Saturday, March 12, 2016

"JERICHO" RETROSPECT: (1.10) "Red Flag"

"JERICHO" RETROSPECT: (1.10) "Red Flag"

At the end of the previous "JERICHO" episode, (1.09) "Crossroads", Jake Green had approached his father, Mayor Johnston Green, about raising a militia unit for the defense of their town, Jericho. I could say that this next episode, (1.10) "Red Flag", is the result of Jake's idea. Instead, show runners Stephen Chbosky, Josh Schaer and Jonathan E. Steinberg decided it had another story to tell. 

The episode began with Jericho's militia trainees hunting turkeys for Thanksgiving. The story immediately shifted when Jake, along with best friend Stanley Richmond, find a crate of food - from China - in the middle of a field. The episode soon shifted to the skies above Jericho when bomber planes drop crates filled with food, medicine and a generator upon the town's streets. Wary of receiving food from China, Mayor Green, Jake and Eric decide to hesitate in distributing the food and other supplies; until they can ascertain whether the material is safe or not. Unfortunately, standing in the Greens' way are three impediments:

1) the politically ambitious Gray Anderson's insistence that the food be immediately distributed

2) the group of criminals/survivalists led by Jonah Prowse, who wants to use the food and supplies for profit

3) Jericho's citizens who desperately want the food

In a way, "Red Flag" reminded me of the series' earlier episodes in which the plots focused on the basic survival of Jericho's citizens. Food supplies have been diminishing for weeks, despite Dale Turner's discovery of an abandoned freight train filled with supplies in (1.03) "Four Horsemen". I have mixed feelings regarding the Greens' reluctance to distribute the food to Jericho's citizens. On one hand, I understood their wariness to do so, considering that the food came from China, which had been a political enemy of the United States since 1949-50. On the other hand, this episode was set during the Thanksgiving holiday, which meant over two months had passed since the bombs were dropped. If China had been behind the attacks, the United States would have been under the control of an invasion force by this episode. I found it improbable that the Greens or Robert Hawkins never considered this.

I will give credit to the episode's screenwriter, Mike Ostrowski, for using the China supply drop for extending the series' main narrative forward. Johnston Green's reluctance to distribute the food led to conflicts between him and many of the town's citizens - especially Gray Anderson, who harbored ambitions to become the new mayor. While Johnston is too busy dealing with the town's survival, his wife Gail sees the writing on the wall and fears that he will soon be out of a job. Both the supplies and the generator leads to another conflict between the town and Jonah Prowse, who makes a grab for the generator. This, in turn, leads to Emily Sullivan surprising everyone with a quick recovery of the generator . . . and trouble for Jonah. His second-in-command, Mitchell Cafferty, murders storekeeper Gracie Leigh in an attempt to frame him - an act that ends up having far reaching consequences in the near future. 

The most interesting story arc of "Red Flag" turned out to be the consequences of Eric Green's failing marriage to Dr. April Green. I must admit that Ostrowski and director Martha Mitchell in continuing the fallout of Eric's affair with tavern owner Mary Bailey and the end of his marriage with surprising maturity. The situation becomes increasingly heated after Eric learns of April's pregnancy. Those scenes that featured Johnston and Gail Green's failed efforts to convince Eric to continue his marriage to April were probably the best in this entire episode. I found them emotional, real and surprisingly mature, thanks to the performances of Kenneth Mitchell, Gerald McRaney, Pamela Reed and Darcy Stanchfield.

There were also pleasant aspects to "Red Flag". It featured another step in Robert Hawkins' efforts to re-bond with his family - especially his children. This story arc ended on a pleasant note when he founded a way to make Thanksgiving a positive experience for his kids and Jericho's other citizens, using the recaptured generator. And when Stanley is beaten by Jonah's men, while stealing the crate on his property; he is nursed by his current tenant, former IRS agent Mimi Clark. Not surprisingly, the pair finally acknowledge their attraction to each other and begin a romance.

As much as I admire how the episode's story arc propelled the series' main narrative forward, "Red Flag" is not a major favorite of mine. It is a pretty decent episode that featured one particular story arc - the Eric and April Green marital breakup - that really impressed me. Unfortunately, the food supply story arc left me feeling as if the episode had regressed the series on an emotional level.

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