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rare female film critic | by maryann johanson

‘Jericho’ blogging: “Condor”

(previous: “Reconstruction”)

Last spring I called Jericho the anti-24, a blatant rejection of “the kinds of values that 24 espouses — torture, paranoia, suspicion, bigotry — and it didn’t need to create some imaginary liberal paradise in which to do it.” That was sort of in the undertone of Jericho in its first season, but now, that is explicity. Things that would be presented as cool in 24 are here objects of horror, symbols of oppression, signs that America as we once knew it is truly endangered, if not actually dead and buried: “everything is barcoded” at Jennings & Rall; a criminal database that utilizes facial-recognition software and is cross-indexed with voter registration, the DMV, and the library.
And it’s not all fantasy, either. A reporter who is more press agent than anything else — real journalists don’t exist anymore, he says, and seems resigned to it. A revisionist textbook that serves propaganda purposes, not educational ones. It’s all the upshot of “September 2006,” says the military administrator Beck, which sounds a lot like the refrain of “September 11, September 11, September 11” we hear as the excuse for every rollback of civil liberties actually happening in the here and now. That’s deliberate, of course. And it’s thrilling that there’s at least one show on mainstream network television that’s willing to address these things so head on, so matter-of-factly. Terrifying that it has to do so, but I’m glad someone is doing it.

“At what point is this a country we don’t even recognize?” “How does a government no one voted for change the Constitution?” I wish this was science fiction.

Random thoughts on “Condor”:

• Why does the president of the Allied States of America look like he’s 12 years old? Does he really believe all that “triumph of democracy over the forces of evil” nonsense? Is he merely a puppet for Daniel Benzali? Or is he in on the greatest crime in human history? Either way, the possibilities for drama are extraordinary.

• The Hudson River virus has jumped the Blue Line of the Mississippi! The Hudson River virus has jumped the Blue Line of the Mississippi! We’re all doomed!

• UN peacekeepers on American soil? Interesting…

• Do “people get the news they deserve”? Or do “people get the news they’re given”? Maybe it’s just me, but when the reporter and Jake go at it over the sorry state of journalism both before and after the bombs, I’m less inclined to be on Jake’s side of this, as much as I’m generally all “Go Jake!” But that’s one of the great things about this show, particularly now, in its second season: as idealistic as it is, it doesn’t deny that cynicism is sometimes the more realistic attitude. We need the idealism to temper it, but still…

(Next week: Viruses and vaccines and perfidy, oh my, in “Jennings & Rall”)

(Get a full recap or watch the entire episode at CBS’s official site for the show.)

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