Jericho stars the lovely and impeccable Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife, Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime) as Annie Quaintain, recently widowed and forced out of her home with her two children, due to her husband's mounds of debt. Not one to cry over spilled milk, Annie holds her head up high, picks up her bags, and takes the children to Jericho, a shantytown that has sprung up around the worksite of an enormous viaduct, courtesy of Charles Blackwood (Daniel Rigby) and his business enterprise. Once Annie gets settled into a rented hut, the wheels of her enterprising mind start immediately spinning and she opens up some of the spare beds for lodgers, and later opens a canteen. One of these lodgers happens to be a tall, dark, mysterious and handsome stranger she met on the coach to town named Johnny Jackson (Hans Matheson, The Tudors), and although recently widowed, there are clearly sparks between the two.
Johnny doesn't really fit in at Jericho, either, since he seems more well mannered and a good bit sharper than the other "navvies" or navigational engineers working on the viaduct. The navvies and the other inhabitants of Jericho are all a colorful bunch and include men with nicknames such as Skinny (Kent Riley), Dagger (Tommy McDonnell), Red (Antony Byrne), Hawker (Tony Pritchard), Songbird (John Tams) and so on. The local watering hole is run by Joe (Phil Cornwell) and Lizzie Capstick (Sophie Thompson, Detectorists), and their feisty daughter Alma (Natalie Gavin, Prisoners' Wives) also works alongside them, always looking for a way out of town. Then there's the proprietor of the local brothel, Lace Polly (Lorraine Ashbourne), who brings a touch of elegance to the town with her rustling silks and bold ways.
After a tragedy at the worksite which leads to several deaths, a new agent is brought on in Ralph Coates (Clarke Peters, The Wire, Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime) a black American railroad worker with lots of experience and some secrets he is hiding. He takes an instant dislike to Johnny Jackson and the men continue to spar throughout the series, but for various reasons. The worksite accident leads to further misfortune involving Annie and her young son George (Samuel Bottomley) and the family finds themselves needing Johnny's help more than ever. They can fight their budding romance all they want, but it is inevitable.
As Annie and Johnny both make their respective ways in Jericho, troubles arise, whether it be a sharp detective (Mark Addy, Game of Thrones) out to solve a murder, an illness that hits Annie's daughter Martha (Amy James-Kelly) very hard, or fights between various navvies and Johnny, who also has his fair share of secrets.
Charles Blackwood isn't living a carefree life up at his stately manor either. His viaduct project is in serious financial trouble and he will have to turn to former fiancee' Isabella Lambton (Jeany Spark) for assistance, which won't sit well with his pride or his feelings. Other issues include a tenuous hold on the family's estate due to an errant older brother, a potential financial backer who is a minister and insists Jericho get cleaned up of its tavern and whorehouse, and a group of hard-headed navvies who want their pleasures in life, but aren't afraid to commit horrible acts when they feel they've been wronged. It's a combustible mix in Jericho and it makes for great TV.
Special features include about 40 minutes in featurettes including a making-of, and featurettes on individual characters, costuming and sets. The costuming and sets do deserve special mention as they really are quite fantastic. Not only were the ladies decked out in interesting patterns and prints, regardless of wealth or class stature, but so were the navvies, complete with smart vests and hats. Apparently, in actuality, navvies blew all of their substantial pay on their looks and entertainment and it's interesting to see the apparel of the day.
I loved Jericho and was sorry to see that it hasn't been renewed, as not only did the season finale end on a hell of a cliffhanger, but I really wanted to see where life took these characters. The acting across the board is terrific, the writing is compelling, and the characters are engaging. Even if it doesn't happen to return at a later date, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time in the dusty and dangerous shantytown of Jericho.