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1x04_0192Episode five: “Federal Response”

Drink once: every time someone reminds Jake he left town,  every time Jake lies about his past, Eric and his affair are boring, the deputies are stupid, Mayor Green is pompous, Gail is worried, Hawkins knows way too much and is therefore MYSTERIOUS, Emily worries about her finance, Jake has too many ladiez to handle, nobody listens to Heather.

Drink twice: every time Gail is worried for good reason, Mayor Green and Gray Anderson clash, people behave with the amount of fear that would be warranted given ALL THE NUKES EVERYWHERE, Hawkins and his family have a positive interaction, Gracie stops being horrible, Skyler and Dale are capitalists, Bonnie is sassy and/or insulting, someone discovers more about what actually happened in the outside world.

Chug: if Eric has an interesting subplot, Jake’s questionable past is revealed, a woman actually carries a gun, or if Jericho can get something done without the Greens.

We open with Jeicho’s deserted streets, dust, and Jake’s voiceover saying “I’m tired of war, no one ever really wins.” But oh, they’re in Mary’s bar, and Stanley says “me, too.” And then Mimi says “we could play crazy eights instead, or hearts.” Ha, oh, show. But if WarGames can do it, so can Jericho.

Eric is here to ruin everything again.

Eric is here to ruin everything again.

Stanley, Jake, and Mimi have been playing cards in Mary’s bar all night. Jake asks Mimi what she’d be doing in DC, and she says sleeping, which she can’t do now because it’s too quiet. “Why do you think I left town?” Jake asks. Deputy Jimmy moseys in and says “I could tell her.” Mimi thinks shes knows, “the pressure got to be too much….I’m betting prom king, captain of the football team, most likely to succeed.” Beat. “Don’t quit your day job” says Jimmy. He smirks, Mary smirks, Jake smiles, Stanley says — well-delivered — “I think he beat up the prom king.” “Oh yeah, I did.” says Jake thoughtfully. Eric has wandered in to ruin this legitimately cute, funny, moment which manages to deliver Jake’s backstory without the usual melodrama. Stanley says “you must have a million stories about your brother screwing up” and Eric awkwardly smiles and says “Yeah, at least that many.”

Eric gets coffee, and let’s drink because he’s talking to Mary about their affair and telling April, and nobody cares. Jake notices, and Mimi exposits “secrets of a small town” and it almost works because she’s like that.

Lights that make the ideal sinister sound when they turn back on. Thanks, Tesla.

Lights that make the ideal sinister sound when they turn back on. Thanks, Tesla.

Wait, the lights are on! The jukebox is blaring loud enough to cause permanent damage, and this means the power is back. Yay? Jake unplugs just in time for the menacing score to kick in as the phone rings. And the phone are ringing all over town. The fluorescent lights in Gracie’s Market buzz on. There are multiple shots from all over town of people staring confusedly at their ringing phones.

It’s Assistant Secretary Walsh from the Department of Homeland Security! Everyone should stay where they are if they are safe. Help will be there. Repeat. And the TV has

That's how my face looks if DHS calls.

That’s how my face looks if DHS calls.

flicked on with “Emergency Alert System: Please Stand By.”

Scary morse code over opening credits. Code which means “there is a fire.”

People are asking Mimi what’s up, because she’s an IRS agent, the closest thing to a fed. Optimistically, she says she is “this close to nonfat lattes and shiatsu massage.”

Hawkins’ daughter finds Skyler trying to check her email. Having mystery in her genes, MimiHawkins suggests “typing a straight IP address” but then looks puzzled. The internet, she explains, is “supposed to survive nuclear war.” The image changes to the “Emergency Alert” one as seen on the TV. “It’s working, but not for us. We’re being blocked out,” says MiniHawkins.

The Greens are talking about how the power is coming back, but no news is forthcoming. Mayor Green says Jake looks terrible, then lectures him on playing cards all night. Shut up, Mayor Green (drink), it was cute, and it featured some of this town’s least annoying people. Even Mary was tolerable. The Greens and DeputyJerk talk about who to call if they can actually call someone. Eric and Jake have weird tension, and then Jake wanders home because two Greens have been micromanaging this town for years, and they don’t need him right now.

Hawkins tells MiniHawkins to fill up the bathtub, but in a tone that guarantees a surly teen response. Because, he says, pumps pump water (“the water doesn’t get into that shower by magic” is such a dad thing to say, wow), and having more water is nice when the power goes out again. (Do they know their tap water isn’t contaminated? I hope?) Darcy wanders in and says “she’s your daughter, not your employee” which is a good point. But Hawkins has a better point that this shit is serious, and he might not be around forever, so she needs to get more survival skills. Hawkins goes outside for more mysteriousness. (Next week we remove “Hawkins is mysterious” from the drink list because this would kill everyone.)

Gail is busy vacuuming because she’s a mom, I guess. She’s asking Jake if he’s going to stay (hi, premature questions) and says “when you left, you left quite a mess.” (Drink.) She’s mom, so she’s just happy to have her boy back, but Mayor Green is still peeved. Tiresome Green exposition, and then Gail suggests Jake should tell his dad the truth. “You mean tell him…about my time away?” says Jake, clearly upset about this. And wait, does Gail know what her boy was doing? We the audience don’t know what’s up, but this scene suggests Gail knows the truth, which I never noticed before. “This house is too small for big secrets” dramas Gail. And now, electricity!

Mary and Heather and a bunch of precious tots are wandering near the school, but the power spike catches the school on fire, and sends a jolt that knocks Emily out. Heather uses her in charge powers to send the kids away with their buddies. I gotta say, though you could break something from that jolt, it’s not like she was crushed by a train. I think in this case, you move the person away from harm. Heather prefers to try and wake Emily up as we cut to Mary’s bar and drunk Mimi being almost nice to Stanley, saying she would do what she could to help with his whole audit business if she could. Mimi is kind of terrible, and Stanley is a dope, and I yet I support this.

