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24: "8:00am - 9:00am"

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So last week, I made more of you unhappy than usual, and looking back, I think I understand where the general argument is coming from. Yes, there were some powerful twists. Dana's sudden change from pawn to killer queen worked wonders for the show's urgency, the focus on Hassan's life actually meant there was a focus for a while, and Hassan's murder was shocking and sad. I've been accused of not giving 24 a fair shake, and while I don't think that's true, I won't argue that I've been disillusioned by the series the past couple years. It's certainly possible I went into "6:00am - 8:00am" with a chip on my shoulder. I stand by my criticisms: the dismissal of the nuclear rods, and the push of a peace treaty without any serious dramatic weight, made this season's lack of a center even more painfully obvious. I can appreciate moments, but still be frustrated by the lack of anything to hold them together.


Still, I made an effort to go into "8:00am - 9:00am" with more of an open mind, and for a long time, I thought we were headed in a promising new direction. In fact, I think generally speaking I'm more optimistic about the last few episodes of the show than I would've thought possible a few weeks ago. I'm not expecting miracles, but we do have a clear direction here, and I'm actually interested in what happens next. It's not perfect, and there's one big gaping flaw we'll get to in a moment, but to give the devil his due, this feels more like a season again, and not just a random smattering of series' highlights.

That doesn't mean the transition wasn't a rough one. At times, tonight's episode felt like it was blank slating the last five or six hours, casually tossing away what had been serious threats in order to bring out the real big bad, the evil Russians. Samir, once frighteningly competent (he did, after all, succeed in his plans), is taken out by a syringe in the neck, and with him, the whole terrorist threat. They took out Hassan and stalled the peace treaty, and now we're moving on. We're given just enough time to see the Evil EMT injecting Samir, then a brief scene near the end with Samir convulsing and dying, and that's all. It's abrupt, but I'm not sure I'd call the abruptness a bad thing. It's nice to finally have that shifting-into-upper-gears sensation that makes the last third of 24 seasons so exciting, and it's not like the Russian development is completely out of left field. After all, they're the ones that got us into all this trouble selling the rods in the first place.

President Taylor spends most of her time this hour putting other people's ideas into action. First, she gets told Dalia should take over for Hassan, and she's totally up for that, because that would make the peace treaty still viable. (I don't really care about the logistics of this, just as I've given up grasping the specifics of this mighty "treaty" that will apparently end war everywhere, or something.) Then, after Russian ambassador Novakovich visits to explain that his people will withdraw from the treaty whether or not Dalia steps up to the plate, Taylor goes running to Ethan Kanin. Kanin tells her to bring by Charles Logan, and for once, Cherry Jones gets to do some solid, righteous acting. She agrees to bring Logan on, but she's not going to tolerate any foolishness from him. He promises to play it straight, because he wants to serve his country.

Can we trust him? Normally, I would say "yes" because there's no real point to having him come back like this and then play the villain card again, but this is 24, and as we saw tonight, it is not a show  that shies from repetition. More importantly, is it possible to overlook this potential shark-jumper development and take pleasure in the dynamic Logan brings to the show? I think so. I was skeptical, but this isn't the first time he's been back, and watching him and Taylor play off each other was surprisingly entertaining. Logan is interesting because he's, well, complicated, and his self-serving desperation opens the door for dialog scenes that aren't quite so desperately expository. As for other plot developments, Chloe getting her shot at the big chair in CTU had me laughing, in a good way. While she still isn't the easy woman in the world to work with, she's mellowed somewhat over the years (as her rather sweet goodbye to Hastings showed), and putting her in charge means hopefully CTU will stay competent till the end.


So, I was optimistic for most of this. And then Renee and Jack slept together, with a sniper positioned across the street, and I knew what was coming, and I really, really hoped I was wrong. But Renee got shot, and then she died. Sutherland does some fine acting, and there was suspense in him bringing her to the hospital and so forth, but it's hard to get too worked up about a plot twist that's already been done on the show—when, in fact, the first time Jack lost the woman he loved, it was arguably the most powerful moment the series ever produced. This just seems like diminished returns, less Jack suffering from the dangers and consequences of his job than the writers deciding to fuck with him for some cheap emotional payoff. There wasn't even any real artistry to this. They had sex, and then she died, like they got screwing in a cabin on Crystal Lake. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to seeing revenge-Jack next week, but I feel more than a little cheap at how we got here. I think, really, that's my problem with this season. I don't mind being manipulated, but I do mind when they keep using the same strings.

Stray Observations:

  • Ooo, check out the tasteful "sniper getting a glimpse of sex in the mirror" shot. Why, Jack and Renee looked vaguely nude!
  • So, Renee's death: tragic, been there done that, or a little bit of both?

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