“JERICHO” Retrospect: (1.07) “Long Live the Mayor”

 

“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.07) “Long Live the Mayor”

For the past two to three years, I have always believed that the Season One episode, (1.08) “Rogue River” was the one in which “JERICHO” really came into its own. But after watching (1.07) “Long Live the Mayor”, the episode that first aired a week before “Rogue River”, I think I may have made a mistake. .

In this episode, Gray Anderson’s return to Jericho brought about a great deal of emotions from some of the townspeople. Especially from two people in particular. This all started when Gray had volunteered to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who had left town in (1.03) “Four Horsemen”. They left to search for outside news following the nuclear attacks. Jake had immediately returned with news of a plane crash that involved Emily Sullivan’s missing fiance, Roger Hammond. Another “Horseman”, Shep, disappeared for good, due to guilt over the death of citizen during the fallout in the second episode. I do not recall who the third Horseman was, but Gray remained missing for three episodes before his return in this one.

Gray’s news turned out to be a mixed blessing. He revealed a disturbing tale of the fatal beating of a FEMA driver by drifters outside of Topeka, Kansas – a fate that he managed to avoid. Gray also revealed that the New York Police Department had found a nuclear bomb in a van minutes before it was set to destroy the metropolis. However, both Lawrence, Kansas and Washington D.C. were destroyed. Gray’s experiences on the road eventually led him to suggest to Eric Green that all of Jericho’s recent newcomers – including the Hawkins family – be interrogated, in case they turned out to be threats to the town. Of course Gray’s interrogation of the Hawkins family took place in “Rogue River”. But as I stated earlier, his news affected certain characters.

The news about New York City being spared from destruction, thanks to the NYPD brought a great deal of relief for the sixteen year-old Skylar Stevens, whose parents had been in the Big Apple when the bombs fell. And since Dale Turner – another one of Jericho’s adolescents without any parents – was the one who delivered the good news, the two became closer friends. However, the destruction of Washington D.C. proved to be another matter. IRS agent Mimi Clark originally came from the nation’s capital. When Stanley Richmond, at whose farm she was staying, gave her the news, she realized that she had lost all of her family and close friends. Both Robert and Darcy Hawkins were present when Gray disclosed Washington’s fate and the two eventually told their oldest – Allison. Naturally, Allison discussed the loss of her friends with Robert. She also revealed that Darcy had a boyfriend who also perished.

“Long Live the Mayor” also featured the second appearance of James Remar as Emily’s estranged criminal father, Jonah Prowse. His appearance provided an opportunity for some excellent performances by Remar and actress Ashley Scott, who portrayed Emily. It also included Jake’s only kiss with local schoolteacher Heather Linsinki. I wish I could say that I found their screen kiss impressive. But I would be lying. It seemed apparent to me why producers Jon Turteltaub, Stephen Chbosky, and Carol Barbee did not bother to develop any further romance between the two. However, I am certain there are Jack/Heather shippers who feel otherwise. Also in this episode, Mayor Johnston Greene’s illness finally sends him into septic shock after two episodes. With no drugs available to cure him, April tells the Greene family in a rather tense scene that he needs the antibiotic Cipro within the next 12 hours or he would die. Jake and Eric decide to head for the town of Rogue River, the location of the nearest major hospital, in order to procure the drug for their father.

A great deal of interesting moments and excellent performances filled this episode. But three scenes, featuring three performances really stood out for me. The first performance came from actor Michael Gaston as the opportunist Gray Anderson. In the scene that featured Gray’s revelations about the news outside of Jericho, Gaston portrayed Gray as a man frightened by the horrors he had witnessed and learned during his journey around Kansas. The second performance came from Alicia Coppola, who portrayed Mimi Clark. She gave a superb performance as a Mimi first pretending that she was not shaken by the bad news regarding Washington D.C. and later, releasing her despair in a marvelous rant that should have earned her some kind of acting nomination. Finally, there was April D. Parker, whose Darcy Hawkins faced the triple task of dealing with the destruction of Washington D.C., the death of Doug, her former lover, and Robert’s discovery of said lover. One would think that Darcy would crumble over a series of crisis. Being a strong willed woman, Darcy holds her own. But in a quiet, yet marvelous performance given by Parker, Darcy finally reveals her true feelings about moving to Jericho, Doug, and how Robert’s profession had endangered their marriage and family life. Her outburst culminated in a phrase that perfectly described the Hawkins marriage before their arrival in Jericho – “House of Secrets”. Parker’s performance was another that should have earned an acting nomination.

The episode ended with Heather admitting to Emily that she might be falling Jake, Dale and Skylar becoming closer than ever after she invites him to stay at her house, Stanley trying to help Mimi deal with her grief, Gray determined to investigate the Hawkins family and other newcomers, Emily managing to procure Jake’s old car from Jonah for the trip to Rogue River, and the Hawkins marriage still in a precarious state. The episode also ended with Jake and Eric on the road to Rogue River to find medication for an ailing Johnston. And their journey to Rogue River would end in consequences that will resonate throughout the rest of the series’ television run.

“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.06) “9:02”

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“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.06) “9:02”

This sixth episode of “JERICHO” picks up at the same moment where the previous episode, (1.05) “Federal Response”left off. In other words, (1.06) “9:02” started with the citizens of Jericho, Kansas witness the presence of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) soaring eastward over the town’s skies, before the time period jumped another two weeks.

Despite this exciting opening, I found myself wondering why the series’ producers and screenwriter Nancy Won used “9:02” as the episode’s title. I realized that it referred to the time in which the ICBMs sent an electromagnetic pulse that disrupted the electronic devices – cellphones, the Internet, television, radios, etc. – throughout the town. But what did it have to do with the episode’s plot overall?

Come to think of it . . . aside from all electronic devices in Jericho not working (save one), what was “9:02” about? There seemed to be at least three subplots at work in this episode. One of them involved the town’s citizens failed attempts to assume some form of normalcy, following the ICBMs’ disruption of Jericho’s electronic devices. Kids have been stealing from Gracie’s Market. And so has a new character named Mitchell Cafferty, who happened to be an old friend from Jake Green’s delinquent past. Cafferty’s thefts have put him in the path of Dale Turner, the young shop assistant who managed to stumble across a supply of food for the store. Cafferty has also been stealing horses from various farms and ranches outside of town. When Jake and his mother Gail visit the Green family ranch to feed their horses, the latter is nearly trampled, when Mitch and a fellow thief are in the middle of a heist. This sends Jake on the warpath to take down his former friend. Robert Hawkins becomes aware of the enmity between Jake and Mitch and decides to investigate the pair’s past relationship.