Hawkins mysteriously typing outside with a mini satellite dish. He can get around the internet block. He has a secret code from a fake Discover Card — ’cause what else are they for? This scene needs some absurd ’90s hacking graphics with tunnels and lights. And Hawkins is a on foreign website. Such mystery. Drink.

Everyone is standing too close to the burning school as April tends to Emily. Heather counts the kids, and realizes there is a missing dummy who went back for the school pet. Heather runs inside, because the women on this show may have some traditional jobs, but they’re generally up to whatever post-apocalyptic task is at hand. And I appreciate that.

Fire truck is here, but there are fires all over town, so they’re spread too thin. And this is an electrical fire, so they can’t use water. Jake is here to look worried, so is Eric. Mayor Green, still sick with flu, is trying to come micromanage things, but Eric calls and tells him to turn off the library’s power.

Jake pets the barely conscious Emily, who squeezes his hand and looks a lot more loving towards him than she has lately. Sigh. Annnd the firemen lost pressure. Jake runs off with Stanley to get the pressure back. April says Heather is still inside, and then with some seriously mediocre acting, says “Eric, no” as he rushes inside.

And we cut to Gracie’s store where again the humor works in this episode. Skyler’s terrible friend is staring at a magazine and says “I wonder what Lindsey Lohan is doing right now. Do you think she’s still alive?” Skyler has no time for this shit, but it’s actually a great observation and the only time I ever like Horriblefriend. In the nuclear hellscape that is America, there are celebrities, and you might well wonder about them from time to time. Skyler’s phone battery is dead, but Dale says he’ll charge it for her. She’s still hoping her parents will call, even though she feared they were dead several episodes ago.

More of the town teens roll in on skateboards, and one says “hey check it out, the library is burning, and I didn’t even do it.” “Is anyone hurt?” asks Gracie (not being horrible, so drink twice). “Probably” says evil stoner teen. I laugh. Skyler is lingering, and wants to stay and be nice to Dale, but he says he’ll charge her phone while she’s off gawking at the burning library. Oh, teens.

Heather finds little kid Ashlee hiding in a playroom, and I am reminded of the depressing thought that kids hide from fires sometimes. Eric busts in just in time to be trapped with the two of them. Stanley and Jake struggle to turn on the manual pump at he water tower, or wherever.

The toy snake was the real hero. RIP.

The toy snake was the real hero. RIP.

Heather, Eric, and Ashlee are totally fucked because of the fire. Basically, all of the scenes are a sanitized, but scary thing especially if you were afraid of fires as a child and I totally was. Heather and Eric cover Ashlee’s face with a damp towel, and then when the sprinklers start thanks to Jake and Stanley, they all run out.

April is busy flailing and asking the firemen why they won’t help anyone, which to be honest is a great question. Pretty sure firemen are supposed to check burning buildings for people stuck in them. Are they all volunteer or something? I guess the Greens really do have to do every God damned thing in this town.

Eric hands April the child. Jake climbs to the top of the water tower to check on the status of the fires, and there’s another one near Eric’s house, but nobody cares. BUT THEY DO CARE THAT HAWKINS IS BEING MYSTERIOUS IN HIS YARD, AND JAKE SEES IT, AND HAWKINS SEES HIM. Double mystery. Mystery men. Drink twice for good measure.

MYSTERIOUS.

MYSTERIOUS.

Jake sprints back to tell Eric there’s a fire near his house, but Eric being a martyr-ish Green stays to fight the school fire. It’s the right thing to do. April agrees. It is, but it’s boring.

Hawkins and Jake have a weird moment where Hawkins (again) aggressively asks if he can help (fight Eric’s fire) and then says “If I knew anything, I would tell your mayor.” Would you, though? “What do you know?” asks Jake. “Not much” says Hawkins, even though he was clearly using a computer just now. “Do. You. Want. My help?” smile-menaces Hawkins, and Jake manfully says “get in.”

At Mary’s, Mimi is once again talking about what she’ll do in DC, then prying into Mary’s affair. Mimi is full of Real Talk about how “guys like that don’t leave their wives for girls like us.” Mary says Eric is totally going to tell his wife about them, and Mimi pretends to change her tune on that matter. And this is boring, except that I love Mimi’s hatred of Eric.

Hawkins asks Jake how he learned to use the pool pump to get water. “I was a pool guy” says Jake sardonically. Drink.

Oops, it’s flashover time. And for a hot second we think Hawkins has left Jake in the lurch, but no, he’s just being helpful in getting more power for the pump. “That was quick thinking” says Jake as they fight the fire together. “Yeah,” says Hawkins, “I was a pool guy, too.” Ha. They exchange a funny look. Mysterious bros together. Are they both spies, or what?

The uselessness of the town has made the Greens pompous. I see that now.

The uselessness of the town has made the Greens pompous. I see that now.

Back at the school, a small crowd is cheering the firemen who are now rescuing books, even though they let untrained, clad only in a fireman’s jacket Eric run in by himself. NO ONE BUT GREENS CAN DO ANYTHING FOR THE TOWN. Eric tells Heather he saved Ashlee’s life, then he wanders off to find his wife.

Skyler comes back into Gracie’s store, and no, her parents haven’t called, but her phone is charged. Dale mentions the fire hit the trailer park (I KNEW IT, HE AND GRACIE ARE BLUE COLLAR BROS) so he is going to keep on sleeping at the store. But then, he already was. Skyler tries to convince Dale to come ask the mayor for help, but he’s got his bootstrappy pride, so he’s not having it, man.

April and Eric are cleaning out their burned out house. Guess what didn’t burn? THE DIVORCE PAPERS filed by April! Whoops. But she doesn’t want to divorce him anymore, because things were nuked, and now he does manly things like run into buildings to save teachers and little children. And also, they’ve all had a rough day so let’s not get divorced now? Drink, because their conversation is boring.

