Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Jericho stumbles, then shines

For most of the first 40 minutes of last night's Jericho, as the future Mrs. lonely libertarian pointed out, something about the show didn't seem all that interesting. I wrote last week about the problems with the show and those problems seemed to be highlighted again last night- most noticeably how the show has transformed from being character driven to nearly completely plot driven. Last season, the characters were given time to develop, while this year they all just seem along for the ride, so much so that some of last years starts seem little more than decorations this year.

This is not to say plot-driven can't be any good- 24 ( at least in the old days) did a great job at utilizing characters in a plot that proceeded at breakneck speed. 24 worked so well precisely because it was the story of a single day's action. But that's just not what Jericho is.

The soon to be Mrs. lonely libertarian was also troubled by the scenario we'd been given- the military, the military contractors, and the small town government, all working side-by-side, trying to co-exist, with no clear roles defined. I thought about, and the more I did, the more I realized how awesome that sounded- "Sort of like Iraq" was the thought that popped into my head. The problem isn't the scenario we've been given this season, the problem is that they've done such a piss poor job of storytelling. Rather than letting the problems and difficulties of such an arrangement slowly unfold, we've been given the black and white of it from day one. Rather than getting the chance to see our characters interact in this new environment, we've seen the plot pushed forward at 24-like speed.

Of course, last night was redeemed with a tremendously shocking and emotional ending. I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet, but the last 15 minutes or so reminded me of last season- getting to see the characters react rather than having the plot forced upon them. Only three episodes left, so we'll see where the show is going and if it can be saved for another year.

Updated 3/6/07 @ 12:05 PM
: TV Guide's recap of the last episode was a bit more complementary than my own. Here's one of their comments:

Another great moment happens when Jake and Hawkins bring Heather into their exclusive "club." They need Heather to remove a document from Major Beck's files, which would have revealed the location of a nuclear bomb in Jericho. Hawkins' mysterious benefactor, only known as John Smith, informs Hawkins that he will be caught within 24 hours if this evidence isn't confiscated. Since Heather is the only civilian with access to Beck's office, she is the only person Jake can trust to destroy the papers. This gives Jericho a newfound opportunity to utilize this wonderful character to a greater potential.

I love Heather too, but as we saw when the writers sent her off to New Bern last year, it's hard to work her into the narrative on a regular basis. As I've pointed out before, this year she shows up as the plot requires- it doesn't really make all that much sense that Heather would have security clearance and Sheriff Jake Green wouldn't.

I hated the Hawkins-Jake-Heather scene because it seemed so awkward. I don't remember whether Heather and Hawkins had really interacted much in season one, but regardless, Heather is going to know who Hawkins is. The scene made me realize that Hawkins has basically dropped out of sight and probably hasn't been seen by many people in town since the end of the war with New Bern and bringing him back in the fold like this would probably make a smart girl like Heather ask where he's been and what he's been doing. Heather trusts Jake, but she doesn't seem like the sort that trusts unconditionally and without explanation. Getting her to steal the report seemed to me like a rush job, not all that true to the characters.


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