Meanwhile, Stanley Richmond is approached by I.R.S. auditor Mimi Clark for room and board in exchange for her labor on his ranch. During their conversation, Stanley discovers worms that have infested his corn crop. He tries to acquire pesticide from merchant Gracie Leigh. But she is only willing to give Stanley insecticide in exchange for profit from half of his corn crop. Even worse for Stanley, Mayor Green is willing to help him get the insecticide if he is willing to share his corn with the town’s citizens. In the final subplot, Allison Hawkins discovers that her father Robert possesses the only electronic device that is still working. She also discovers that he has a map of the U.S. locations that were bombed . . . and a gun. When Allison confronts her father, he decides to tell her that he is a government agent who knew about the September attacks. He also decides to teach her how to shoot. Father and daughter eventually begin to grow close.

Many of these subplots proved to be interesting. And all of them proved to have an impact on the characters’ relationships, developments and the series’ main narrative. At first I had a hard time believing that the situation with Stanley Richmond’s corn crop had any future impact. But it did. One, Stanley’s desperation for the insecticide led Mimi to hire a few kids to steal it from Gracie’s Market. This act led to a visit to the Richmond farm by Deputy Bill Koehler, who reveals his aggressive nature for the first time in the series. This storyline also marked the first time both Stanley and Mimi display something other than hostility toward each other. And it exposed Gracie Leigh’s penchant for avarice, which proved to have an impact upon her character’s future development. Gracie and Dale’s encounters with Mitch Cafferty not only played a major role in their characters’ arc, it also revealed Jake’s past with the criminal. And this, in turned revealed how dangerous Jake could be – something that Robert Hawkins found very interesting.

All of these subplots – Jake/Mitch Cafferty conflict, Dale/Mitch Cafferty conflict, Robert and Allison Hawkins’ relationship, and Stanley’s corn crop – end up having some kind of impact upon future story and character developments. The question remains . . . what did the episode’s title, which was an indication of when the ICBMs disrupted the town’s electronic devices, had to do with the plot? The lack of electronic devices seemed to have robbed Jericho’s citizens of a sense of normalcy, leading many of them to behave more irrationally or aggressive. But overall, the impact of no electricity seemed more like a metaphor of the disruption in the lives of the town’s citizens, instead of any real impact on the series’ overall narrative. And this is probably why I found the use of “9:02” as the episode’s title a bit weak.

However, “9:02” did provide some interesting moments in the series. The episode featured two interesting conversations – one between Robert and Allison and another between Stanley and Mimi. Both conversations changed the relationships of all involved. “9:02” also featured an exciting action scene in which Jake and his brother Eric had a violent encounter with Mitch that I found rather suspenseful. Not only did I find myself wondering if Jake and Eric would be able to arrest Mitch. I wondered how Jake would react once they made the arrest. Needless to say, I was not disappointed by how that encounter turned out. But my favorite sequence proved to be the montage in which Jericho’s citizens arrived at the Richmond farm to help Stanley save his corn crop. After Jake greeted Robert in the middle of the cornfield, the following exchange occurred between the Hawkins father/daughter duo:

Allison: [in reference to Jake] Is he a good man or a bad man?

Robert: Baby, there is no such thing.

In that one line, Robert Hawkins said more about humanity’s moral ambiguity than any other person – fictional or real – ever has.

Do not get me wrong. I enjoyed “9:02” a good deal. It was interesting to see how the ICBMs’ impact upon the town’s electronic devices affected the citizens. And the episode featured some very good performances, especially from Skeet Ulrich, Pamela Reed, Lennie James, Erik Knudsen, Jazz Raycole, Brad Beyer and Alicia Coppola. But if I must be honest, I wish that someone on the production staff for “JERICHO” had given this episode a better title. This sounds like a shallow criticism. But if one looked at the episode, the ICBMs’ impact upon the town seemed to have a minor impact upon the episode’s narrative, aside from the Robert and Allison Hawkins’ familial relationship.

“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.04) “Walls of Jericho”

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“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.04) “Walls of Jericho”

The previous episode of CBS’s “JERICHO”(1.03) “Four Horsemen” – proved to be something of a disappointment for me. I felt certain that I would feel the same about the next episode, (1.04) “Walls of Jericho”. Thankfully, my assumptions proved to be wrong.

I would never regard “Walls of Jericho” as one of my favorite episodes of the series, let alone the first season. But I have to give credit to screenwriter Ellie Herman for creating one of the stronger narratives among the series’ first batch of episodes. “Walls of Jericho” not only proved to be a very solid episode with a strong and centered narrative, it also contributed a good deal to the series’ overall narrative.

Jake Green and several other citizens of Jericho are at Bailey’s Tavern, watching three scenes of a news report regarding the bombings over and over again, when the power dies. With no television to watch and no booze left, Mary Bailey orders everyone to leave. After Jake encounters schoolteacher Heather Lisinski on the street, they discover a man inside the local pharmacy, dying from radiation poisoning. With the help of Eric Green, Stanley Richardson and a few others; carry the man to the town’s medical center. With no power for the hospital, Jake’s sister-in-law, Dr. April Green reveals that gas is needed for the generator.

While Jake and his friends scour the community for gasoline, newcomer Robert Hawkins forces his family to rehearse the cover stories he had created for the new identities they have adopted. He is recruited by Deputy Sheriff Jimmy Taylor to help maintain the peace in town. They interrupt a party held by wealthy teenager Skylar Stevens and Robert is unpleasantly surprised to find his daughter Allison there. Jake and the others successfully find enough gas for the hospital. They also discover that the stranger’s name is Victor Miller, who had been driving Shep Cale’s truck when he arrived in Jericho. Shep had been one of the four men who had left town to discover information from the outside. It is believed he had committed suicide. And unbeknownst to Jake and the other Jericho citizens, Robert knows Victor Miller.