Gail is setting the table and talking to Jake about how staring at the creepy TV wasn’t telling her anything. And she says “you know that thing you’ve been running away from?” Well, it’s your dad, so go talk to him or whatever. Does she know about what Jake was doing while he was gone, though? That last scene between them suggested as much, and now I am writing whole new headcanons about this. Eric and April arrive with one sad box each.

Gah!

Gah!

At Mary’s bar, Mary is trying to close down early, and Mimi has a knowing look about “girls like us.” But oh, there goes the TV. It has changed from the warning to an empty podium, as if the president or similar is about to address the nation. But it’s sinister as hell because nobody is there, and I start to imagine that that shot was set-up weeks ago and it’s just been broadcasting an empty room all this time.

The patrons are all agog. Mary sends Stanley off to tell people under threat of having to pay his tab.

Jake and Mayor Green are talking about how they, the Greens, are going to run the entire town and save everyone. However, Mayor Green in his weakened state is going to be nice and tell Jake he did good today. “Folks are saying how lucky Jericho is to have you back” says Mayor Green, and though he’s “tried to correct them, nobody listens to me.” The Greens share a LOL, and Skeet Ulrich continues to have a really attractive smile. But then Jake says being his dad’s son was hard, because his dad “always had a good judge of character, and you thought mine was lousy. When I left town, I was determined to prove you wrong, but everywhere I went, I seemed to prove you right.” WHAT’D YA DO, JAKE?! “I wasn’t just in San Diego” for one. (Drink!) But — “I don’t care” says Mayor Green. Basically, he doesn’t need to hear it, because whatever bad shit his son did, it made him less of a jerk. That’s…good? The audience still wants to know, Mayor Green.

Traveling is sinister. Especially traveling outside of San Diego.

Traveling is sinister. Especially traveling outside of San Diego.

Hawkins is typing mysteriously on his computer, and oops, Jake Green has a flagged passport, because he has traveled to dodgy countries! (Drink!) AND – drink again! — his legal name is Johnston Jacob Green, Junior. No wonder he has such daddy issues. Hawkins looks intrigued, and then is inside being mysterious, but also talking to his son in the basement about what all they’re going to do now that the power is back on. Drink twice because Hawkins and his son have a nice moment together.

The Greens sit around the table discussing what food they wish they had. It all sounds delicious, and makes me want to watch Signs a little bit, because of the amazingly creepy scene where the family eat dinner as the aliens roll in.

98 percent of this show is Skeet Ulrich looking intently at things.

98 percent of this show is Skeet Ulrich looking intently at things.

Stanley interrupts happy family time with news about the TV.  Ooops, Eric has to come down to Mary’s bar. Drink because it’s boring, and it’s technically about the affair. Mary’s fading smile as Eric comes in not sans wife is kind of tragic, but I don’t really care — especially because the TV goes out, the wine glasses starts to shake, and outside there are missiles in the sky.

We drank: a lot. But we’ll fine-tune the drinking times next week. Or whenever I feel like watching. Because I made TWO categories here. Jericho Rewatch and Tuesday Apocalypse are two different categories, so I could rewatch on, like, a Thursday. Imagine that. [Caps via]

1x04_0192

Caps via: http://cccc.1121.org/

Episode four:”Walls of Jericho”

“Five days after the bomb” and one day after the fallout, and HOLY SHIT WHAT IS THAT. Eric and Jake are watching a video at Mary’s bar, and it’s one of the creepiest images the show has ever portrayed. Everything is red and on fire and panic. It’s disturbingly vague, but suggests the worst things. Eric guesses it’s Cincinatti they’re seeing, and Mary marks a question mark on the map. So, here we are in Jericho, and nobody knows anything, but that they do know looks scary as fuck. That’s how you do end of the world stuff, people. Vagueness and nightmares are key.

1x04_0039Stanley and Bonnie roll in and Stanley stares drearily at the video. He says “makes you wonder what happened to whoever shot this.” Hawkins responds as disturbingly as possible, “I think that might have been the last thing they ever saw.” No explanation as to where the video came from, but in its unknown context, and its terrible ted tint, it does its intended job.

Mary and Eric are boring, but then Mary’s generator runs out, and the bar closes. Jake meets Heather outside and walks her home. SHE’S ACTUALLY CUTE, DAMMIT. They are cute together, and I never appreciated this upon watching previously. This fact makes me dislike concerned ex-girlfriend Emily, even if she is arguably the most competent female character. (Well, the most gun-toting.)

Heather and Jake talk about Jake’s old life in town, and they walk past the boarded up cybercafe, and discuss the health code-violating Pizza Garden. It’s nice until a man with horrible burns on his face staggers into view and asks for help. Heather goes to find some, which is Bonnie, the two remaining cops, and Stanley.

Bill the jerkcop won’t touch the radioactive dude. Neither will Jimmy! Copfail. They’re already making lines between Jericho and the outside world, but Stanley and Jake are too farmboy pure for that.

Eric and his wife are fighting at the clinc, because he was chilling with his mistress (not that wife knows that). Radioactive dude is carried in.

Capitalism, Dale, capitalism is man's greatest achievement.

Capitalism, Dale, capitalism is man’s greatest achievement.

DoubtyourcommitmenttoSparkleMotionGracie is creeping around her store in the dark. Dale startles her, but it’s good because holy shit he brought all the food from the crashed train! How did he carry it all? Plot holes? Dale is the best capitalist. The best homesteader of lost food. Gracie taught him well.

April, Eric, Mayor Green, Jake and Gail are staring at RadioactiveMan. Everyone is wondering how close the guy was to the blast. Jake and Stanley are sent to wash off any potential radiation. April and Gail worry about the preemie who needs to keep breathing. Babies.

Hey Hawkins, what are you doing in your creepy basement? Your annoying son wants something.

Jimmy and Bill talk with Mayor Green about how Gray Anderson hasn’t been heard from since last episode, how the tanks seen could be from Iran, North Korea, Al-Qaeda, or China’s invasion.

Damp Skeet Ulrich has a moment with Heather. Somethin’ for the ladies and some of the fellas, I guess. Heather has a good idea about siphoning gas from cars, and pumping gas from the underground storage tanks at the local gas station so that the hospital generators will keep going.

