COMICS NO ONE GIVES A CRAP ABOUT: “Jericho, Season 3: Civil War” (2009)

Kevin Long
Kevin Long's picture

[insert cover art]
This seems a logical place to stop my coverage of the short-lived and ultimately-not-very-good series “Jericho.”

If you’ve been following my coverage of the show, you’ll note my (minor) fascination is based around the 7-episode 2nd season being pretty awesome, while the 23-episode 1st season is essentially a yanwfest with a few good episodes, and a handful of memorable images.
Honestly, I expected nothing out of the second season, but I was pleasantly surprised. The story was interesting, well-paced, the introduction of one major new character, and, the removal of several old characters helped focus, and several others being busted down to recurring status helped a lot more.

Best of all, they managed to resolve nearly all of the major plot threads, either directly, or by strongly implying what was going to happen next: Texas will re-Join the USA, and then we’ll have “The Second American Civil War,” as Jake said. This will lead to the downfall of the ASA and the evil corporation that owns ‘em. Has to, right? I mean, yeah, 15 million people died in the first 30 minutes of the first episode, but this is ultimately a happy-ending kinda’ show, right?

So I didn’t feel cheated or unfulfilled by the ending of Jericho – I really enjoyed it – but I was conscious of the fact that even though these people’s stories had come to a logical end, there was still plenty more story that could be told. Inevitably I wondered about what would have happened next.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered the writing staff of the show put together “Season 3” as an official, canonical six-issue miniseries from Devil’s Due comics! I ran out and bought the trade paperback for twenty bucks. Imagine! The story must be great! They totally figured out how to tell a tight story in season 2, they raised the stakes all around, and showed me something I’d never seen before, and now they were completely unconstrained by the budgets of a TV show! If they can imagine it, they can show it, because it’s just drawings, right? This should be awesome, right?

Nope. Sucks.

First of all, let’s talk about the art: This looks pretty good, right?

[Image of Hawkins and Jake]

But don’t get excited. Most of it just looks like this:

[Unimpressive image # 1]

It’s bland, dark, unmoving. The art is on the whole uninspired. So that idea is off the table by page 2.
But, hey, story, right? I mean this comic is actually WRITTEN by the writing staff for the show, that should kick butt, right?

Sigh.

By the numbers: Issue #1

We get a short recap of the story so far, then we pick up literally the day after the final episode of the Series. Jake and Hawkins are in Texas, and, annoyingly, Hawkins – who died in the final scene of the final episode – isn’t dead anymore. In fact, he’s not even injured. Ok, granted, his death was a little ambiguous in hindsight, he just kind of collapses. Still: His death works, it makes thematic sense, and he’s basically done his part.

Texas re-Joins the Union, and the ASA launches a massive fighter attack on the state, sucker-punching it and more or less crippling it before it can do anything. So it’s off the table, and the grand hopes of season 2 come to nothing.

I’m honestly unclear on how I feel about this. On the one hand, dammit. On the other hand, plot complications are good things, right? So Jake and Hawkins are on the run – again – and we get a “Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch” subplot in Jericho following Major Beck’s subversive activities. Here’s our gratuitous cameo of the main characters from season 2 in the subplot:

[Cameo]

How the hell is Beck still in charge? He ended the series by telling his superiors that he was no longer going to follow their orders, and no longer recognized their authority. His men backed him up, but shouldn’t someone have shown up to arrest him, or at least fight him by now? But, nope, he’s just covertly recruiting other Majors in other towns.

ISSUE 2

Jake and Hawkins are on the run still, and an Apache kid helps them sneak out. They’ve decided they need to spring the guy who caused the disaster in the first place, as the Bomb is gone and Hawkin’s Evidence on his laptop is apparently not damning enough. They figure the guy who destroyed America is now the only one who can save it, so they go to bust him out of jail. I admit I don’t know how the guy got into jail, they say he was captured after the incidents we saw in the series finale, but whatever.

Back in Jericho, Major Beck meets with a colonel who’s much beloved by his men, and shows him Hawkins’ evidence. The Colonel doesn’t pick a side, but says he’ll consider the matter and get back to him. On the way out of town, he’s ambushed by psycho entrepreneur Dale, who kills him and his men and makes it look like a robbery.

This makes Beck look powerless to his superiors, but it also makes Beck look like he killed the guy to his co-subversives. Meanwhile, in Wichita, Vincente sends out an agent to take down Hawkins.

ISSUE 3

Jake and Hawkins meet up with Chavez, the only other surviving CIA mole from the failed attempt to foil the bombings a year earlier. Back in Jericho, Johnston Green’s brother (Who looks just like him) moves to town. He’s from the eastern US and he’s basically here to tell us how bad stuff is, rather than show us. (Again: aren’t comics a visual medium?) Skyler, Psycho-Dale’s girlfriend, comes back from New York, where she’s been searching for her parents. She’s pretty sure the Hudson River Virus killed them. I think this is the one where Mimi tells Stanley the Doofus that she's pregnant, but who cares. Jake and Hawkins break “John Smith” out of prison in a daring escape, while Eric and the barmaid get married in Jericho. Chavez dies.

