Monday, January 11, 2016

"JERICHO" RETROSPECT: (1.09) "Crossroads"

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"JERICHO" RETROSPECT: (1.09) "Crossroads"

The previous episode of "JERICHO" - (1.08) "Rogue River" - left off with Jake and Eric Green returning home from a harrowing trip to a town called Rogue River with the medication needed to save their very ill father, Mayor Johnston Green. Unfortunately, Eric discovered that he had left his wallet, which included his identity, behind. Even worse, the leader of the Ravenwood mercenaries that they had encountered, John Goetz, had discovered Eric's wallet. 

The series' ninth episode, (1.09) "Crossroads" focused upon the Ravenwood mercenaries' attempt to invade Jericho and rob the town of food and other supplies. Goetz made the mistake of leading a scouting party to the farm owned by Stanley Richmond, who did not hesitate to inform Jake and Eric about their presence. The two brothers quickly inform Jericho's other leading citizens, which include the two remaining lawmen, the mysterious Robert Hawkins and businessman Gray Anderson, about the potential threat of Ravenwood's arrival. The men manage to recruit of citizens to defend the town at a crossroads by barricading the road with trucks and cars. Goetz gives the citizens to remove the vehicles within an hour or his mercenaries will shoot their way through. The townspeople decide that the only way to defend themselves from the threat of Ravenwood is to blow up the bridge . . . with the exception of Eric, who fears that its destruction will cut off those citizens who live on the far side - including the inhabitants at the Richmond farm. 

Meanwhile, both Emily Sullivan and Heather Lisinksi decide to deal with the stress of Mayor Green's illness with a walk and a few drinks at Mary Bailey's tavern. The two women meet Jericho's newest citizen, Dr. Kenchy Dhuwalia, whom Jake and Eric had rescued from Ravenwood. The two women spend their time drinking with Kenchy and listening to his horror stories about the road and Rogue River. And when Emily realizes that this day would have marked her wedding to her missing fiancé Roger Hammond, she begins to image what would have happened if he had never left Jericho.

I was surprised that the showrunners would immediately follow up from what happened in Rogue River. I figured they would wait for another episode or two before dealing with the aftermath of Jake and Eric's road trip. But it did not matter. "Crossroads" proved to be an interesting episode filled with tension, suspense and a little action. To be honest, most of the action occurred in a scene that featured the first confrontation between Jericho's citizens and the Ravenwood mercenaries. A few shots exchanged resulted in the death of a Ravenwood mercenary. Ironically, this only led Goetz to keep his cool and threaten the townspeople with more violence if they do not cooperate. But I got the feeling that "Crossroads" was basically a character study of three people - Jake, Eric and Emily. Did this bother me? No. But it left me feeling slightly deflated after the high level tensions of "Rogue River".

When I first saw this episode, I was surprised to see Jake and Eric at odds over whether to blow up the bridge. Even more surprising was that both Jake and Gray agreed that the bridge should be destroyed, while Eric opposed the suggestion. I found this surprising because Jake and Gray rarely agreed on anything. Also, Eric has always been the only member of the Green family that Gray genuinely liked. But the most surprising aspect of this conflict is that for once, Eric proved to be right. And he settled the matter in a way that not only surprised Jake, Gray and Jericho's other citizens, but also Goetz.

More importantly, "Crossroads" drove the series' main narrative forward. Like "Rogue River", it did not focus on the town's efforts to deal with the latest survival crisis. Instead, it pushed forward storylines that will prove to have a major impact later in the series. Near the end of the episode, a defeated John Goetz promised Jake that sooner or later, some kind of order will be restored. And when that happened, he would be back to cause more trouble for Jericho's citizens. Sure enough, he kept his promise in Season Two. But more surprising, the Jericho/Ravenwood conflict will have consequences that will take the town's citizens by surprise . . . later in Season One.

The subplot regarding Emily had originally struck me as nothing more than an episode filler. Watching her imagine how her wedding to Roger Hammond would have panned out did not strike me as particularly thrilling . . . or interesting. But after a re-watch of this episode, I realized that this subplot was really a foreshadow of Emily's future with both Jake and Roger. In fact, this "triangle" will prove to have a strong impact in Season One's second half. But what I really found interesting about Emily's visions is that she was finally able to face the fact that she was still in love with Jake. I am certain that many Jake/Heather shippers were upset with this revelation. I was not. As I have stated in an article for a previous episode, Jake and Heather had always seem more like siblings to me, instead of potential lovers.

I could not find a performance out of step in "Crossroads". Everyone did their job. The episode featured competent performances from Lennie James, Michael Gaston, Darby Stanchfield, Sprague Grayden, Pamela Reed, Alicia Coppola, Shoshannah Stern and Gerald McRaney. There were a few that stood out above the other performances. I thought Skeet Ulrich did an excellent job in conveying both Jake Green's bull-by-the-horn approach to any crisis and the fear that nearly had him shaking during his second confrontation with Goetz. Kenneth Mitchell was exceptional as a determined Eric Green, who is certain that Jake's decision to blow up the bridge was wrong. I was also impressed by Brad Beyer, who did a great job in portraying Stanley Richmond's determination not to abandon his farm even in the face of the threat from Ravenwood. Ashley Scott did an excellent and subtle job in conveying Emily's growing realization that she was still in love with Jake. I also enjoyed Aasif Mandvi's performance as Dr. Kenchy Dhuwalia. I thought he was very skillful in conveying his character's drunken charm, while conveying a sense of horror to Emily and Heather of his experiences in Las Vegas and Rogue River. 

I also have to commend And once again, D.B. Sweeney managed to knock it out of the ballpark in his portrayal of the Ravenwood leader, John Goetz. I realize that many might find this hard to believe, but what really impressed me about Sweeney's portrayal of Goetz was the skillful manner in which he conveyed the character's cool. Goetz was a cold-blooded, ruthless and violent man. But he knew how to keep his cool. And Sweeney managed to convey all of these aspects of Goetz's character with great skill.

What else can I say about "Crossroads"? Although not as action-oriented as I had originally assumed it would be, the episode still proved to be a first-rate study of some of the leading characters. Thanks to screenwriter Robert Levine, "Crossroads" did an excellent job of driving the show's main narrative forward.

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