My main beef regarding the previous episode, “Four Horsemen” was its narrative. Although it continued the series’ main narrative, it lacked a central plot of its own and the story seemed to be all over the map. I certainly cannot say the same about “Walls of Jericho”. Two incidents contributed a great deal to the episode’s narrative – the power outage and the discovery of Victor Miller. Both incidents led Jake Green and some of Jericho’s other citizens to search for gasoline that could provide power to the local clinic. More importantly, Miller’s presence in Jericho both centered the episode’s plot, but also provided a major contribution to the series’ main narrative – one that will resonate into Season Two. His presence also added another notch to the mystery that surrounded Robert Hawkins. Speaking of the latter, the search for gasoline and Miller’s presence led Deputy Sheriff Jimmy Taylor to recruit Robert to temporarily help him maintain law and order in Jericho. And this act not only led Robert to reconnect with his daughter Allison in a very unexpected way, it will resonate later in the first season. See how everything seem to connect with the Victor Miller character and search for gasoline? This is why I feel that screenwriter Martha Mitchell made “Walls of Jericho” is one of the stronger episodes of Season One’s first half.

The episode also featured some very memorable scenes that featured strong acting. If I must be frank, I was not that impressed by the Green brothers, Stanley Richmond and Heather Lipsinski’s search for gasoline. It seemed like the typical scramble for resources and survival that marked Season One’s early episodes. However, I do admire how the screenwriters allowed this search added to one more notch in the decline of Eric and April Green’s marriage. I thought it was a very subtle move on their part. “Walls of Jericho” did feature some very powerful scenes. One of them proved to be a minor scene between Robert and his young son, Samuel. It was such a minor moment near the end of the episode, yet it revealed just how damaged Robert’s relationship with his family really was. Even more interesting proved to be Robert’s interrogation of Victor Miller, once he found himself alone with the latter. I found it interesting due to Robert’s discovery that a traitor existed within the mysterious group to whom he belonged. Yet, he later discovers that his son harbors very little trust in him.

Another powerful moment featured a debate over whether or not to feed the dying Miller a drug to gather more information from him. Jake, Robert and Eric wanted to use the drug to revive Miller’s consciousness in order to learn more information – even if this act will cause him pain. As a doctor, April opposed this action on the grounds of compassion. The conflict between pragmatism and compassion resonated strongly in this scene. This same conflict also played a part in a scene in which Jake had to shame Jericho’s citizens into helping him search for a group of survivors that also might be dying from radiation poisoning, and in Gracie Leigh’s refusal to contribute gasoline for the town’s power generators. It is interesting how these three scenes featuring pragmatism vs. compassion ended differently. This conflict will prove to have a major impact on Gracie’s story line, later in the season.

I have very few problems with “Walls of Jericho”. Actually, I only have two. If it were not for how it affected Eric and April’s marriage, I found the gasoline search rather unoriginal and a little sophomoric at times. This episode also marked the showrunners’ continuing attempt to create a romance between Jake and Heather – especially in a scene in which she unexpectedly encounters him leaving one of the clinic’s showers. And despite the presence of a half-nude Skeet Ulrich, I still failed to sense any romantic spark between the pair. What can I say? Jake and Heather tend to generate a sibling-like vibe.

Thanks to a strong narrative and interesting subplots, “Walls of Jericho” featured some first-rate performances from members of the cast. I was especially impressed by Kenneth Mitchell and Darby Stanchfield as Eric and April Green, Jazz Raycole as Allison Hawkins, Beth Grant as Gracie Leigh, and Candace Bailey as Skylar Stevens. But I believe the best performances came from Skeet Ulrich – especially in the scene in which Jake shamed the town’s citizens for their lack of compassion; Adam Donshik, who had to portray the dying Victor Miller; and Lennie James, who added more depth to the mysterious aura of Robert Hawkins.

Although “Walls of Jericho” featured an uninspiring potential romance and a search for gasoline that failed to grab me, I must say that it proved to be one of the stronger early episodes of “JERICHO”. I have to credit fine performances from a cast led by Skeet Ulrich and Lennie James and a very strong narrative written by screenwriter Martha Mitchell for making this episode very fascinating . . . at least for me.

“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.03) “Four Horsemen”

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“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.03) “Four Horsemen”

The last episode of “JERICHO”, (1.02) “Fallout” ended with Jake Green and the citizens of Jericho, Kansas seeking shelter from a rain storm that might possibly be radioactive. This next episode, (1.03) “Four Horsemen”, picks up several minutes later.

A great deal happened in this third episode of “JERICHO”. And much of it proved to have consequences in later episodes. The episode began with farmer Stanley Richmond arriving at his farm during the rainstorm, only to find his sister Bonnie, Jake Green, Emily Sullivan, Sheriff Deputy Jimmy Taylor and Sheriff Deputy Bill Kohler seeking shelter inside his basement from the rain. Jake contacts his sister-in-law Dr. April Green via walkie talkie on what to do about Stanley, who may have been exposed to radiation. Meanwhile, Jericho’s latest newcomer, Robert Hawkins, dons a Hazmat suit and goes outside to move a large metal container from his truck to a storage locker on his property. In one scene that went no further than this episode, some of Jericho’s citizens briefly witnessed a Chinese media broadcast inside Mary Bailey’s bar, before the broadcast went dead.

Once the rain stops, Jake contacts his brother Eric, who is at the town’s only fallout shelter, to see about releasing those citizens who are stuck inside the town’s only salt mine. Later, Jake convinces his father to send a group of volunteers to search for news throughout the Kansas countryside. Those volunteers include local businessman Gray Anderson, who has ambitions to become Jericho’s next mayor. Jake becomes another volunteer. He manages to stumble across a plane filled with dead passengers that was forced to make an emergency landing and its flight recorder. Jake returns to Jericho with the flight recorder and finds evidence that the plane carrying Emily’s missing fiancé had landed with all passengers alive.

As I had earlier stated, a great deal happened in “Four Horsemen”. One important scene featured Robert moving the mysterious container to his property. This container, which nearly played a part in the apocalyptic disaster that struck the nation at the beginning of the series, would have an important impact upon Robert’s family before the end of the first season and an even bigger impact upon the series’ narrative by the end of Season Two. Jake’s discovery that Emily’s missing fiancé may have survived the bombings ended up being played out before Season One ended. Gray Anderson made another attempt to broadcast his intentions to become Jericho’s next mayor will end up having consequences down the road. After his boss, storekeeper Gracie Leigh, donated a good deal of her supplies for a town square picnic; Dale Turner stumbled across a stalled freight train with a large supply of undelivered goods that will provide conflict among Jericho’s citizens and other characters. And the road trip that led Jake to the downed plane also sent Gray across the Kansas countryside. The results of Gray’s trip would alert Jericho’s citizens on just how catastrophic the bombings proved to be for the country. But despite all of the action that filled the episode, I found it disappointing after the last scene faded from my television screen.