Bonnie is staring at RadioactiveMan, worrying about how Stanley might still be sick, and whether “this is how they die.” She says “take care of him.” Next scene, though, is Eric and Jake arguing about what can be done for the guy. Jake being the hot-head martry says they can’t let him die, but Eric being kind of a douche says they should give the guy drugs and keep him comfortable. But Jake is on it, and he’s going for Heather’s plan to get more gas.

RadioactiveMan is awake! His name is Victor, and he is here to croak out a terrifyingly cryptic message of “they’re coming.”

Jake and Heather have to talk the gas guy into letting them take the gas. “I could be fired” he says — and he pulls it off more than most actors might — and Jake says “With all due respect, who is going to fire you? It’s a different world.” As much as NOBODY on this show is ever as panicked as they should be, this guy is pulling off the “I need to do my job still because denial is better” cluelessness nicely. Heather says they’ll even leave an IOU. “They’re never coming back — the district manager — are they?” Says gas guy. No, sir. I think the gas is yours then, maybe. But whatever.

Oh hey, Hawkins is quizzing his family on their new, fake lives. Creepy. Sam the boy is messing up, and the teen girl (What is her name, God damn it?) is ranting at the bullshit quality of all this. But hey, Jimmy is here and he wants to get Hawkins, since he “was a cop in St. Louis.” (Was he, though?) Hawkins is waffling. Jimmy needs someone to “show people there is still law and order in this town.” Sort of grudgingly, Hawkins accepts.

Gracie is refusing Eric and his request to donate gas to the clinic. She’s terrible, but she’s right. She did give her whole damn store to the town. I do love that this show deals with the push and pull of individual survival versus collective, and it kind of gives credence to concerns over both.

Science problems! They’re siphoning gas, but Heather says metal is going to spark and cause a fire. Jake the martyr pushes Stanley out of the way because he likes his sibling a lot better than Jake likes his. At Gracie’s, Skyler trades a party invite for Hawkins’ teen daughter’s last of the chips. Good capitalist Skyler.

Gail is sitting by RadioactiveMan, but he’s coding because the generator is out of gas. Gail used to be a nurse, though! She’s got this, because nobody else is there. This clinic appears to have only one doctor, and it’s April. And babies are cuter than dudes with radiation burns.

Jake rushes into the clinic with gas. Hawkins’ daughter shows up at Skyler’s. RadioactiveMan is back from being dead for two minutes. Eric rushes in to say he got gas, but oops, April doesn’t care, because Jake got the clinic some gas by risking explosions!, and Eric got it by asking people politely. Boring. So boring. Your husband is boring.

Men not listening to a woman about science.

Men not listening to a woman about science.

Skyler’s horrible, too horrible to be believed friend is mocking Skyler and Dale’s burgeoning romance. Bitchy girl, both their parents are probably dead. Popularity just doesn’t mean what it once did, okay? Skyler still says “just go home” to Dale. Kids, the world got nuked. Stop.

Victor is flailing in bed, and Jakes asks him who is coming. “They…need help” says Victor. “Twenty from Denver.” They’re at a lake with a dock. And “they” have Victor’s daughter.

Skyler defending her property rights in the face of law enforcement oppression.

Skyler defending her property rights in the face of law enforcement oppression.

Jimmy comes to Skyler’s house to shut down her party and to ask how much gas she is using. She says it’s her gas and generator. And…it is. She’s still dumb, though. Hawkins arrives and sends his daughter home.

The cops did something useful and have Victor’s wallet. Hawkins totally recognizes him, but won’t say anything because Mystery.

The cops want to wake up Victor, but April says no way because of his pain. Mary and Emily watch the scary red video again and talk about it. “What if they all come here” Mary asks. They’re not gonna. They’re dead. Scary Hawkins knows this. Mary and Eric talk about something. I fall asleep. Has an end of the world affair ever been less interesting?

Back to the clinic. I forget why the cops think that the missing Shep was killed by Victor, but there is another fight over waking him up when he’s covered in radiation burns. “He’s going to die anyway, but he could save some people’s lives” says Hawkins. He also wants to “do this himself” which isn’t suspicious at all. April is pissed. Eric grabs her arm like an asshole and says “We need information. He could be a murderer” “And that gives you the power to do anything you want?” his wife asks in rage. “Yes” says Eric. And I have never liked April more for hating her husband right now.

1x04_1408Jake is interrogating Victor about the people in trouble. Hawkins sends him away to get morphine, and then he morphs into Mysterious Sinister Hawkins. “We said family only, hmm? Why? Why did you go back to Denver?” He says scarily. “I couldn’t let them die” says Victor. “Now we’re a man down” says Hawkins. “Someone flipped…there’s a traitor.” says Victor. “Do you know who it was?” asks Hawkins. Victor’s heart rate is going up. Oh, his skull is gross and pink. Annnd Victor is dead. And Hawkins is what? A foreign agent? Because Lennie James is secretly (dun dun dun) BRITISH?!

“We had to do it” says Eric. April stares more daggers. You go, girl.

Back at the store, Gracie tells Dale he’s worth ten of Skyler. The implication is it’s a class thing, I think. Dale isn’t just unpopular, but poor. Somehow I missed this before, because I am an idiot.

Oh, Hawkins might be evil, but he’s being nice to his daughter. He’s telling her she can’t just go to parties, because that puts them all in danger.  Being creepy-quiet-nice-but-menacing, Hawkins adds “And if you pull something like this again, girl, you have no idea how scared you’ll be.” And then he kisses her head. Cringe.

Jake the do-gooder has gone to Mary’s bar to ask for volunteers, and turns off the TV which is repeating the scary footage. He’s…excessive. He learned from his Pa. And pragmatically, he might be wrong. But he means well. And nobody really gets how bad things are in their weird bubble. After a silence, Jake starts to give up, then Mary says she’ll donate gas, and Emily will come along! Good. Ladies with the feelings for the people outside of town. And now more people will help. Posers.

