Winter’s End: Tough Times Bring Tough Decisions On Jericho!

Jericho - Skeet UlrichThings are getting a lot harder for the folks of Jericho [CBS, Thursday, 8/7C]. It's the dead of winter and their fuel and food are almost gone. People are reneging on promises; personal crises are rampant, and the town is on very rocky footing when the first windmill [wind-driven power turbine] is delivered – and lives hang in the balance…

Despite CBS trumpeting Jericho as a hit, it's really a much more modest performer. After initial interest, the show's audience dropped a bit – but for those who've stuck with it, Jericho's unusual storytelling style has really held their interest. And now, in the post-apocalyptic world of small town America, the situation has gotten to the point where all the town's sunny idealism has suffered enough blows to have the townspeople forgetting all about the spirit of co-operation.

When Dale's [Erik Knudsen] demand for his promised share of a farmer's crop is denied, it' only one sign that things are not going well for the town. The arrival of the first windmill seems to provide hope – but there are strings attached to any hope of acquiring more – long, twisty strings. But the biggest problem for the Green family comes when April [Darby Stanchfield] collapses and contractions begin – a mere sixteen weeks into her pregnancy.

For Hawkins [Lennie James], there problems both familial and otherwise. His family has left him, and Jimmy [Bob Stephenson] is asking questions about Sarah – and tying her to the death of a certain bald man whose body was found outside of town. And then there's Bonnie [Shoshannah Stern] who has Mimi [Alicia Coppola] assigned to watching over her – a situation that neither enjoys.

With the situation being as dire as it is, the best part of Winter's End is seeing how each person, or family, deals with their problems. In a place where laws are breaking down, how does Erik deal with that broken promise? Can the Greens persuade Dr. Kenchy Dhuwalia [Aasif Mandvi] to help April? What price will buy those windmills? Can Bonnie and Mimi manage to co-exist, or will one of them break Stanley's [Brad Beyer] heart by killing the other?

In an episode that seems more tightly plotted than usual, Jericho writer Frank Military manages to juggle his multiple plot threads with enough finesse to keep all the balls in the air. He deals with relationships, business transactions, medical emergencies and The Package quite adroitly. Thanks to some of the best direction of the season [thanks to Kevin Dowling], Military's script plays out with an appropriate amount of angst, grit and hope.

As a result, it's possible to watch the ep and not lose track of any of the plot threads. Plus, Dowling does a good job of highlighting most of the key emotional beats without resorting to overkill [most – there's one scene that I'm not quite sure about at about the forty-two minute mark, but I could be wrong…]. There's also a key scene that adds to the idea that Gray [Michael Gaston] should not be the town's mayor – and another where we see a side of Jake [Skeet Ulrich] that we wouldn't want aimed at us.

Winter's End is a solid episode that answers a few questions while posing a few more questions. It maintains the balance for which the show's creative team strives, but doesn't always reach. As Jericho moves into the home stretch, for season one, it continues to provide some thoughtful, thought-provoking entertainment.

Grade: B

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