I certainly had no complaints regarding the performances in this episode. Both Skeet Ulrich and Ashley Scott continued the skillfully acted tension between the Jake Green and Emily Sullivan characters in one scene in which the former tried to convince the latter to join him on the road. Another pair of performances that caught my attention came from Lennie James and April D. Parker, who did an excellent job in conveying the emotional tension between Robert and Darcy Hawkins. Tension between characters seemed to be the hallmark in this episode. Gerald McRaney and Michael Gaston had a fascinating scene together in which the latter’s Gray Anderson openly chastised McRaney’s Mayor Johnston Green for the lack of more than one fallout shelter in Jericho. On the other hand, Brad Beyer definitely provided a great deal of sharp humor in his portrayal of local farmer, Stanley Richmond.

But the despite the action that pervaded this episode, along with the tension between several characters and the continuation of various story arcs; “Four Horsemen” failed to completely satisfy me in the end. What was the problem? Despite the many story lines that filled the episode, it had no main narrative. “Four Horsemen” started out focusing on Jericho’s citizens waiting out the rain (which may or may not have been radioactive) and ended with the so-called “four horsemen” hitting the roads of Kansas. In other words, the narrative or narratives in “Four Horsemen” simply sprawled all over the episode. The rain story line, in my opinion, should have began and ended in the previous episode, (1.02) “Fallout”. And I also believe that screenwriters Dan O’Shannon and Dan Shotz should have focused this episode on the citizens’ need to learn more news about the bombings – leading to the departure of the “Four Horsemen” near the end.

I suppose there is nothing else I can say about “Four Horsemen”. It featured a good number of story arcs that proved to be relevant for the main narrative of “JERICHO”. And it also featured fine performances from a cast led by Skeet Ulrich. But the lack of a strong or centered story line in this episode led to a good deal of disappointment for me.

“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.02) “Fallout”

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“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.02) “Fallout”

It just occurred to me that this second episode of the CBS television series, “JERICHO” was aptly named. In a way (1.02) “Fallout” perfectly described the situation from the series’ first episode, (1.01) “Pilot: The First Seventeen Hours”.

The previous episode ended with the western Kansas community shaken by the sight of an atomic mushroom and news that two U.S. cities had been devastated by nuclear explosions . . . and their sheriff and one of the deputies murdered by two escaped convicts on their way to prison. “Fallout” picks up the following morning with Jericho schoolteacher Emily Sullivan trying to hitchhike her way back to Jericho, when her stalled SUV prevents her from reaching the airport to pick up her fiance. She finally receives a ride from a police cruiser being driven by two deputy sheriffs. With the car low on gas, Emily suggests they seek gasoline at the farm of Stanley and Bonnie Richmond. By the time they reach their destination, she realizes that her two saviors are not lawmen, but possibly dangerous criminals.

Back in Jericho, the town’s new resident, Robert Hawkins, hints of the possibility of radioactive fallout from the Denver bombing, in the incoming rainstorm threatening Jericho. He suggests that the citizens might have to either seek shelter in their homes or the town’s two fallout shelters. While the Greens, Hawkins and businessman Gray Anderson struggle to help the citizens seek shelter; Emily tries to alert the deaf Bonnie that the new visitors are criminals. She also manages to sneak outside the Richmond house in order to send a message to Jericho, via the cruiser’s radio.

After watching this episode, it occurred to me that the first three episodes of “JERICHO” might have been a three-part story depicting Jericho’s initial reactions to the Denver bombing and its aftermath. I came to this conclusion after noticing that “Fallout” ended the story arc about the escaped prisoners, but failed to do the same for the “radioactive rain” story arc. The episode ended with the prisoners dead, but the citizens of Jericho inside shelters, basements and in the case for many, a salt mine. Not only did the rain continue to fall, but one of the community’s citizens, Stanley Richardson, was no where to be found. Also, a new story arc regarding Mayor Johnston Green’s illness began in this episode. And this story arc will have far reaching impact on the series that will last into Season Two. I now have the deepest suspicion that the series’ creators must have planned their story with greater detail than I had originally imagined.

Another aspect of “Fallout” that I found particularly curious was that it seemed like a mixture of a television crime drama and a disaster movie. In fact, I was hard put to see the connection between the escaped convicts story arc and the plot regarding the nuclear fallout rain. The episode ended before the two story arcs could really mesh together. Not even Jake Green’s rush from the salt mine shelter to the Richmond farm, following Emily’s radio message, could really bridge the two stories. I think the reason is that none of the characters involved in the plot regarding the escaped convicts – especially Emily Sullivan and Bonnie Richmond – had no real knowledge of the approaching rain storm possibly containing a nuclear fallout. In fact, the two women will learn of the fallout in the next episode, thanks to Jake. Perhaps this is why it is best to view “Fallout” as a second chapter in the story arc about the initial response to the bombings, instead of a stand alone episode. However, despite my acceptance that “Fallout” might not be a stand alone episode, I do have one major complaint about it. In one scene, Emily found two Jericho deputy sheriffs – Jimmy Taylor and Bill Kohler – gagged, bound and in their underwear inside the police cruiser’s trunk. If these same two convicts were willing to murder the sheriff and one of the deputies, why did they refrain from killing Jimmy and Bill? I never understood this, especially after they forced the two deputies to hand over their uniforms.

Although I could not seriously consider “Fallout” as a stand alone episode, I must admit that I still found it fascinating to watch. I have to credit Stephen Chbosky for writing a very taut episode. Between the danger surrounding the two escaped convicts and Jericho’s citizens to seek shelter from a potentially dangerous rain storm, the episode was filled with tension, action and drama. I would not consider it particularly memorable or original if it had not been for that last scene. This episode marked the first episode that featured Robert Hawkins’ new home and family – wife Darcy and young son Samuel. His daughter Allison appeared in the following episode. More importantly, the episode also featured the first hint that he knew the real truth behind the bombings. One scene featured him inside the sheriff’s station, using a ham radio to receive information unknown to the audience. By the end of the episode, the audience learned what Robert knew – namely some of other U.S. locations that suffered a nuclear blast.