A group drives in cop cars, then crosses the hill, and it seems okay, but the people are all lying dead in the grass. They’ve died of radiation poisoning, as Mayor Green notes in scene that switches back and forth between the meadow and church.

1x04_1799

This town cannot do anything without me.

People with missing or dead family stand. And they “stand because we know that every life matters….The battle ahead is not just for our survival, it’s for our humanity.” You’re not wrong, Mayor. But it’s awkward because the town has sort of been in denial until now. Maybe they get it finally.

In his speech, Mayor Green hits the implied Testament/Rod Serling message right on the nose, and it’s also the message of the episode — along with “us versus them” questions which are helpfully voiced out loud by the dumb-ass deputies. Still, following that idealistic path is going to be harder and hard for people as the situation gets more dire, just as it would be in real life.

Outside church, Emily kisses Jake on the cheek and says he’s a good man for trying to help someone he didn’t know. He smiles goofily. Oh, Skeet. Sometimes your acting is weird. And your bug eyes don’t help when that happens.

Hawkins is in his basement writing creepy messages. There’s a traitor. “The rally point is no longer secure.” And then in whiplash mood, he goes talk to his son, and starts to quiz him about his fake background. Sam gets it right. “Who loves you more than anyone else in the world?” Hawkins then asks. “You” says Sam. “And who is always going to take care of you?” “Mommy.” Welp. You’re not wrong, kid. And yet, there is a lot more to discover about dear old dad.

folderiex(Oh. Welp. So much for my attention span. I had other plans for this rewatch, including folks watching with me, and also my thyroid is evil, and such. But never mind. Pardon the delay, and I don’t promise it won’t happen again, but I’ll try to avoid it.

Back to Jericho. Back to our friend Skeet. Back to his whiny, self-righteous family. Back to the myriad characters who are vaguely annoying, and back to the mysteriously awesome whole. And if you forget where we are, go over here and then here.)

Episode 3: “Four Horsemen”

After a “previously” montage, we open with creepy music and rain falling remorselessly down. The mysterious Hawkins is braving the fallout in the air in order to move something to somewhere. He’s got the end of the world aesthetic down, with radiation suit, gloves, and gas mask. It’s 18 hours after the bomb. He’s taking something from a Ryder truck — anyone who has overstudied Oklahoma City is creeped out by those things on principle. There’s never anything good in them.

And then we’re back in Stanley and Bonnie’s basement, where blonde schoolteacher Emily is still a bit catatonic because she was forced to shoot one of the convicts who were holding her and Bonnie hostage in the last episode. Mr. Cop Who Isn’t Jimmy says he’s never killed anyone, and he’s a cop. Jericho is definitely your tiny midwestern town. (Hell, someone like that maybe would never fire their gun on duty.) Bonnie points out that Stanley doesn’t know that the rain is radioactive. Jake calls Eric to say that the people he sealed in the salt mine last minute have been in their too long. They’re dirty and it’s claustrophobic — but only CBS claustrophobic. It would be a lot more nightmarish in real life, but what on this show wouldn’t be?

Mr. Rooney — whose job I forget — is busy terrifying the children with his anxiety attack. Heather tries to console him, but it’s clear that he’s That Guy. The one who snaps. Be it alien invasion, war, or what have you, there’s got to be a manly man who snaps.

Stanley is back and he’s soaked. Uh oh. Jake tells Bonnie not to touch him, then radios his sister in law April the doctor. She tells Stanley to drink iodine and peaches. Stanley saw tanks “hailing ass towards Denver.” Who is out there, and are they friendly? April says if Stanley throws up in the next 20 minutes he’s going to die. Which seems slightly presumptuous, to be sure about that. And the cut to commercial music gets excessive, and we cut to “Jericho” and — according to the closed captioning — “(static hissing and syncopated beeping.)” Apparently there are secret messages, because that’s actual morse code. I don’t know — my knowledge starts and ends with dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot dot — but I like the simplicity of the caption’s explanation.

Mr. Rooney or Reney? It’s Reney. He’s going nuts, and Gray Anderson and some dude named Shep drag him away from the townspeople. It’s creepy. Mayor Green is still hacking from flu. Jake radios and wants to find out what the tanks are about. Jake says he’s going to Goodland when the rain stops to see what’s up. Emily says she’s coming as well, to find her fiancee who was supposed to fly into Topeka. Jake does his benevolent patriarchal, ex-boyfriend thing, but then gives in.

Back in the shelter, Eric tells IRS lady she can’t smoke in the shelter. I don’t care how citified you are, or how stressed you are, duh. Eric, April, and Gail (I had to Google her name) joke together about how “the mighty Johnston Green [was] felled by the flu.” Eric’s mistress and Mimi the IRS woman stare daggers at them all.

Back in Skyler’s fancy house, there’s overly cute poppy music playing. Skyler gives Dale a stale poptart. Things are looking up. Everyone is dead, but maybe Dale can finally score this hottie. This is very important.

Ooh, finally, a little context to this terrible thing that has happened. Gail is telling Mayor Green about how they used to hide under desks when they were kids. “Yeah, duck and cover” he says sadly. “That’s the first thing I thought of when I saw that mushroom cloud — did they have enough time to hide under their desks? That’s pretty stupid, huh?” “No” Mayor Green says, and then coughs. His wife pets his head. It’s actually a great scene. Duck and cover is in the top three of Cold War cliches, but this scene and the killer acting from Pamela Reed sells itself perfectly. The Cold War tropes and fears have become real, and it makes sense that when there’s finally a moment of quiet, you might start to think about that. I only wish there were more scenes like this, where people seem to almost understand that a 60 year nightmare has finally come to life.

Aaannnd, Eric’s mistress Mary the tavern wench is whining about Eric not leaving his wife. Boring, boring, boring. Go back to cold war terrors, plz.

Back in the root cellar with Stanley. He tells Jake not to let Bonnie see his lips, and that he’s feeling sick and nauseated. But the storm is over!

