Tuesday, April 13, 2010

24: Gettin' Busy Livin' and Gettin' Busy Dyin'



- 24, thankfully, seems to have shifted into high gear as the countdown to the final hour begins in earnest. Last week's two hour episode set the stage, closing the book, to some extent, on the ongoing nuclear rods storyline, and killing off President Hassan. As so many of the season's plot threads came to a close, the question arose of where things would, or could, go from here. And that's when things are often at their most interesting for 24 - when we've gotten away from the A to B to C plot progression that so many seasons follow, and find ourselves in sudden death overtime. Quite literally, in the case of last night's episode.

24 isn't a regular TV show. After years and years of watching the show, there are certain things that register with us longtime fans that non-fans probably just won't get. So, hmm, let's just get this out of the way now ... JACK spent a good forty minute or so of this episode "uploading his intel" to Renee Walker, in REAL-TIME. Allllright. In a lot of ways, there wasn't a lot of realistic build-up to the two hooking up, but in the world of 24, it's basically been an inevitability that the entire season seemed to have been leading up to. And hey, 24 is a world of melodrama, of epic heroes, of GRAVITAS. When Jack administers 20 cc's of Jack-juice to his special lady-friend, it's no small matter. Suffice it to say, Jack lifting Renee off her feet and proceeding to show her the true meaning of the Jack Bauer Hour of Power ... well, in its own special way, it was indeed one of the most epic moments we've seen on the season to date.

But, this being 24, Jack can't display his affections for a female companion without putting her in some sort of mortal danger. Renee had already been through her share of scrapes, but as she and Jack engaged in unholy communion, with a Russian sniper keeping his rifle trained on them, you had to know that bad things were about to go down. And go down they did. Jack got up for water, and as Renee spoke with Chloe on the phone, the sniper got her with deadly accuracy. Jack rushed her to the hospital, but it was too late (at least, it seems that way). In an absolutely crushing moment, Jack had reached the heights of pleasure only to succumb to the harshest of pain. The woman he had grown to care for, perhaps even love, during the one and a half days that he had known her, was dead. As a silent clock played to close out the show for the second straight week, all I could think was: "dammit all."

I don't know if Renee is really and truly dead, and honestly I have mixed feelings about whether killing off one of the show's strongest remaining characters was a smart move. But I will say this: this was up there with the most compelling hours of 24 of the season. We got the Jack and Renee triumph and tragedy, plus, some pretty well-done moments of political drama at the UN. Even though we are at the point where it just seems silly for President Taylor to not catch at least a few hours of sleep, Cherry Jones still had some really nice moments - with Hassan's wife (convincing her to assume her husband's presidency, in a really stirring scene), with the scheming Russian ambassador, and with the returning former President Logan.

Yes, Logan returned, and Gregory Itzin was in fine form as the weaselly, disgraced politician who was once one of 24's most infamous villains. It was fun watching Itzin just exude slimeball as he convinced President Taylor to recruit him to negotiate with the Russians. However, the plotting here was definitely clunky. This is a man responsible for murder and presidential assassination - there is just NO WAY the President would EVER enlist his services in this manner. It was good seeing Logan back, but I'm just not buying his new role here.

Better implemented was Chloe's promotion to interim Director of CTU. Again, it makes zero sense from a logical perspective (what, there was no Deputy Director? how does an analyst get promoted to Director?). But, hey, Chloe had a lot of fun scenes, and it was nice to see such a long-running character have some actual progression. Plus, it was just funny seeing her boss people (esp. Freddie Prinze Jr.) around. It's a sad comment on how generally useless Hastings was this whole season (he had one good moment the whole season - his "I want you ALL in" line to Jack that one time), but hey, at least the writers are admitting their mistakes.

I think that there is, unfortunately, the potential for this season of 24 to really crash and burn in the next few episodes. As I've pointed out, there seems to be a LOT of very forced plot progression going on here. One of the show's strongest characters brutally killed off, Chloe as head of CTU, President Taylor working with and trusting Charles Logan ... this could be dangerous as we head towards the endgame. But, this was a riveting episode all the same. It hit the notes that get 24 fans all a-tingle. It set Jack up to basically go insane and become more crazed and violent than ever. It ensured that we're in store for some hardcore moments in the weeks ahead. For now though, let's have a moment of silence for Renee Walker, Jack's freckled companion who stood on the edge of the abyss and, eventually, fell in head-first. May your eventual resurrection in zombie form come quickly.

My Grade: A-

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