I certainly have no complaints about the performances in “Fallout”. Skeet Ulrich continued his exuberant performance as lead character Jake Green. And Lennie James proved to be just as unfathomable as the mysterious Robert Hawkins. The episode also featured excellent work from Bob Stephenson, Richard Speight Jr., Gerald McRaney, Beth Grant, Pamela Reed, Michael Gaston, Sprague Grayden, Shoshannah Stern, Clare Carey and the two actors that portrayed the convicts – Jonno Roberts and Aaron Hendry. The episode also featured the first appearances of April D. Parker as Darcy Hawkins and Darby Stanchfield as April Green, Jake’s sister-in-law. Like the others, they gave solid performances. But there were four performances that really impressed me. Two of them came from Erik Knudsen and Candace Bailey as teenage outcast Dale Turner and rich girl Skylar Stevens. The two actors did an excellent job in setting up the emotional and complex relationship between the superficially mismatched pair. Kenneth Mitchell, who portrayed Jake’s younger brother Eric Green, shined in one particular scene in which the mayor’s younger son resorted to scare tactics to convince a group of stubborn beer guzzlers at the local tavern to seek shelter from the radioactive rain. But the woman of the hour proved to be Ashley Scott, who did a marvelous job in conveying the ordeal that Emily Sullivan endured in this episode. I was impressed at how she managed to dominate the episode without resorting to any theatrical acting.

If I must be honest, I found this episode’s handling of the two deputy sheriffs’ fates rather illogical. And it is obvious that “Fallout” cannot really hold up as a stand alone episode. But thanks to Stephen Chbosky’s transcript, Jon Turteltaub’ taut direction and a standout performance by Ashley Scott, “Fallout” proved to be an interesting episode filled with tension, solid action and good drama.

“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.01) “Pilot – The First Seventeen Hours”

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“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.01) “Pilot: The First Seventeen Hours”

It took me quite a while to get over CBS’ cancellation of the 2006-2008 post-apocalypse series, “JERICHO”. Quite a while. But when I recently watched the series’ first episode, “Pilot: The Seventeen Hours”, my anger returned. Somewhat. After all, five years had past since the series’ cancellation. And I know it will never come back. 

Oh well. I still have my DVD collection of all the episodes. Watching “Pilot: The Seventeen Hours” brought back good memories for me. The episode not introduced most or all of the players that would have a major role in the series’ saga. The episode and the story begins with the return of Jake Green to his hometown of Jericho, Kansas. Estranged from his family for five years, he only returns to to pay respect to his recently deceased grandfather and to claim the money left to him by the latter. Due to his estrangement with his father, Mayor Johnston Green and the latter’s refusal to hand over the money, Jake decides to leave town again. While driving away from Jericho, he witnesses the mushroom cloud of a nuclear bomb in the far distance before colliding with an oncoming car.

That mushroom cloud, also witnessed by Deputy Jimmy Taylor’s son and a few others. Mayor Green surmises that the bomb must have hit Denver, Colorado. However, his wife Gail learns from a local named Dale Turner that the latter’s mother was killed in Atlanta, Georgia – the location of second nuclear attack. Realizing that a school bus full of children and their teacher, Heather Lisinski, is missing; Mayor Green orders the sheriff and his deputies to find it. However, an injured Jake ends up finding the bus. He saves the life of a young girl and manages to drive the bus back to Jericho with an injured leg. Unfortunately for the sheriff and one deputy, they are killed by a group of convicts that managed to escape from a prison bus following the nuclear attack.

“Pilot: The First Seventeen Hours” struck me as a pretty good episode. It did not allow “JERICHO” to begin on a sensational note like many science-fiction/fantasy television series I have seen in the past decade. And perhaps that is a good thing. Most recent serial television shows that begin on a high note have great difficulty in maintaining such a high level of quality. I am not stating that the pilot episode for “JERICHO” was terrible. Not by a long shot. But I would not view it as among the series’ best episodes. Did “Pilot: The First Seventeen Hours” have any flaws? Well, some of the crowd scenes featuring the good citizens of Jericho struck me as overwrought and cliched. This is the episode that tried to introduce the idea of Jake Green and Heather Lisinski as a potential couple. While some fans bought the . . . uh, “chemistry” between the two. It did not work for me and the pair has always struck me more as siblings. The episode also introduced Lennie James as the mysterious Robert Hawkins. While the screenwriters did a good job in establishing Hawkins’ mysterious nature, I was not that impressed by the British-born James’ American accent.

Despite these flaws, I still enjoyed “Pilot: The First Seventeen Hours”. Not only did the episode did a solid job in introducing the series’ overall narrative, it also provided plenty of good action and mystery. Director Jon Turteltaub did a good job in handling such action scenes like the car accident that prevented Jake’s departure from Kansas and the escaped convicts’ murder of Jericho’s sheriff. And although I had some trouble with one or two crowd scenes – especially the one in which the town citizens nearly panicked over getting their hands on available supplies. But there were some dramatic scenes that I enjoyed; including Jake’s quarrel with his father and brother Eric, Jake saving the life of the young schoolgirl, Robert’s attempt to offer his help to the sheriff and the fire chief, Dale Turner’s revelation of a second nuclear explosion in Atlanta, and Jake’s uneasy reunion with his ex-girlfriend Emily Sullivan. Despite the resolution of the missing school bus plot line, “Pilot: The First Seventeen Hours” made sure that audiences knew that “JERICHO” would be a serial drama by leaving the following plot lines hanging:

*The escaped convicts
*Emily Sullivan’s nighttime road trip to the pick up her fiancé from a nearby airport
*The emergence of businessman Gray Anderson as a future political opponent for Johnston Green
*The reason behind Robert Hawkins’ appearance in Jericho


Of these four plot lines, only one will be resolved by the following episode.