Eric goes outside with a geiger counter and, like, his sleeve over his face. Very high-tech. But it’s ok! Everyone in the town shelter follows. IRS Mimi touches a column and her hand gets covered in “black stuff.” Mary says “that used to be Denver.” Yeesh. Mimi’s face is a good response.

Jake is being In Charge guy, sending everyone to the medical clinic, while he goes to save the people from the claustrophobia of the salt mine. People are drilling, stand back, you Kansas rubes. Damn. Who else would it be?

Why are Eric and Jake going in first? Are there no miners, or construction workers? Do Greens have to do everything in this town? Hey, look, Jake and Heather still have way better chemistry than he does with Sad Emily.

Oops, Mr. Reney is dead. :( Heather knows this is a bad scene.

The clinic is full of people. Stanley is isolated in the children’s ward. He threw up because he drank a bunch of iodine. He wants to go back to the farm and delivers a terrible line about spider powers. Jake affectionately says “you’re still an idiot, so that’s a good sign” and I am reminded that these two also have good chemistry, and in spite of being old friends in the show, don’t really have enough moments together. (Jake, your family is terrible.)

Mimi is chasing April around being neurotic about having touched the column. She also points out that she can’t go home, because she’s from DC. Heather interrupts to ask about Mr. Reney, who has had a heart attack. Heather still smells bullshit. Gray Anderson lurking in either a sinister or guilty way isn’t helping.

Skyler and Dale are playing cards cutely and eating m&ms. The end of the world memo has not teached these teens. But oops, Skyler’s terrible friends who are even less aware that shit has gotten real in the past day come to the house to scold her for hanging out with undesirables like Dale. Good thing they’re not in this show much!

Mayor Green is trying to run things, but he’s sick, and his wife threatens to take his pants. It’s a cute exchange. Maybe Eric is the only entirely lame member of this family. Jake has a plan. People need to go out in four directions in order to get information. Gray is going one way, the dude who was with Mr. Reney is going another, Jake and Emily are going south. Gray darkly suggests they’re “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.” “Let’s hope not” says Jake.

Dudes are at Mary’s bar trying to get her sattelite dish working. But Mary is shunning Eric. It’s boring and I don’t care, until a Chinese or Korean newscaster appears out of the static on the TV. The map of the US behind him has some scary red target marks. Everyone in the bar is wide-eyed — Skeet Ulrich most of all, but that’s nothing new. After one terrifyingly clear shot, the static comes back. There’s a smattering of fearful outcries. Hawkins says that was indeed Chinese,  Mandarin to be precise — he always knows too much — and Jake asks “are they just reporting it, or are they behind it?” Is America being invaded? No one knows. They’ve lost another horseman. There’s an argument about going out and Jake says “if this country is at war, we need to know it!” (Evergreen sentiments, am I right, folks?)

Mary and Heather try to figure out what cities they saw reded out on the TV. Hawkins meets Jake (finally!) and offers to be one of the drivers, but Jake refuses him when he says he has family.

Heather asks the non-Gray Anderson guy why Mr. Rennie (it’s Rennie) is dead. Dude is looking mighty guilty. Gray Anderson interrupts. Heather keeps looking suspicious.

Jake chases down Emily who is freaking out about her fiance. She is sure he’s dead, and Jake reassures her that they don’t know. Maybe Roger’s plane landed in a cornfield. “He’s gone, and I’ve here with you. You were the one who was supposed to be dead, not him.” Emily says bitterly. Jake should go without her.

Dale comes back to the store where DoubtYourCommitmenttoSparkleMotionGracie is staring at her sadly empty shelves. Gail arrives to bring back some of the food that was in the shelters. But Gracie still hardly has any food, and what she has is going bad. Gail says they should cook it.

Stanley find Mimi crying about her radiation poisoning, and is nice because “maybe I’m a nicer person than you.” Everyone is a nicer person than IRS agents, Stanley. “You’re really sweet,” Mimi says, “and you still owe the IRS $180,000.”

Shep is writing a letter before he leaves on his four horsemen mission. Uh oh.

Mayor Green thanks Gray for going, then asks what happened to Mr. Rennie. Gray Anderson says “poor planning” killed Rennie. Gray Anderson is both petty and political and kind of right, because those fallout shelters were NOT maintained. Mayor Green has a point when he throws Gray against a wall in his office, however, and says that the people in town need both of them to not be petty dickheads.

Heather gets Shep’s letter, and it basically says that it was his fault about Rennie, and that he was too scared to call a doctor. This dude is a plot device, but still I feel bad.

The cops and Eric are charting the progress of the men. Shep’s radio is cracking up and he says “tell my family I’m sorry.” Obviously, Gray hears it on his own route, but denies it, which is the worst thing he’s done so far.

Jake pulls over. An entire plane is in the road, but with emergency slides inflated (so that could be worse). In the background, another plane is in worse shape. Those of us afraid of flying now feel slightly sick.

Back in town, everybody is cooking the meat that will soon go bad. But Gail has some corn, which is not going to go bad, so that’s stupid. Jake comes back to town with the black box from the plane. He says the planes are empty. Mayor Green remembers to kick two random little girls out the room, which makes sense. The confused pilot chatter is unsettling, and then it’s clear — one of them sees the mushroom cloud over Denver. Another saw another cloud near Texas. Jake explains to the other people that the pilots are fucked because there’s no air traffic control.  Hawkins offers creepily “there’s ten thousands planes with nowhere to land. That’s about a million people in the air.” Yeesh. And it gets worse with the emergency landing. The room looks freaked out while they listen, and I don’t blame them, but dammit, shit is way worse than this, people. MUSHROOM CLOUDS HAPPENED.

Jake is on the case, though. He rewinds again and again, and calls Emily. Oh hello, her fiance’s plane set down in a field. “He’s alive” he says nicely. Emily is sort of annoying, but I am still happy for her.

