“In times like these, heroes are born and hope survives” -Jericho tagline

Waiting for the Fall 2006 television season to start, I’m fully braced for all of the Lost and 24 clones that I’m sure are to come. Last season, we saw the alien mystery, Invasion come and go, but that hasn’t stopped the networks from trying to test audiences with serialized genre shows. Thus this season we have Jericho.

Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich last seen regularly on television in the show Miracles) has been gone from his hometown. Remembered as a perpetual screw up, no one is sure where he has spent the previous five years (and he doesn’t give the same answer twice). He wants to make a clean start and for that he has to get his inheritance from his grandfather’s estate, which means going through his father, and town mayor, Johnston Green (Gerald McRaney – Deadwood, Major Dad – come on, admit it, you watched Major Dad back in the day).

Life as the town knows it is forever changed after a nuclear event.

“What’s happening?” –Emily (Ashley Scott)

The fabled walled city captured by the Israelites as they moved into their Promised Land. The first city they captured. A city that sealed itself within its fortified walls, waiting out any siege, such that God had to intervene for the walls to come tumbling down (though this does bring to mind Stephen King’s “hand of God” from The Stand).

Part of the mystery of the show is what exactly has happened and to what extent it has happened. Reports come in that more than one city may have been attacked. Being cut off from the world, for all they know, they may be among the last remaining cities.

Apocalyptic horror is almost its own sub-genre, it has a long and respected history. It plays on our nightmares about the end of the world. We lived in the shadow of the threat of nuclear war for decades, so much so that we’d become used to it. From a slate of 1950s era movies to Mad Max to The Day After to the book of Revelation, the idea of what “the end” holds for us is rarely far from our thoughts. Which is why Jericho ends up playing kind of like The Stand – The Series as the audience wrestles with the question of what would we do if the end was near. Or here.

“We’ve got work to do guys.” –Johnston Green

Tapping the same angst that fueled the Left Behind phenomena, I am reminded of the panic leading up to Y2K. I read all sorts of reports of what how people began hoarding, looking out for themselves (inside and outside of the church alike) – from stockpiling weapons and food stores to tales of children whose parents bought them waterbeds so that they would have a ready supply of water. And we don’t have to go back too far in history to find tragedies which mirror end of the world scenarios.

It is during these times that we find out who we truly are and what we’re made of (and about). We have to confront the idea of “loving our neighbors as ourselves” and without fail we start asking “who exactly is my neighbor?” Because our cities–our Jerichos and the people within them–apart from God, are broken.

“Seriously, where have you been?” Emily

We could let our baser instincts take over, take on an every person for themselves mentality, stealing/hoarding from our neighbors or pull together and act as a community. We could be a part of a ministry of reconciliation. This reconciliation, this “the Kingdom begins now” kind of living starts where we are today as we work toward a future, a future city that we await. One illumined by God’s presence.

Where you’ve been, what you’ve done, doesn’t matter. Jake thinks he needs money to make a clean start, however, life provides plenty of opportunities to start anew. To be who you are and live as you were meant to be can start today – loving your neighbors and being a part of a community.

The episodes I’ve seen of Jericho show great promise. My main concern lies in my hope that it manages to sustain its sense of mystery and underlying terror throughout its run. That sense of “what comes next?” that actually moves toward a point. I’m not necessarily pointing my fingers at Lost. Jericho looks to be a character driven serial that’s darkly exciting. I can’t ask much more than that (other than to trust that the writers have a long term story they are working towards).

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