The performances in this episode seemed pretty rock solid. My only complaints are directed at the extras and minor characters who portrayed the citizens of Jericho. The main reason I found some of the crowd scenes overwrought was that I found the performances portraying the citizens over-the-top. I realize they were supposed to be portraying the citizens in a state of panic. I simply did not find their performances satisfying. However, Skeet Ulrich expertly set the tone as the show’s leading man. Lennie James injected that mysterious tone in his character right off the bat, even if I found his American accent a little shaky. Michael Gaston did a good job as Gray Anderson and I found Sprague Grayden’s portrayal of Heather Lisinski rather charming. But there were three performances that really impressed me. One came from Gerald McRaney, who gave a commanding, yet sardonic performance as mayor Jericho, Johnston Green. Another came from Pamela Reed, who seemed to be the heart and soul of this episode as the mayor’s wife, Gail Green. And the last impressive performance came from Erik Knudsen, who did an excellent job in setting up the complexities of the adolescent Dale Turner, one of the show’s most complex characters. 

Although not as impressive as other pilots I have seen from recent science-fiction/fantasy television shows. As I had earlier stated, “Pilot: The First Seventeen Hours” is not terrible, nor mediocre. But it is not great. However, this is not a problem for me. I have never demanded that the pilot of a science-fiction/fantasy series blow me away. All I demand that it does a good job in setting up the series’ premise. And I believe that this pilot episode for “JERICHO” certainly accomplished this.

Top Ten Favorite “JERICHO” (2006-2008) Episodes

Below is a list of my top ten (10) favorite episodes of “JERICHO” (2006-2008).  Created by  Stephen Chbosky, Josh Schaer and Jonathan E. Steinberg, the series starred Skeet Ulrich and Lennie James:

 

TOP TEN FAVORITE “JERICHO” (2006-2008) EPISODES

1. (1.16)”Winter’s End” – In this well written episode, Eric Green’s estranged wife, April, goes into premature labor amidst energy and supply shortages. Also, this episode featured the introduction of New Bern and its sheriff/leader, Phil Constantino.

 

2. (1.08) “Rogue River” – Jake and Eric Green make a harrowing trip to the neighboring town of Rogue River in order to procure much needed medication for their ailing father and have their first encounter with Ravenwood mercenaries and John Goetz. Meanwhile, the Hawkins family is being questioned by Gray Anderson and the local law, due to them being newcomers.
3. (2.05) “Termination For Cause” – Upon receiving no help from the Allied States of America’s Major Beck and his troops; Jake, Robert Hawkins and the members of Jericho’s Rangers defend a badly wounded Mimi Clark from Jennings and Rall mercenary John Goetz (formerly of Ravenwood) and his thugs.

4. (2.04) “Oversight” – Mimi Clark becomes a target of John Goetz and his goons, when she discovers that he has been embezzling from his bosses – Jennings and Rall. Matters come to a tragic end, when Bonnie Richmond defends Mimi at the Richmond farm.

5. (1.18) “A.K.A.” – Both Lennie James and Skeet Ulrich give tour de force performances when Jake learns the truth about Robert Hawkins and the circumstances behind the September nuclear bombings.

6. (1.07) “Long Live the Mayor” – In this underappreciated episode, Gray Anderson returns to Jericho with news of the nuclear fallout in the outside world. The news not only affects Washington D.C. accountant Mimi Clark, but also the Hawkins family. Meanwhile Johnston Green’s illness becomes dangerously serious, and Jake and Eric decide to travel to nearby Rogue River for medication.

7. (2.07) “Patriots and Tyrants” – Jake and Robert head for Cheyenne to recover the remaining bomb that can be used as evidence against the new Allied States of America in the series’ exciting finale. Their actions will set in motion a new civil war on American soil.

8. (1.15) “Semper Fidelis” – A platoon of U.S. Marines arrive in Jericho with promises of reconstruction for the town. Meanwhile, Robert discovers the truth about his former C.I.A. colleague, Sarah Mason; which leads to an explosive showdown inside the Hawkins home.

9. (1.20) “One If By Land” – Johnston and Robert set out to rescue Jake and Eric from New Bern’s Phil Constantino and his deputies, who are bent upon attacking and invading Jericho.

10. (2.03) “Jennings and Rall” – To protect his identity, Robert tells Major Beck of the Allied States of America that he is an F.B.I. agent searching for a rogue agent (namely Sarah Mason). Also, Jericho receives news of a dangerous virus sweeping west of the Mississippi River and Mimi Clark becomes an accountant for Jennings and Rall.

“BAND OF BROTHERS” (2001) – Episode Seven “The Breaking Point” Commentary

“BAND OF BROTHERS” (2001) – Episode Seven “The Breaking Point” Commentary

Easy Company continues its experiences in Belgium in ”The Breaking Point”, Episode Seven of HBO’s ”BAND OF BROTHERS”. Following the Bastogne campaign, the paratroopers find themselves in the Bois Jacques Forest just outside of Foy, Belgium. There, they to prepare for an assault on the town, while dealing with the competency of their commander, Lieutenant Norman Dike. 

”The Breaking Point” proved to be just as much of an epic episode as ”Bastogne” and ”Carentan”. Narrated by First Sergeant Carwood Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg), the episode depicted Easy Company’s experiences in the Bois Jacques Forest, just outside of Foy. The episode began with Corporal Don Hoobler’s (Peter McCabe) killing of a German soldier and his acquisition of a Luger. However, this minor incident proves to foreshadow a series of rather depressing incidents for Easy Company to endure. While displaying his new treasure trove to some of his fellow troopers, Hoobler accidentally shot himself in the leg and severed a major artery. He died on the way to the nearest aid station. The rest of the episode’s first half focused around the company’s discussion of Hoobler’s death, the need for a new company commander to replace the incompetent Norman Dike, Babe and Guarnere’s discussion of platoon leader “Buck” Compton’s increasingly odd behavior and more rumors about Dog Company’s Lieutenant Ronald Spiers.

Unfortunately for Easy Company, matters grow worse when German artillery in Foy begin shelling the 101st Airborne’s lines in the Bois Jacques Forest. One series of shelling results in Sergeant Joe Toye losing part of his leg. When Bill Guarnerne tries to come to his rescue, another series of shelling commences and “Wild Bill” meets with the same fate. Worse, both Lipton and Sergeant George Luz witness a moment of cowardice from Lieutenant Dike. The injuries suffered by the two sergeants leads Compton – who is still recovering from his wound in Holland and a stint in an Army hospital – to have a nervous breakdown. He is relieved of duty and Easy Company finds itself short of one of its more competent officers. Easy Company has a short respite before another round of shelling by the Germans. Poor Luz finds himself crawling through the forest, searching for a foxhole for refuge. Before he could reach Warren “Skip” Muck and Alex Penkala’s foxhole, a German shell completely obliterated it . . . and them. Lipton tries to warn battalion XO Winters that Dike might prove to be a disaster for Easy Company’s assault upon Foy. But Winters can do nothing without any cause, due to Dike’s connections. But when Dike panics in the middle of the assault, causing the needless deaths of many men, Winters finally has an excuse to get rid of him and replaces him with Ronald Spiers. His choice proves to be the correct one, as Spiers manages to extract Easy Company from disaster and lead them toward victory.

