survive, matched with killer acting. I just love that Jericho is going to these complex places, asking questions of characters that they can’t answer, and trusting the audience to find the grey area in the choices that are being made and how they’ll effect the people who remain in Jericho. The best drama comes when everyone involved has a good point to argue, and this is a prime example of Jericho establishing that and using it to twist the knife in an already brutal situation.

April’s death is genuinely gutting, and Kenneth Mitchell (most assists in the premier league this season) plays that dazed devastation with such power; April’s last scene, when she wakes up with enough energy left to tell her husband what she wants to name the baby that she doesn’t know is already dead, is given time to breathe, and feels unyieldingly hard in a way that I appreciate. This isn’t an episode that tries to put a neat bow on this loss, give us a hallmark moment so we can move on. The Green family is shattered by the loss, and the last shot of them over April’s bed, holding her and each other, is a silent testament to how well the bond between them has been built over the last dozen episodes or so, and just how hard it’s going to be to watch them find their way through their grief going forward.

This double-header is a real seismic shift for Jericho, and it’s two major families – the Hawkinses are dealing with an infiltration of the very thing they tried to keep out, and the Greens with a brutal loss that teeters on the edge of shattering all of them. Moving forward, Jericho is going to be a very different place to return to from this moment out, and, as we come into the final stretch of the first series, that’s just the way I like it.

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(header image via Simkl)