It is an unfortunate and sad fact of life that the candle that burns twice as bright burns for only half as long, and nowhere, it seems, is this more true than the television industry. The list of cancelled yet absolutely sublime shows is extensive, and is made all the more galling when most of them can and have achieved more in 1 season than many shows have achieved in 5. It speaks volumes that most of these shows are cancelled on account of poor ratings, yet upon watching them they generally tend to be much more intelligent than the standard 7 seasons of dross we are subjected to.
Jericho‘s second season is disappointingly shortlived, packing in only 7 episodes as opposed to the previous 22. Yet with this, and only a handful of new characters introduced, it manages to maintain the shows intrigue and pacing. Continuing on from Season 1’s cliff-hanger ending, the town of Jericho is now under military control. Leading the soldiers is Major Edward Beck (Esai Morales), a grizzled yet conscientious veteran who wears the uniform of the Allied States Of America, or ASA. As the town is rebuilt by government contractors Jennings & Rall, and security is monitored by Ravenwood, the morally bankrupt PMC from the previous season, the plot follows Jake Green’s clashes with authority, as well as resident spook Robert Hawkins’ mission to uncover the conspiracy behind the nuclear attacks.
If it seems as though I’m quickly skimming over most of the plot, its because its very insubstantial, and doesn’t merit much discussion without venturing into spoiler territory. Needless to say that the show maintains its peerless story telling and compelling characters, but where the real meat of the show lies is in its parallels with contemporary events. The reconstruction efforts in Jericho and the rest of then nuclear wasteland is unnervingly akin to those undertaken in Iraq by Kellogg, Brown & Root. Similarly, Ravenwood is almost a carbon copy of the infamous Blackwater PMC, right down to its controversial history of massacre in Iraq (part of which is revealed piecemeal by Jake in season 1). Even the ASA, with its endemic corruption and feeble puppet president, smacks of the post-invasion transitional government that was installed in Iraq after the Americans had laughably declared victory.
With such intelligent and thought provoking story content in its favour, one might wonder why Jericho had such poor ratings at all, let alone why it got cancelled. But perhaps this is part of the problem. With no obligatory romance crowbarred into the plot, the depth and complexities of the story are very central to the narrative and there for the viewer to see, rather than be debated ad nauseum on an internet forum afterwards. Additionally, the highly political nature of the plot probably didn’t sit well with the studio. The only reason Battlestar Galactica got away with episodes about Abu Ghraib, suicide bombing, and the use of biological weapons is because it was wrapped up in a science fiction setting, whereas Jericho wears its anti-American colours very openly. Both shows invoke the idea of history repeating itself, with Jennings & Rall being compared to the British East India Company and Jake referring to the ensuing conflict in the series finale as the ‘Second American Civil War’, but Jericho obviously lacked the subtlety to draw its viewers in before getting its ideas across.
Jericho may well be one of the most interesting TV shows I’ve ever seen, and this is not something I say lightly. With the ideas and concepts it brings to the table, there was potential for something truly remarkable, an intellectual yet entertaining drama to rival Battlestar Galactica (I may well review this myself if these citations get any more numerous). It both saddens and angers me that the audiences at the time of its airing were either wilfully blind to its message, or simply too unthinking to understand it in the first place.