”The Breaking Point” proved to be on such an epic scale that it could have easily been stretched into a 90 minute movie on its own. It had everything – drama, humor, action, and suspense. Screenwriter Graham Yost did a magnificent job in re-creating Easy Company’s experiences in the Bois Jacques and during the assault on Foy. I did have one quibble about this episode. I found myself slightly confused over the consequences of Don Hoobler’s death. The reaction of the men around the paratrooper seemed to indicate that he had died, while “Doc” Roe tried to revive him. Yet, according to Lipton, Hoobler had died on the way to an aid station. Despite this, the episode had some outstanding sequences. Some of the best featured “Skip” Muck’s recount of the wounds suffered by some of Easy Company’s men during their six-to-seven months in France, Holland and Belgium; Lipton’s attempt to warn Winters of Dike’s inadequacies as a company commander; and Spiers assuming command of Easy Company. I cannot decide whether the episode’s pièce de résistance were the shelling sequences that led to Toye and Guarnere’s injuries and the deaths of Muck and Penkala, or Easy Company actual assault upon Foy. Perhaps ”The Breaking Point” might prove to be that one episode with two exceptional sequences.

Director David Frankel not only put it all together with some exceptional action sequences, but also with his guidance of the cast. It did help that this episode featured some first-class performances. I found myself especially impressed by Frank John Hughes, who made his last appearances in the miniseries as the memorable William “Wild Bill” Guarnere; Peter O’Meara as the incompetent Norman Dike; Scott Grimes, who gave a poignant performance as Donald Marlarkey; Matthew Settle as the formidable Ronald Spiers, who proved to be a lot more human than Easy Company had earlier surmised; Neal McDonough, who brilliantly conveyed the strain Buck Compton suffered upon his return from an Army hospital and his eventual breakdown; and Rick Gomez, who proved to be both funny and dramatic as the company’s own comic, George Luz. Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston Richard Speight Jr. and Peter McCabe also gave solid support. But the best performance came from Donnie Walhberg in his portrayal of Easy’s dependable first sergeant, Carwood Lipton. Walhberg not only gave a subtle performance as the soft-spoken Lipton, but also had the screen presence to hold this epic episode together. He also captured Lipton’s style of speech in his narration of the episode.

In earlier articles, I had already indicated that there were at least three ”BAND OF BROTHERS” that I held above the others in terms of quality. Two of them were ”Bastogne” and ”Carentan”. The third episode turned out to be ”The Breaking Point”. In fact, I would go as far to say that David Frankel’s direction, Graham Yost’s script and Donnie Walhberg’s performance made it the best in the entire series.

“BAND OF BROTHERS” (2001) – Episode Six “Bastogne” Commentary

“BAND OF BROTHERS” (2001) – Episode Six “Bastogne” Commentary

This sixth episode of ”BAND OF BROTHERS” featured the experiences of Easy Company during the Battle of the Bulge and their participation in the Allies’ efforts to hold the ground near Bastogne, Belgium; while low on ammunition and supplies. The episode focused on Easy Company medic, Eugene “Doc” Roe, as he tended his fellow soldiers where he can, while also scrounging for medical supplies. 

”Bastogne” turned out to be the first of two episodes centered on Easy Company’s experiences in Belgium. Shown from Eugene Roe’s point-of-view; the audience saw Easy Company deal with many difficulties and traumas during this campaign. Aside from ammunition and supplies, Roe and the company had to deal with freezing temperatures, low morale, the encircling German Army and worst of all, an ineffectual company commander by the name of Norman Dike. The episode featured a good deal of combat sequences. But since they were shown through “Doc” Roe’s eyes, the audience’s views of these sequences were at best minimal.

One sequence had First Platoon on a reconnaissance patrol in order to probe for the German line. The patrol led to several wounded troopers and the death of a replacement trooper named Private Julian. Supporting characters like Lieutenant Harry Welsh and Wayne “Skinny” Sisk suffered serious leg wounds from occasional German artillery shelling. And Walter “Smokey” Gordon was wounded and paralyzed during a German tank assault. During this time, Roe struck up a fictionalized friendship and potential romance with a Belgian nurse named Renée LeMaire. Their relationship ended in tragedy, when Renée was killed during the German bombing of Bastogne on Christmas Eve. Replacement trooper Edward “Babe” Heffron also figured heavily in”Bastogne”. Although the episode was mainly told from Roe’s point-of-view, it allowed one sequence told from Babe’s point-of-view. In it, Babe and another medic named Ralph Spina had a humorous encounter with German troops in a foxhole, while searching for medical supplies for Easy Company.

There are three episodes of ”BAND OF BROTHERS” that I consider to be personal favorites of mine. And one of them is”Bastogne”. In my reviews of episodes like “Day of Days” and “Replacements”, I had complained of the lack of epic scope in episodes that featured important and historic battles. In ”Bastogne”, director David Leland and screenwriter Bruce C. McKenna gave the episode that epic scope needed for an episode about the famous siege of Bastogne. And the fact that they told the episode through the eyes of medic Eugene Roe made their efforts all the more amazing. Was this particular episode filmed inside a soundstage? It is possible. If it was, I am impressed. I wish I knew the name of the production designer for this particular episode, because he or she did a magnificent job in re-creating the Ardennes Forest during the winter. I also found the photography very impressive, especially in the scene that featured the Army Air Corps’ attempt to re-supply the division by air and the German bombing of Bastogne near the end of the episode. Once again, ”BAND OF BROTHERS” allowed viewers to get a peek into the personal interactions between the troopers of Easy Company. Most of these interactions occurred during Christmas Eve . . . right before Harry Welsh was wounded by German artillery. However, I also enjoyed the two major interactions between Roe and Heffron – especially one scene in which both Roe and Spina tried to comfort Heffron, who was distraught over Private Julian’s death.

