“As season openers go, 'Letters From The Other Side' is somewhat of a mixed bag,” writes Coax correspondant “Gaspode”:
Jeremiah: Season Two
'Letters From The Other Side' Parts 1-2
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Martin Wood
Starring Luke Perry, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Sean Astin
After a long hiatus, Jeremiah returns to Showtime, kicking off the second season with a two-parter, 'Letters From The Other Side,' which begins airing Friday, October 10th at 10:00 p.m. Writer J. Michael Straczynski wraps up many of the arc elements from last season, launching the series in what appears to be a very different direction.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Jeremiah is based on the comic book by Belgian comic book creator Hermann Huppen. It's set in the not-too-distant future, where a deadly virus has wiped out virtually every human being above the age of puberty. Twenty years later, the now-adult survivors are trying to piece together their ravaged world. Jeremiah (Perry) wants to find the mysterious Valhalla Sector, where his father may have escaped to, and teams up with Kurdy (Warner) to set off on a journey across the country. Along the way, they discover an organized group of survivors in a military base called Thunder Mountain, who are trying to unite the various warring factions, and prevent the killer virus (also known as 'The Big Death') from returning.
As season two begins (and there are spoilers from here on in, folks), Jeremiah and Kurdy are separated after a battle the forces of Valhalla Sector. While Jeremiah is finally reunited with his dad Devon (Robert Wisden), Kurdy is dodging pursuers when he meets up with the eccentric Mr. Smith (Astin), who claims that God is sending him messages (nice work if you can get it).
Inside Valhalla Sector, Devon is under house arrest by self-proclaimed President Emerson (Robert Foxworth), who wants the scientist to recreate the deadly virus. Once all opposition has literally been wiped out, Emerson's elite group of survivors (who appear to be a bunch of stuffed shirt politicians) swoop in and take over, well, everything. There's just one catch: Devon doesn't want to replicate the virus, so the president's gang begins torturing his son to change his mind.
Meanwhile, Kurdy and his Thunder Mountain cohorts hatch a plan to retrieve Jeremiah and their associates from Valhalla. The key is Meaghan (Suzy Joachim), another surviving adult, who (massive spoilers coming up) is a carrier of the Big Death. So in a crazy plan that's too complicated to tell here, Thunder Mountain exchanges Meaghan for the prisoners, getting their friends back while effectively wiping out Emerson and Company. By story's end, the remaining adults are dead, the virus is gone, and Jeremiah, Kurdy et al are free to create their brave new world. Cue inspirational music, fade to black.
As season openers go, 'Letters From The Other Side' is somewhat of a mixed bag. If you haven't seen a bunch of episodes from season one, you'd probably find it almost impossible to jump on for season two. There are just too many characters and story points to absorb, and Straczynski never really slows things down long enough for us to catch up. Good news for long-time viewers, not so good for newcomers. And because the two-parter basically begins a new direction for the series, I'd be very curious if this was part of Straczynski's long-term arc all along, or if the powers-that-be at Showtime/MGM told him to push the reset button and essentially start from scratch.
In terms of the performances, Perry is good, although a bit too subdued for most of the piece. Warner is terrific, wiping out the memory of Theo Huxstable with every scene. As newcomer Mr. Smith, Astin doesn't get a whole lot to do other than act weird, but he gets one very memorable line that will make you laugh for a long time. Nice to see Robert Wisden return as Devon, a role he created briefly in the pilot episode- Wisden also appears as Chloe Sullivan's dad in Smallville from time, which means he's effectively cornered the market on Vancouver-filmed genre dads, a small club if ever there was one. Also nice to see a slightly over-the-top Robert Foxworth as President Emerson. It was interesting to see Foxworth appear in a JMS-produced series again, considering he played General Hague in Babylon 5 before abruptly canceling a return appearance in order to do an episode of Deep Space Nine. One can only assume Straczynski brought him back in order to see him die a painful death, albeit off-camera.
As for the story, like I said, a mixed bag. There are some wonderful exchanges, notably when one of Emerson's military guys talks about 'scouring the battlefield,' (extra points awarded if you noticed a very similar scene in the current issue of Squadron Supreme, also written by JMS). But the biggest disappointments by far are the scenes with Perry and Wisden. Okay, we know that Jeremiah's primary motivation in the series was to find his dad, so we can understand a fair bit of tear-jerking jubilation when they're reunited. But most of those scenes are so cringe-inducingly maudlin that they're almost painful to watch. It's hard to know who to blame- actors, writer or director Martin Wood- but a little of this would have gone a long way.
So the final verdict? If you watched the first season of Jeremiah, you'll probably enjoy 'Letters From The Other Side,' which wraps up a big chunk of the show's early mythology and begins a new direction for the series. If you're coming into this party for the first time though, you're going to have some difficulty trying to figure it all out, and probably won't make it to episode two. Which is a pity, as it will be interesting to see where things go from here.
And one final observation, for whatever it's worth. Straczynski has recently gone on record, stating that producing season two was such a pretty miserable gig because of endless studio interference. It would be interesting to know how that conflict affected the overall direction of Jeremiah, what JMS had in mind, and how he found himself changing it, willingly or not. Just something to wonder about as Jeremiah's second season continues to unfold…
10 p.m. Friday. Showtime.