Hawkins is doing creepy stuff in the basement. His wife mentions the “cook all the meat before it spoils” town party. “It sounded like Sam Cooke from here, but it could be Kenny Rogers” she says, and they laugh together. “Oh Lord” says Hawkins. Because white people in the midwest, ya’ll. Darcy says “the children would like to go” to the party, but Hawkins puts his foot down, they’re not ready with their fake back stories. Darcy gives in, and the moment is spoiled by TOO MUCH MYSTERY.

And the party to set to another, worse pop song. This show had an addiction. Dale passes by Skyler and her cool friends playing cards. Dale goes to hang by Gracie, who is unpleasant, but his devotion to her is kind of interesting. She says she’s glad there was enough food for everyone, but “a thank you would have been nice.” You’re right, Gracie. Your devotion to property rights is inspiring.

IRS Mimi stares at Stanley and is charmed by his goofiness. Bonnie knows this is bullshit. Mary flirts with some other dude, and Eric ignores his wife who is trying to tell him about the hospital. Heather and Jake sit together, and talk about Emily, who Jake says he owed. When Heather says “I’d say this makes you even” he says “not even close.” SUCH MYSTERY. And yet I still care a lot more about Jake and Heather. Stick with your lost fiancee, Emily.

Mayor Green is watching the party dourly and says “It might be a long time before we see Jericho like this again.” Yerp. And ya’ll shouldn’t be eating stuff like corn that won’t spoil tomorrow.

Bad, generic upbeat pop-rock song plays and plays. Terrible.

HAWKINS IS MOVING SOMETHING HEAVY AND CYLINDRICAL IN HIS BASEMENT. He’s putting up a new wall. Shit. Such a mysterious guy.

Shot of empty town square with tables and grills invites the question, why are those lights still on? Do you people think you have generator gasoline to spare?

Eric wakes up next to Mary and he has to go and I don’t care.

ANOTHER song plays as Dale the burgeoning business-teen FINDS THE SUPPLY TRAIN OUTSIDE TOWN! It crashed. Good job, Dale. I will allow this up-tempo tune because Dale has found all that Dinty Moore stew.

Frequently, the most terrifying part of an apocalypse movie or show is any snatches of news that leak through the haze of confusion and fear that comes after, say, a nuclear attack. The key is to tell the audience and the main characters a little (Jericho) but not too little (How I Live Now) about what’s going on in the outside world. Sometimes a flash of something is more terrifying than seeing the whole thing. Or at least more disturbing. The Day After makes you queasy, Testament makes you cry. Pick your poison (sorry, they’re both fallout).

Knowing this, and knowing about the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast — regardless of the myth of the mass panic, it’s a damned good broadcast! Especially the straight ersatz news parts! — it is no surprise that a nuclear war plot makes a fine radio play. I found The Last Broadcast thanks to Youtube algorithms which know me all too well.

We interrupt this broadcast” and sudden, dead air has been used in all sorts of scary things since 1938, and it still works. None of us have ever heard or seen a program interrupted by news of nuclear war or alien invasion, and let’s hope we never will. But we’ve seen enough bad, big news that the aesthetic still chills. There seem to be quite a few TV movies, most from the ’80s and 90s, which use this framing as well. I may dive into them next.

It’s the ’80s, and the Soviet Union has invaded West Germany and has invaded our regularly scheduled ’50s throwback hour on an Ontario radio station. The news gets worse from there, and if the static seems slightly fake, the accents suspiciously Canadian except the one news person who clearly fell out of the ’40s, and nobody can say “nuclear” correctly, it’s still an eerie and disturbing hour and a quarter. It helped that I listened while drowsy, with eyes closed, thereby enhancing the surreal feeling (especially when I got up and was still in my boyfriend’s parents’ killingly normal apartment).

The play is amateur, but impressive for all that. The only information I could find about its origins was that it was made and voiced by Canadian students. Not sure if it’s highschool, or college, but I definitely didn’t do anything this much scary fun in either. (I know I didn’t go to highschool, shut up).

folderiexEpisode 2: “Fallout”

Oh, right, fallout. That thing we forgot about in the first episode. The thing that makes nukes more than just aesthetically terrifying clouds in the distance.

This is a tight, fearful episode. A storm is coming from Denver, and not knowing what kind of bomb went off, the people of Jericho are terrified of what those clouds may bring down upon them. Emily is still outside of town, clueless as to what has happened. She meets the two escaped criminals (oh yeah, that happened) who are impersonating deputies, and who have killed the sheriff and kidnapped Deputy Jimmy and Deputy Occasionally-Mean Guy.

I hate when apocalyptic fiction goes straight to “oooh, rogues are on the loose because society has broken down!” if only because a nuke is a lot more interesting than a dude with a teardrop tattoo. However, Emily versus the fake cops works better than it might. It’s drawn out tension, which is enhanced when she brings the men to the Richman ranch (girl, cops do not have mustaches like that — but it’s a neck tattoo peeking out that gives it away) and has to communicate with Bonnie in subtle signing that this is a problem. Plus, we have two relatively competent ladies here, which is nice.

This episode does signal two obligatory difficulties for our characters in a nuke setting. Cons on the loose, and the invisible peril of fallout. But though we don’t know everything about the show yet, we do already know that this isn’t Testament. This is a CBS show. It’s going to be about network TV-level of grim survival, not about slowly wasting away. And, you know, a tv show needs characters.

In short, though the episode is well done, and though people might die, this episode doesn’t give you an apocalyptic stomach ache. Just a little anxiety, and a touch of claustrophobia as the townspeople race to get their shelters ready, and Bonnie and Emily try to casually outwit the cons.

Back in Jericho, there’s a great scene where the cops have grabbed every single book about nuclear anything from the library, and one is Our Friend the Atom (“some friend” notes Gray Anderson bitterly). Hawkins again knows a little too much about what do in case of nuclear fallout — or he’s read this manual I keep almost buying because of its perfect balance of creepy and cheesy graphic design — but his explanation is only “I was a cop in St. Louis, and after 9/11 we got up to speed.”