”Bastogne” featured some excellent performances from certain members of the cast. Neal McDonough gave a subtle and convincing performance as platoon leader Lieutenant Lynn “Buck” Compton , whose emotional stability seemed to be in danger of spiraling out of control after getting shot in Holland. Another memorable performance came from actress Lucie Jeanne, who portrayed Renée Lemaire, the Belgian nurse in Bastogne that Roe befriended. Robin Laing got a chance to shine as Edward “Babe” Heffron, the replacement trooper that hailed from Bill Guarnere’s Philadelphia neighborhood. He was especially effectively poignant in a scene in which Heffron grieved over Private Julian’s death. But the star of this particular episode was Irish-born actor Shane Taylor. Recalling my complaint about the questionable American accents of some of the British cast members, I can happily say that Taylor was not one of them. He did an excellent job in recapturing the Louisiana-born Roe’s native accent. More importantly, he gave a subtle, yet superb performance as the quiet and efficient medic, struggling to perform his duty and prevent himself from getting affected by the suffering around him. In the end, Taylor not only gave one of the miniseries’ best performances, but also managed to carry a very important episode on his shoulders.

”Bastogne” is not completely perfect. Despite the strong chemistry between Taylor and Jeanne, there were moments when I found the nuance of their relationship – especially the silent exchange of glances – a bit heavy-handed. And I am somewhat confused about the fate of the wounded men that Roe escorted to one of the hospitals in Bastogne. Earlier in the episode, he had escorted Sisk and Gordon to the hospital where Renée worked. He was about to deliver Welsh to the same hospital, when he witnessed its destruction from German bombers. The episode made it clear that Bastogne had remained encircled by German forces, until the arrival of elements from General George C. Patton’s Third Army on December 26, 1944. So . . . what happened to Sisk and Gordon? They did not meet Renée’s fate. Both men survived the war. How did they get out of that hospital and Bastogne before the December 24 bombing?

Perfect or not, ”Bastogne” is one of my personal favorite episodes in ”BAND OF BROTHERS”. And thanks to director David Leland, screenwriter Bruce C. McKenna and actor Shane Taylor, the episode conveyed an epic point-of-view of the siege of Bastogne that made it one of the best (at least in my opinion) episodes in the entire miniseries.

“BAND OF BROTHERS” (2001) – Episode Five “Crossroads” Commentary”

“BAND OF BROTHERS” (2001) – Episode Five “Crossroads” Commentary

The last episode, ”Replacements” saw Easy Company reeling from the Allies’ disastrous defeat during the Operation Market Garden campaign in Holland. Directed by Tom Hanks, this latest episode depicted Richard Winters’ last combat engagement as the company’s commander, Operation Pegasus, and the company’s departure for Belguim as they prepare to participate in the Bastogne campaign. 

At the beginning of the aptly named ”Crossroads”; Winters, now the executive officer of the 2nd Battalion of 506th regiment, recounts his last combat mission as commander of Easy Company in a report for regimental headquarters that took place at a crossroads, near a dike in Holland. In the aftermath of the battle, Winters is informed that he has been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel Strayer’s executive officer, leaving Easy without a commander. However, a new man – Frederick Theodore “Moose” Heyliger – becomes Easy’s new commander and leads them in Operation Pegasus, a military mission to escort a large number of British paratroopers trapped behind enemy lines, following the failure of Market Garden. Unfortunately, about a week later, Lieutenant Heyliger is seriously wounded by an American sentry and Easy ends up with a new commander named Norman Dike. Unlike Winters and Heyliger, Easy Company has no respect for their new leader and nicknames him ”Foxhole Norman”.

Not long after Dike becomes Easy’s new commander, a reluctant Winters is ordered to spend a few days of furlough in Paris. During his furlough, Winters is haunted by a moment when he killed a teenaged German soldier during the crossroads battle. Not long after his return to the regiment, the 101st Airborne learns about the German counterattack near Bastogne and is sent to Belgium to repel it. The episode ends with Easy company marching into the Belgian forest in the middle of the night, with minimum supplies and inadequate clothing.

I have always liked ”Crossroads” . . . despite itself. I cannot put my finger on it. Perhaps my feelings about the episode have to do with how Hanks directed the battle fought at the crossroads. He injected a great deal of style into that very moment that featured Winters leading a charge against S.S. troops at the crossroads. I also enjoyed Damian Lewis’ performance during the Paris furlough scenes. And I enjoyed the sequence featuring the interaction of some of the company’s men, while watching a Marlene Dietrich film. However, my favorite sequence featured Easy Company’s brief journey to another crossroad – one near the town of Bastogne, Belgium. Screenwriter Erik Jendresen certainly did his best to ensure that the episode’s title adhere to its theme. A good deal seemed to be at a crossroads in this episode – including the location of a Dutch dike, where Winters led Easy Company into combat for the last time; and the crossroads near Bastogne, where the company was sent to halt the German counterattack. Winters’ Army career was at a crossroads, as he went from company commander to battalion executive officer. And Easy Company endured a crisis of leadership following Winters’ promotion to battalion.

Yet, despite my positive feelings for ”Crossroads”, I cannot deny that it was one of the miniseries’ weaker episodes. For such a short episode, so much had occurred. Winters led Easy Company into combat for the last time. The company participated in Operations Pegasus. It lost “Moose” Heyliger as its commander after he was accidentally shot and gained Norman Dike as the new commander – a man for whom no one seemed to have much respect. This episode should have been longer than 50 minutes. More importantly, watching both ”Replacements” and ”Crossroads” made me realize that Spielberg and Hanks had limited the company’s experiences in Holland to two engagements. The miniseries could have explored a lot more, judging from what I have read in Stephen Ambrose’s book.

It seemed a pity that Spielberg and Hanks had failed to take the opportunity to explore more of Easy Company’s Holland experiences. Instead, the second half of this episode focused on Winters’ furlough in Paris and the company’s preparations for the Belgium campaign. And because of this ”Crossroads” seemed unfulfilled . . . and lacking. But it did provide an excellent performance from Damian Lewis as Richard Winters. And it featured a first-rate combat sequence and some personal interactions between the men that I found interesting. It was not a complete waste of time.