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A (long and rambling) goodbye to ‘Jericho’

CBS apocolyptic series Jericho wrapped up with its final episode this week, and while I was ready to let this series go at the end of last season, now I gotta admit I’m actually going to miss the townsfolk and their stories—and all the God-talk it put into these open spaces.

Jericho centered on the lives of folks in a small Kansas town after a series of nuclear bombs destroyed key American cities. The first season focused on the townsfolk coming together as a community, and the second on their growing awareness that a new national government competing with remnents of the old one and run by a self-proclaimed president is corrupt to its core. The townsfolk started mobilizing to stand up against it—which brought with it some interesting threads and themes.

In the last few episodes, it was intriguing to watch the unfolding of a revolution. The series drew direct allusions to both the American Revolution and her Civil War; watching the struggles of the Jericho townsfolk lent insight into some of the issues our forebears must have processed through. I thought the series also did a fair job of exploring the personal costs and sacrifices we face when dealing with injustice and the machinations of corrupt systems and people. How much are we willing to risk to stand against that—and help others survive? Are there lines we won’t cross, or is it all up for grabs? Good questions, ones that invite some good reflection.

I was particulary haunted by the thread centering on the death of good-hearted Bonnie and the consequential actions of her grief-consumed brother Stanley. Bonnie is shot and killed by a para-military thug who is out to coverup his own embezzlement. We know Bonnie’s fate is sealed once she decides to pick up a gun to defend Mimi (her brother’s fiance who has proof of the embezzlement), and that scene still makes me grieve for a world where a young girl would even face a choice like that—a choice far too real and faced by far too many people in this broken world.

But it was what happened later that really struck me. Shortly after Bonnie’s death, her brother Stanley—a goodhearted and loving man himself—reflects on the difference between her death and the death of their parents years earlier in car accident, and some of the series only overt God-talk occurs. Another character reflects that what happened to Bonnie is harder to deal with than accidental deaths—or, as he puts it, “acts of God.” Stanley’s face hardens and he says simply, “Aren’t they all.” Whether they intended it or not, however, the series reveals the weakness in that line of thought in one of the more disturbing yet powerful scenes of the series. Not long after this conversation, Stanley walks up to the man who killed his sister, points a gun to his head with a trembling hand, squeezes his eyes shut and pulls the trigger—and then stumbles away, falls to his knees and vomits. That death was no act of God: it was an act of man—just like Bonnie’s death. And while his friends understand why he did it, Stanley himself is horrified by his action. Intended or not, that scene reveals that much of the darkness, destruction and death in this broken world comes not at the hands of God but at the hands and choices of we broken people.

The scene that resonated the most with me this season, however, occurs during "Sedition," the second to last episode. Jake Green (the leader of the town’s rangers and who, along with his brother, seems to have inherited his recently deceased father’s strong moral center) is imprisoned and pressured to reveal the whereabouts of Stanley (who’s now wanted by the military). At one point, after being deprived of sleep and water, Jake slips into a vision where he’s talking with his grandfather, who died before the series started. Jake’s struggling with how to get through to the well-intentioned but deceived Army Major Beck in charge of Jericho; they need Beck’s help if they are going to stop the corrupt government vying for control of the country. Then the enormity of what he’s up against hits Jake: “It’s not just one man,” he tells his grandfather, “it’s a system.”

Oh, how I identify with that. When faced with the darkness of this world, a sea of broken people and how we as the church are a mere shadow of who God calls us to be, I feel like Jake. At times, it all is so vast and crushing. How do we face such overwhelming brokeness? And how can we ever change any of it when we are a pale version of the people God enables and longs for us to be? “Revolution” is the answer Jake comes to in his vision, and a significant part of me resonates with that. If you’ve been a long-time reader of this blog, you know that I’m among those who think that the way we understand and “do” church today is not working. And I deeply long for us to be as we are created, enabled and called to be. To be the physical and local expression of those wide open spaces of God’s rule of Life, Love and Rule. To live-together out of the life that comes as we live in and with Jesus in such a way that we overflow with fellowship, revolutionary mission (towards healing, right-ness, justice, life and reconciliation), always inviting others, and deep community. To be love.

But ultimately all of that—from fighting the darkness to bringing hope, healing, restoration, light and redemption to becoming the people of God as he calls us all to be—happens one person at a time. It happens as we walk with and trust God, live in and from his love and life. It happens as we pay deep and acute attention as we go, really loving those with whom who we cross paths, taking every opportunity to bring right-ness where there is wrong-ness right where we are.