ISSUE 4

This is an issue-long flashback telling us “John Smith’s” backstory. As you know, he did the initial 1993 survey about decapitating the Federal Government. After that, he saw how corrupt the government and Jennings and Roll were. He gets ‘promoted’ to a middle-of-nowhere leadership position of a base in Afghanistan which is allegedly so safe he can bring his wife along. He does.

Turns out the base isn’t safe at all, the men are dispirited, suicidal, frequently drug-addled, and there are Ravenwood Mercenaries everywhere adding to the morale problems. (We’re told that 19% of Ravenwood have violent criminal histories). He cuts back on missions, but Ravenwood don’t like it, so they murder his wife in front of him, and beat the crap out of him, personally. He’s then diagnosed as having cancer. He snaps and realizes that chemotherapy is what America needs.

The timeline seems rather wonky here: This series starts out the morning after the series ended. If “John Smith” was arrested by the ASA, it could only have happened in the previous 24 hours, and transferring him to some huge supermax facility in New Mexico or wherever would probably take a day at least. How long can it take for Jake and Hawkins to get to the prison? They’re in a hurry and it honestly isn’t far, so if this whole thing took a week, I’d be surprised. And yet we see “Smith” toying with his interrogator like he’s been there for months.

ISSUE 5

Jake, Hawkins, and “Smith” make it to one of several bunkers J&R built, then abandoned, which “Smith” has been maintaining. He deliberately let himself be tracked there so the ASA would blow it up, and think he and Hawkins are dead. (No one’s looking for Jake, and in fact no one in power seems to realize he exists, which is a fundamental problem with this series). Vincente isn’t buying this, and dispatches an agent to track them down solo.

Meanwhile, in Jericho, in order to help out Major Beck, Skylar and Heather talk one of Dale’s men into giving himself up and claiming he killed The Colonel. They promise they’ll look after his family. This clears up that storyline.

ISSUE 6

Hawkins and Jake head back to Jericho, pursued by The Agent. The Agent is then captured by Lassie from Psych!

[LASSIE picture]

This is mostly just to remind us that Lassie is still out there, but we knew that anyway as he was the biggest unresolved thread from the series. Interestingly – yes, interestingly – he’s trying to make an olive branch to Jericho, as his war of attrition against the ASA has not been going well, and he’s looking for a way out. The Agent quickly turns the tables on him, of course.

We get a big reunion

[Reunion shot]

We’re told that the ASA has ‘relief supplies’ set up all along the Blue Line, and they’re sending them into areas they know will get them shot at. This will justify their bringing in military support. Hawkin’s daughter is a volunteer to go to Sharpsburg, which is sure to be one of the hotspots.

Then Hawkins and Jake beat the crap out of each other out of pent up aggression, and then the Agent has Lassie from Psych! Pretend he’s still a prisoner and turn him over to Jake and Hawkins.

THE END!

No, wait, “TO BE CONTINUED IN JERICHO SEASON 4!”

OBSERVATIONS

Ugh. This comic officially killed my interest in Jericho, which was never huge I admit.
There are huge problems with the story:
• Jake – ostensibly the star of the show – takes a back seat to Hawkins through the entire story, and contributes NOTHING of any note. He’s just baggage.
• Removing Texas from the equation undercuts the conclusion of the series, and adds nothing to really replace it with. The “Using supplies to justify aggression” thing could have been done just as well with the destruction of Texas as without.
• The Beck subplot is the most interesting thing in the miniseries, but it doesn’t really add anything. It’s just spinning their wheels, and in the end they’re no further along than when we started, though we’re told Beck HAS managed to convert a couple battalions to his side (Evidently without any senior staff noticing, which seems unlikely)
• Introducing Johnston Green’s brother adds nothing to the story, and just eats up time that could be better used elsewhere.
• The flashback issue adds very little we didn’t already know, and it takes 1/6th of the run of the comic to do it. And it’s just not all that interesting.
• The story as a whole simply isn’t very interesting. It’s just two guys on the run, who make a deal with the devil, and then run with him.
• There is no resolution to the story.
• Finally – and I cannot stress this enough – there’s no damn civil war in Jericho, Season 3: Civil War!

It would have been so easy to make this good, but it’s just a mess. The entire purpose seems to be to simply string people along without actually progressing the story, and they’re actually taking stuff off the table. They’re just spinning their wheels – deliberately so - and I am not going to be suckered into buying the presumably-just-as-crappy “Jericho, Season 4.” It undoubtedly will be more of the same.

CONCLUSIONS

Basically, if you wanted to know what would have happened in Jericho, had it continued, it would have gone back to sucking after a brief moment of glory. Up top I said I felt there was still story to tell, but I also said that I feel like these characters had gone as far as they could. Continuing the story doesn’t need Jericho. It is no longer even remotely the focus of the action. It certainly doesn’t need these characters, or at least not most of them. I could see continuing one or two, but hauling everyone along – even in cameo – is just pointless. They’re not doing anything.

The series should have maybe saved Jake and Beck and Lassie from Psych! And given us a bunch of new characters in different locations to base the story around. And they should have shown us what they promised: The Second American Civil War.

This isn’t just boring or bad, it’s a deliberate ripoff.

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