The phrase “post-apocalyptic” doesn’t tend to excite as much as it used to, as its usually followed by the word “dystopian” and as such puts one in mind of one of the innumerable young adult book series that have been adapted to screen for the sake of a hasty cash-grab.
Jericho was recommended to me by a friend some years ago, but I have only recently gotten around to actually committing to it. Since at time of writing I am only one season in, this piece will be more a collection of my impressions thus far as opposed to a full review. Unfortunately the show only ran for two seasons, but if Firefly and Deadwood are anything to go by, it would seem that a lack of longevity in an American TV show is almost a guarantee of quality.
The setting is the eponymous town in rural Kansas, to which one of the central characters, Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich) , has returned after a mysterious seven year absence. Shortly after his appearance, a series of mushroom clouds appear on the horizon, signalling the nuclear apocalypse that is to be the framing device for the series as a whole. As the town struggles with lack of resources, influxes of refugees and the constant threat of fallout and external hostility, the origins of Jake and his disappearance are revealed piece by piece.
This, for me, is where the show really shines, for the pacing of the story is nothing short of masterful. The fact that the apocalypse goes unexplained for most of the series, with various hints and clues being inserted at different points, really keeps the suspense and tension palpable. The characters are compelling and well-developed, with Jake Green and his family taking much of the dramatic light. That being said, the limelight is frequently stolen by Lennie James’s enigmatic man-of-action Robert Hawkins, a character whose machinations and mysterious past are revealed piecemeal as the story progresses. The writing is competent, albeit not exactly award-winning, and does a good job conveying the small-town attitudes and struggles of the characters.
If there is anything to criticize about Jericho, it’d have to be the production value. Not that the show looks cheap. Far from it. The sets are extensive and finely detailed, as are the costumes. The problem is that everything looks a little too…clean. For a rural town surviving in a post-nuclear holocaust situation, the inhabitants of Jericho keep very neat and tidy houses, and are often immaculately presented, with very few dirty survivalist beards to be found, or unwashed faces or clothing to be witnessed. This could’ve been an aesthetic choice by the production manager, but other locations in the show are filled with the bleak oil-drum fires and dull grey buildings one would think typical of a Fallout-esque setting.
Small issues aside, Jericho is an extremely compelling television show and well worth your time. Easily found on Netflix, the pacing allows for binge-viewing, but also keeps its plot regularly stimulating to allow for a more gradual experience. Enter this world with a taste for intrigue, and it will not disappoint you. These are simply first impressions, and I imagine once the series has run its short course, there will be a full-length review up and readable before long.