I have now watched “Patriots and Tyrants” twice, and I feel in a fit state to comment on it. And on the future of Jericho.
For a series finale, the episode was pretty good. It was obvious that there was a lot of pressure from CBS to come up with a neatly wrapped up ending in addition to the cliffhanger which had been originally written, and it was difficult to encapsulate an entire season in seven episodes to begin with, let alone end the show in 40 minutes. I would really like to see the cliffhanger, to see what direction the show could have gone in, but for what it was, this was a reasonably good ending. Hopefully the cliffhanger will be in the special features of the DVD…
A lot of people have criticized the second season, arguing that it didn’t hold together and dissing on the writers. I disagree with these criticisms, because I think the season was strong, but also intellectually demanding. I suspect that everyone knew this was it for Jericho, so they really put their backs into it, and it showed. The core message of this season is that people get the governments they want, and that if you have a problem with your government, you have a moral obligation to speak up about it. To do something about it. And I hope that my fellow Jericho fans got this message and will bring it with them to the outside world.
People who didn’t like the second season probably didn’t like the messages in it, with Jennings and Rall becoming a megalithic corporation which took over the American government, corrupting it from the inside out, much like corporations are doing to the real American government, right now. They probably also didn’t like the thought of using the military to control American citizens, and they were repelled by the idea that violent revolution against a corrupt government is sometimes the only appropriate action to take.
That’s understandable, because the last thing the United States government wants right now is a violent revolution. And Jericho drew a lot of parallels with our own government and our government’s actions, especially with Jake’s torture scene in “Sedition,” with a faint (though never explicit) suggestion that the viewers needed to think more like the citizens of Jericho, before it’s too late. Not only that, but the show distinguished between good and bad revolutions, underscoring the differences between Jericho and New Bern. The show also encourages revolution from within the military, as we see Major Beck go from being a yes man to a man who objects to a corrupt government and is willing to fight against it. Not only that, but Beck enlists his men in the fight.
Some people have criticized Beck as not feeling like a very realistic character, claiming that soldiers always have the right to refuse orders. Those same people are obviously not reading the reports out of Iraq from soldiers who have been threatened until they followed orders which they felt were illegal. Or the claims from conscientious objectors who have said the same thing. Yes, soldiers can refuse orders they believe are illegal, but in actuality, that doesn’t happen very often, and when it does, it takes immense courage.
I also think this episode hinted at some possible new directions for our characters. I think that in the cliffhanger, Eric might have made an allegiance with Constantino, and we could have seen a parting of the ways between the brothers, with Jake redeeming himself for his deeds overseas while his brother found himself on a dangerous path. Their personalities have always been at odds, and in some ways, Eric is a very weak person. I would have liked to see that play out a little more. I am also interested to see how Jake would do as a national hero, to see who would fight in the civil war, and see what would happen if/when the civil war came to Jericho.
One thing the episode most certainly did was wrap up Stanley and Mimi with a nice little bow, but that was one of the few true resolutions in the episode. I was also really glad to see Stanley haul himself out of his dark place, undertaking the cathartic act of burying Bonnie and preparing to move forward. Had the show continued, I think we also would have seen more of Gray Anderson, because he started to grow a pair towards the end there. I would also have liked to see what happened with Trish and other good people within the Jennings and Rall framework, and to know what happens with Dale, and Heather, and lots of other people I have grown rather attached to, like Emily, who alas spent most of this season running around with a gun in a dirty undershirt, rather than talking. These characters are complex and well developed, and there are a lot of places for them to go.
The episode was also open ended. We leave the characters on the brink of civil war, with the assurance that the good guys “might have a chance this time,” and that leaves a lot of room for future seasons of Jericho, if the show gets picked up by another network. And I hope it does, because I really want to see more from the amazing cast and crew. I think that Jericho would also benefit from having a clear-cut story arc, like Lost or the Wire, along with a definite ending point. All good things must come to an end, and I think that the true end of Jericho lies on the other side of the civil war.