This episode of Jericho reminds me of that. Jake doesn’t lose sight of individual people in his quest for revolution, to set things right. Ultimately, his integrity and actions—and the actions and integrity of the rest of the Jericho townsfolk—start to influence and win over Major Beck. When Beck shares the truth of what’s happening with the men under his command, they too join the revolution. That’s how revolutions work. That’s how the world changes. One person at a time.

So yeah, I’m sorry to see the series go. It had its flaws, but it certainly brought a lot of God-talk to these open spaces. And that’s something I’ll miss.

(Update: for more, see the recent Jericho, good stories and their fans.)

(Images: CBS) jerichoctgy

Comments

KEANAN BRAND said…
I have heard so many good things about this show that I wish I could have seen it from the beginning. As it is, my work schedule has allowed only occasional pieces of viewing--I've never seen more than, say, fifteen minutes of a show, and that was only twice that I can recall.

I shall just have to purchase this on DVD, as I have with other programs, and watch it at my leisure.
Carmen Andres said…
keanan, thanks for stopping by! you watch all the episodes on the cbs site, but i don't know how long they'll offer that. if you happen to watch them, let us know what you think!
Anonymous said…
This blog was just sent to me via Google alert and I'm so glad to have seen it. I have been a fan of Jericho since the first show; indeed, I'm one of the "nutty" fans that worked hard for 3 weeks to beg CBS to bring it back for a second season - and what a wonderful season it was.

I have to say that you have such a wonderful insight into what the show is really about. So many people do not "get" it. They think it is about nuclear winter and death and war when what it is really about is humanity and how we choose our path. It has always been the "What would I do?" aspect of the show that hooked me.

We nutty fans are not yet ready to say Goodbye to Jericho nor is Carol Barbee the Executive Producer. Ms. Barbee has told us that the last line in the finale spoken by Hawkins "How's it feel . . . making history?" was an homage to the fans. How cool! She has further told us that CBS Paramount is shopping the show around cable networks and, right now, Sci Fi has expressed an interest in continuing the story.

Please join us in our letter writing campaign to find Jericho a new home. We have a new rally point in case CBS does take down the board. You can find the details of our campaign here: http://www.jerichonet2.com/board/forumdisplay.php?f=160

And Keanan, I really do hope you get the DVD as it is a show you will watch over and over, but if you cannot wait, you can find Jericho at other sites like www.fancast.com and it can be downloaded from iTunes.

Pat in Philadelphia (I was on vacation when the nuke was detonated. LOL)
Anonymous said…
Hi Carmen,

Great post.

Are you aware there is still a fight to save Jericho? We are currently trying to convince CBS Paramount (the production company) to continue to make Jericho and sell it to a different network.

If you want Jericho to continue, then please take a few minutes to write a short note to the following person saying you'd like to see Jericho continue on a different network.

Please write to:
Ms. Nancy Tellem
President
CBS Paramount Network Television
Entertainment Group
4024 Radford Avenue
Studio City, CA 91604-2190

A few words on a postcard or card is all that is necessary.

Thanks for your efforts on behalf of Jericho. If you want further information please go to this page:
http://www.jericho-kansas.com/Community/SaveJerichoCampaign/tabid/195/Default.aspx

Gwen
Secretary
Jericho Kansas Inc.
Welcome2CHO said…
Carmen, lovely post! But it's not over yet -- hopefully! There's a place on TV for a show like "Jericho." If you or any of your readers would like to help, read Gwen's post above!!
anamatopoeia said…
i, too, love(d) jericho!! i'm glad to have read your post. you have a very sensitive way of writing about it. please come join us- three are tons and tons of us writing about it, too, on multiple forums.
www.cbs.com
www.scifi.com
www.jerichonet2.com
www.jerichorallypoint.com
www.radiofreejerico.com

and others that i just can't remember right now :)
Carmen Andres said…
wow, thanks to all you 'jericho' folks - for both your kind words and your invitations! you guys are amazing!
Anonymous said…
Thanks for your insightful writings on Jericho. I've thought of some of these things, but you went deeper and expressed the ideas more eloquently than I ever could. (BTW, I'm also a Jericho fan who was part of the campaign for a second season and is now campaigning for a third.) Thanks again!
KIC said…
Wow. What a great post and so indicative of the reason we strive to get Jericho a new home. It is so thought provoking. Novel in TV today and important. Really interesting observations.
ALICIA said…
Very cool post, thanks!