“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.05) “Federal Response”

 

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“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.05) “Federal Response”

After my surprised delight over the narrative for the previous episode, (1.04) “Walls of Jericho”, I wondered if my delight would continued into the next episode. I would not judge (1.05) “Federal Response” to be better than its predecessor. But it proved to be quite surprising . . . from a certain point of view.

I am not stating that I found “Federal Response” disappointing, as I did (1.03) “Four Horsemen”, but I would not view it as one of the better episodes of Season One, let alone its first half. In this episode, the citizens of Jericho deal with mysterious messages from the Department of Homeland Security and several fires caused by a series of power spikes. The episode begins with a handful of Jericho’s citizens playing cards inside Mary Bailey’s Tavern at the break of dawn. The electricity, which had shut down in the previous episode, returns and telephones all over town start ringing. Jericho’s citizens receive a recorded message telling everyone to remain calm and that help is on the way. The Emergency Alert System is put into place as televisions display a message ordering citizens to stand by for further instructions. Also, it seems that someone within the government has ordered the blockage of all computer IP addresses. Even worse, the town becomes plagued by a few power spikes. One of them blows up a transformer on the public library’s roof, setting it ablaze and severing several power lines.

For nearly a decade, I had firmly believed that “Federal Response” was mainly about the series of fires that popped up around Jericho. And for the likes of me, I never understood what the fires had to do with the series’ main narrative. Now, the fires did have something of an impact upon one subplot . . . namely the marriage between Eric and April Green. The series had already established that their marriage was strained and Eric’s affair with tavern owner, Mary Bailey. When Eric and April’s home is destroyed by one of the fires, the former discovers that his wife had filed for divorce before the September bombs in the series’ pilot episode. This discovery led April to reveal that she had changed her mind about a divorce and wanted to give their marriage a second chance. So far, Eric has not made up his mind about that situation.

But what did the fires have to do with the series’ main narrative? Not much. But it did drive forward another subplot that proved to be more important. After the Emergency Alert System has been put in place and the IP addresses are blocked, the mysterious Robert Hawkins uses a portable satellite transceiver in his backyard to access his laptop. While Robert works on the latter to send a message, Jake and best friend Stanley Richmond go to the local pumping station to give access to water for the firemen trying to put out the library fire. Once their mission is a success, Jake goes to the roof with Stanley’s rifle scope to search for any other fires. Not only does he spot the fire that will consume Eric and April’s house, he also spots Robert working on the laptop. More importantly, Robert sees Jake watching him. Later, Robert forces Jake to accept his help in trying to save Eric and April’s house in order to ascertain what the latter knows. Later, Robert checks Jake’s background and discovers that the latter has visited a series of countries and now has a flagged passport. In the end, both the Federal “response” and the fires allowed Jake and Robert to realize that neither is what the other seemed to be. And their realizations will eventually drive the pair to develop a future relationship that will have a major impact upon the series’ main narrative.

Aside from the matter regarding Eric and April’s strained marriage, other personal dramas featured in this episode drove the series forward. For the first time, Jake hinted the trauma of his past five years to his father. And for the first time, Johnston Green seemed more than ready to welcome back his recalcitrant son. Robert’s family life remains strained, as he tries to discipline his older offspring Allison about her use of water. The teenager refuses to listen to her father, still resentful of the past. And Robert refuses to listen to his wife Darcy’s warning about how to treat their children, hinting that he might be forced to leave again. Stranded IRS agent Mimi Clark tries to warn Mary Bailey that Eric might not be serious about her. Dale Turner and Skylar Stevens grow even closer, after one of the fires destroy the trailer where Dale lives. And Jake’s reaction to Emily Sullivan getting injured by a fallen power line hints that he still harbors strong feelings for her. Rather surprisingly, all of these small, personal dramas will eventually have some impact upon the series’ future narrative and subplots.

“Federal Response” also featured the usual first-rate performances. The episode featured solid performances from most of the cast. But the performances that really caught my attention came from eight cast members. The messy love triangle between Eric, April and Mary proved to be realistic and complex, thanks to the first-rate performances by Kenneth Mitchell, Darby Stanchfield and Clare Carey. Alicia Coppola gave an interesting and wry performance as the observant and sardonic IRS agent Mimi Clark, who believes she knows how the Eric/Mary affair will end. Both Gerald McRaney and Pamela Reed were excellent as Jake and Eric’s parents, Johnston and Gail Green, in scenes that featured the pair’s separate reactions to Jake’s current presence in Jericho. But my favorite performances came from leads Skeet Ulrich and Lennie James, who did excellent jobs in conveying their characters’ reactions to the current crisis and personal demons. More importantly, for the first time they truly hinted the strong chemistry that will make them one of the better action teams in science-fiction/fantasy television.

As I had stated earlier, “Federal Response” proved to be an interesting episode that managed to contribute to the series’ narrative . . . by a hair’s length. It also featured some solid performances, along with first-rate ones that include both Skeet Ulrich and Lennie James. But there is one thing I forgot to add . . . the episode also ended on an ominous note. The town’s citizens felt a distinct rumble – as if the ground was shaking . . . before they rushed outside and spotted what appeared to be two ballistic missiles soaring through the night sky above Jericho.

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