Jericho S1E17/18: One Man’s Terrorist/A.K.A.

by thethreepennyguignol

Hi there, fellow residents of Jericho! If you, like me, are celebrating the holidays just now, I hope you have a safe and genuinely lovely time no matter what. And, if you’re not, I hope you’re safe and know that you’re genuinely lovely because you’re right here reading this review. How about that, huh?

Anyway, with that crumb of niceness out of the way, let’s get into a couple of – rather nasty – Jericho episodes.

This two-hander, One Man’s Terrorist and A.K.A, are really quite subversive for where the show has been going so far. Up until this point, I think it’s fair to say that Jericho has pretty much been as apple-pie Americana as a post-apocalypse can get; ranches, horses, frontiering, trading, a whole town comin’ together to go back to basics and make things work. Jericho (the town) has always felt like a really specific choice for the show to start base at, given that hunkered-down, small-town feel that Jericho (the show) has gone out of its way to underline to us from the start. Everyone knows everyone here. It’s the side of America that, in 2006 or so, when Jericho first came out, was certainly the one that was being exported as an ideal (at least, from the point of view of a non-American who lived through that time).

So these episodes are basically the shadow versions of that Americana. The first one, on a smaller scale, as Emily’s fiance Roger turns on the mayor, Gray, after he tries to kick out the refugees who Roger brought to town with him, is a rejection of the small-town power systems that have existed here, the reliance on the people on top to do the right thing; when Gray chooses to tear-gas the refugees out of the church basement, it’s no coincidence that his predecessor reminds him of what happened in Waco. It’s authority gone wrong, even if for the right reasons, and the often violent pushback against that by the people it hurts. Even the episode’s title, One Man’s Terrorist, is a reminder of just how thin the line between terrorist and defender of a noble cause is in the American canon (no pun intended) – a pretty bold thing to do in this paranoid post-9/11 era.

Speaking of terrorism – we finally get to the bottom of just what Robert Hawkins has been doing in Jericho all this time, after Jake confronts him and we get a series of flashbacks leading up to the detonation of the bombs that took out a huge chunk of America. Now, at the time that this series was produced, the USA was basically bang in the middle of the Bush administration, full Farenheit 9/11 era, and in a place where terrorism was still often being sold as a problem that came from the outside of America in (regardless of the actual facts). I genuinely think it was pretty daring for the show to so unequivocally, and in its first season, no less, come out with a plot that puts the blame for the near-annihilation of America squarely on the shoulders of a Government official, working with a wider network of homegrown American extremists. It’s a far more compelling plot to have this particular call coming from inside the house, and it offers a really interesting dark side to Jericho’s generally optimistic take on America.

And, of course, having the symbol for this come down to the telltale nuke under the floorboards makes perfect sense. The scene where Robert reveals the nuclear bomb to Jake for the first time has the epic feel that it should for what it means for our two main characters; Skeet Ulrich plays it really well, confronted with what was basically the near-mythical monster in the closet for his childhood (as his age puts him at least being aware of some of the Cold War tensions growing up), it’s shock, awe, terror, all the worst things that came with a power and a danger like that right under his feet. The beating of that hideous nuke finally comes to fruition in the best way possible, a poison at the heart of Jericho, and, by extension, if Jericho is meant to represent the best of small-town America, the United States itself.

Jericho is closing in on finishing its first season, and I’ve got to say that taking a little more time to look closely at it to write these recaps has uncovered some new angles to the show that only serve to enrich what it’s got to offer. One Man’s Terrorist and A.K.A are subversive, inventive, and pretty darn brilliant – in theory if not always in execution, thanks to those constant micro-zooms and dutch tilts – and, knowing where this is going, I can’t wait to see what else I can find on this re-watch to add more to this brilliant little show.

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 kurdmovie #kurdmovies #kurd movie)