The town’s shelter doesn’t have a working air filter, and Gray Anderson will definitely be using that in his weird macho war with Mayor Green. For once, he may have a point. Actually he has one a lot, but he’s still annoying.

Towns people are taking stuff from Gracie’s store, but she stops Skyler from grabbing a diet soda (asserting her property rights, while still accepting that emergency food is being taken! Gracie is also kind of the town gossip and sort of unpleasant, but she’s not a villain, and Dale has a serious loyalty to her. All of this is interesting to me.) This leads to Dale and Skyler bonding in her sealed up house. Dale slept on Gracie’ store floor the night before, because he clearly has nowhere else to go now that he hasn’t got a mom. Skyler may not have a mom anymore either, and a sad conversation about that as the fallout-drenched rain falls brings the nerd and the mean girl closer together.

This is the first episode where Jake being in charge is assumed. Basically, this town cannot function without male Green leadership. No wonder Gray Anderson is tired of it. Hawkins is told to fix the HAM radio, and finds secret messages, then says he can’t get the thing working. Much mystery. All the mystery. We see Hawkins’ family for the first time, as they huddle together in the basement. They are not entirely likable, but they are intriguing. There is clearly tension between the son, the daughter, the wife, and Hawkins. Hawkins’ wife Darcy tells him “you always know something” and he says not to ask questions. What does he know? Is he a terrorist? Law enforcement? CIA? NSA?

Most of the scenes of people packing up bags with 90 minutes to spare are good. And the scenes of other townsfolk sealing up their houses is deliberately very early War on Terror. It’s definitely less excessive than the 9/11isms in the 2005 War of the Worlds, but it brings back mentions of how to be safe from a dirty bomb or chemical attack, if you’re the right age.

Eric — the insufferable junior version of his father — has to lecture a bar full of douchebags to go to shelter so they don’t die of radiation sickness. Good thing he has a flaw, which is his affair with the uninteresting Mary, who owns the bar. Eric’s wife isn’t interesting either.

(Somehow I hate a lot of these characters when I stop to think about, but I keep on watching. Actually, Jake may be an asshole who disappeared for five years, but I don’t blame him.

Basically, everyone is annoying except for Jake and Bonnie, and usually Heather and Stanley, but I feel like I need to apologize for finding Skeet Ulrich slightly attractive.)

Finally, realizing there just isn’t enough shelter for everyone in town, Jake decides to put people into the salt mines just in time. He, however, has heard Emily using the police radio to call for help. Which annoys me, because girl, you know nukes have happened. You’re not helpless, and are in fact quite savvy in your standoff with the cons. So you do have the capacity to realize that if Denver has been nuked, police don’t give a shit about your personal peril. Really, this is all just so Jake can come and save the day. One of the cons grabs Bonnie, Jake shoots the other con. Emily shoots the one who has Bonnie, and then she stands catatonic, so that Jake must hustle her into the Richman’s storm cellar. Unfortunately for this plot and later ones, Jake has much better chemistry with the painfully peppy brunette Heather than he ever will with sad Emily.  I mean, they flirt while in peril and it almost works.

Instead, we get Jake saying he wanted to keep Emily safe, but she says she’s “never safe when you’re around.” So, to reiterate, both Jake and Hawkins are mysterious people. And Emily is a school teacher, so that means she can shoot people, but then feel awful about it. This is — and Heather’s random technical skills — is the extent of female competence on the show. We’ll get to that, once it becomes truly tedious. So far, things are just fast-paced and stressful on the show. And that’s working very well.

The final scene — pop song propelled yet again — shows townspeople in the shelters, and then Hawkins putting pins into various cities. It sure looks like the nukes hit more than just Denver and Atlanta. (Oops, Pittsburgh was one. Pittsburgh AND Philly? Musicians can’t handle visiting both, how can nukes?)

downloadSpoilers ahead.

Oh my God, Raymond Briggs, The Snowman was traumatic enough.

The chipper, addled senior citizens of Briggs’ short 1982 comic are aggressively out of touch. Jim Bloggs is cheerful and convinced that the government will save them from impending war, even if he has enough sense to take the prospect seriously. His worrywart wife Hilda thinks there’s time to reprimand her husband for swearing, and for messing up the house. There isn’t.

The preparation is careful and deliberate. Jim follows civil defense instructions to the letter. Except that he carefully builds an inner, fallout-proof sanctum in their house, but then fails to remember that they were supposed to stay inside it for 14 days.

What first appears to be goofy, can-do, learned it from the blitz spirit becomes sort of hamfisted and impossibly oblivious in time. Nobody could actually be this stupid, right?

However, after long, overly detailed build-up, the moment the bomb drops is amazing and nauseating, which is no small feat for a comic. The art is flawless. Pastoral home lived in by two round-faced seniors turns into grim and grimmer. Any aesthetic echos of The Snowman makes both comics much worse.

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Yet, they’re both so dumb. Impossibly dumb, unless they are really simple folk. Yet, one can more easily imagine simple folk not trying as hard as Jim and Hilda do to survive. It’s like they almost would have made it, but no, they never had a chance.

The reader knows. We know Jim and Hilda are sick long before they do. We know that the smell of roasted meat in the air isn’t barbecue. The chipper cluelessness of both of them is too much to believe or stand. And that’s the genius of it. The condemnation of doing your bit, the sympathy towards and gentle mocking of people who trust the government to not leave them in the post-apocalyptic lurch. Who assume that if you have the right checklist, nuclear war will be nothing but a bit of a bump in the road. We’ll tighten our belts and ration food for a time, but then we’ll be fine. Not so. Not so.

The end is so on the nose, it’s practically WarGames. You know, “strange game…the only way to win is not to play” as it applies to global thermonuclear war. It’s not hard to figure out the meaning of Hilda and Jim passing away from radiation sickness, while Jim quietly recites “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” He doesn’t know why that bit of stirring, stern, sincere poetry comes to mind. But we do.