I still find President Taylor infuriating. She's not fun evil like Logan (and boy is Gregory Itzin making the most of his character's return), and she's not scary evil, or tragic evil. She's just weak and foolish and sad, and even those qualities are less a reflection of her character than an indication of the writers' unwillingness to give her a persistent personality. In the context of the show, though, she's despicable. Tonight, she tries to blame Logan for her recent misdeeds, and then almost immediately after orders a Secret Service team to shut down an American newspaper. She has a reporter arrested by the FBI because that reporter has information that could harm Taylor's precious peace treaty. And all the while, she has the temerity to act as though she has no choice in any of this, as though Logan were some bureaucratic Iago, as opposed to a weaselly used car salesman, reeking of bad cologne and sweaty palms.
I open with this because, while I didn't enjoy all parts of "1:00pm - 2:00pm" equally, the President Taylor scenes were the only ones I didn't enjoy at all, and they weren't terribly long. While we're still rooting for him to win, Jack Bauer has essentially become the Big Bad of the closing hours of 24's last season: he's operating against the wishes of the government and law enforcement, he's behaving irrationally, he's pretty terrifying, and even Chloe can't justify his actions anymore. The Russians who ordered Renee's death, and who tried to prevent the peace treaty from being signed, are still the villains, but they aren't the ones that need to be stopped anymore. Jack is now a catastrophe in motion, and, with each awful act he takes closer to his final moments on television, it gets harder and harder to look away.
I could be petty here and mention how it would've been nice if we'd had this level of intensity earlier in the season. After Renee's first departure from the action, we lost a lot of the highwire tension, with Jack being a good boy and no major threat to innocent lives on display. It was necessary to have some lull, I guess, to get us off our guard and set up the final act, but I wish it'd been stronger than Dana's attempts to hide her redneck past. Plus, while Renee's death was scary and shocking, connecting it to Jack's decision to go off the rails and turn into The Punisher is too clumsy a transition to think about very long. I can't really put my finger on it, but it has something to do with the brevity of their relationship, and the unbelievable amount of shit Jack has dealt with in the past. Yes, this could be the straw that broke the camel's back, but it works better if you just ignore the root cause altogether, and savor the mayhem.
And really, there is some delightful mayhem here, the highlight being Jack's assault on Logan's transport car. With the all black hockey mask, Jack's essentially embraced his super-hero core, although clearly more on the vigilante side, and it was thrilling to see him cut loose, to watch Logan's increasingly panicked cries, to see how fast the operation went down. Pavel's torture last week was a sickening, unsettling act of rage, while this… Well, I'm not saying Jack's too happy right now, but there was nothing off-putting or creepy about this. This was pure fun, and it introduced a sense of freedom to a series that has become increasingly tied down by its own cliches.
There was some other plotting: Meredith struggled to get the digital proof of the Russian conspiracy to the right people, finally calling Kayla and Dalia before getting arrested by the feds. Chloe and Arlo figured out the name of Jack's silent partner (I'm just going to keep referring to him as Michael Madsen to save us all some time), and Chloe got Cole out of CTU jail so he could track Madsen down. None of this was amazing, but there was life in it, thankfully, and I'm enjoying Chloe's squirming. I also enjoyed Cole's insistence that he would "take Jack down" if he had to, because come on.
As always, though, 24 is about Jack. His decision to go on his own means we get less time with him, but the time we get is worth waiting for. There's the kidnapping, interrogating Logan (no surprise that he squealed almost immediately), and an attack at the Russians that played less like an action movie and more like the carnage of a slasher movie. I mean, how ballsy is it that we don't even see Mikhail's death? Next week we get our series finale double-header, and I am actually excited to see how this plays out. I guessing bad news for all, and I couldn't be happier about it.
- Ethan's gone, and Logan's connection to Taylor has been officially confirmed, so Taylor's screwed.
- Man, there's always another Russian, isn't there