I just finished watching the (seven episode long) second season of Jericho. Unfortunately, the show, which was canceled after its first season and brought back after a massive show of fan support, was canceled again, and it will only come back if e.g. the Sci-Fi channel picks up the show. So the final episode of this season was probably the series finale, and I’m going to treat it as such in my comments here.
First off,, I’d like to note that I think it’s pretty cool that CBS made all the episodes available on their website, without advertisements in the actual video – the page might have some, I don’t know, I have AdBlock – and the ability to watch it fullscreen.
Now – what do I think of season two of Jericho? Well, it’s radically different from season one. Season one was basically straight-up post-apocalyptic speculative fiction a la Alas, Babylon – a small town tries to survive the lawlessness and lack of a central government that result from a nuclear attack. In season two, the government begins putting itself back together (the season begins with the army arriving and stopping a border skirmish between Jericho and New Bern). It’s actually a rather interesting premise that I don’t think has ever been explored before. Alas, Babylon ended with the arrival of the Air Force plane and the revelation that the government had put itself back together after a fashion – so season two of Jericho could be seen as a television adaption of a non-existent sequel to that book.
But how well executed was it? In many ways, extremely well. The interactions between Jericho, New Bern, the army, and Ravenwood (Jennings & Rall’s mercenary army) was really interesting – the army is such an overwhelming presence, you would think it could just bring law and order immediately, but that’s not the case – mostly because the reconstructed government was almost, well, fascist, in the economic sense. The governmental corporation Jennings & Rall starts taking everything over, getting everyone in debt to them, etc, and the Jerichoans are not particularly happy about that. (That’s all I’ll say to avoid spoilers.)
So the show was really good when it focused on the town. The problem is, sometimes it didn’t. The entire storyline with Robert Hawkins, the undercover CIA/FBI/black-ops/something agent who tried to stop the nuclear attacks but failed and then starts trying to expose the governmental cover-up, seemed kind of silly to me. Amusing at times, but mostly unbelievable. I think the show would have been better keeping the focus on the town of Jericho.
That’s not to say they shouldn’t have had the political stuff with the various countries arising from the ashes of the USA – the Allied States of America based in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and encompassing all states west of the Mississippi save Texas; the Independent Republic of Texas; and the United States of America based in Columbus, Ohio governing all states east of the Mississippi. That stuff was pretty fun – reminded me of the Laredo Nation, the Texark Empire, the Denver Nation, etc, from A Canticle for Leibowitz. But I thought Jake and Hawkins’ excursion to Cheyenne to recover a nuclear bomb, in particular, was just over-the-top – though I’m not sure how else they could have gone about resolving that plotline. I think part of the problem is that that part of the plot advanced unrealistically fast, an unfortunate result of having the season be only seven episodes long.
And how about the ending? It was technically a cliff-hanger, but didn’t have any cliff-hanger feeling to it – it felt like Jericho’s job was done, they had done what they could to start the overthrow of the corrupt Cheyenne government, and now it was in the hands of the eastern USA. A fairly good end for the series, I think. Apparently there was an alternative, more cliffhanger-y ending shot that you can see on the DVD, but I’m content with the current ending.
And I am very happy that I am able to be content with the current ending. I may have mentioned this before, but if not – I much prefer TV shows that actually have an advancing plot that leads to a definite conclusion, rather than just story arc after story arc after story arc with the show never ending. So in a way, I’m not that upset that Jericho was canceled after season two. I think the show works as a story arc as it currently stands, and doesn’t really need much more – you could tack on another season, but it isn’t really necessary.
So all in all – I still think Jericho is a pretty good show. I do think the first season is in many ways better than the second – or, at least, some of the episodes were better, though it had several episodes that were essentially filler, which they couldn’t afford to do this season. But season two is definitely worth watching.
And even though the show was canceled unfortunately early, don’t be afraid of unresolved cliffhangers – I think the series ending works fairly well (much better than if they had ended with the last episode of season one and never filmed season two).