I’m never sure how comfortable we’re supposed to be with CTU’s magic surveillance technology. In the context of the show, the good guys’ astonishing ability to track nearly everyone and everything (albeit never quite well enough to completely stop the bad guys) seems to be presented as an undeniable positive. But there are moments that make me wonder. Like tonight, when Andy helps Mariana get a recording of a private cellphone conversation. On the one hand, that conversation is between Aisha (boo hiss) and Royo, and Nicole needs the information for proof that she and Isaac aren’t safe. On the other hand, the ease with which Andy is able to access the data is so casual it almost has to be intentionally horrifying. This is not a subtle show, but every so often it manages a moment of ambiguity. At least, I think it does.
Regardless, “2:00 PM-3:00 PM” represents an uptick in quality for the season as the show settles into the classic 24 rhythm of “Oh cool, the heroes are all on the same side again—or are they?” Given that it would be impossible (or at the very least, exhausting and ultimately tedious) to do a day where all possible hope and rapprochement was pushed into the final hour, the writers tend to ease off occasionally, sometimes with an almost comical abruptness. Like, say, Carter’s assault on the police station ending abruptly when the chief gets a phone call from CTU and clears everything up.
One of the downsides of the show’s constant plotting is that it reduces every character who isn’t a focus into something as simple as a plus or minus on a graph. If you aren’t a lead, you’re either an asset or an obstacle, and obstacles exist for a very simple reason: to slow the good guys down. Take Aisha, Isaac’s jealous paramour. Apart from her instant dislike of Nicole, she has no character. Her decision to betray Isaac is based on overhearing a conversation where Isaac admits he plans to dump her—which isn’t exactly nice (or smart) of Isaac, but also doesn’t justify Aisha’s immediate decision to get her duplicitous boyfriend killed. She isn’t a believable person, she’s just a threat to Nicole, and a way to add some suspense to scenes that don’t directly connect to the main storyline.
The unstated subtitle of every season of 24 is “Murphy’s Law Day.” If there was a twist that revealed all these characters were trapped in hell, it wouldn’t be all that surprising: Everything that can go wrong nearly always does, and the obstacles are the way the writers justify all that wrongness. This can lead to some inadvertently funny reverses, like when the show decided Carter needed to return to the main plot. The chief’s decision to immediately trust everything Rebecca Ingram says and give her everything she wants happens at ludicrous speed, but in the logic of the show, that makes sense—the only reason he existed was to make Carter’s life more difficult, and now that that’s no longer necessary, he’s no longer needed.
I suspect the ongoing adventures of Gothic Lolita and the Victim Of Chemistry Teacher are more intentionally funny. I know I was laughing; while both of them are horrific morons and the presumed attack they’re planning will cost lots of innocent lives, their inept efforts at hiding Drew’s body were a definite step up for the storyline. The whole thing is so absurd that it becomes legitimately entertaining to watch—seeing Drew (who didn’t die, so I guess neither of these idiots thought to check a pulse) stumble onto a practice field while the two wannabe killers trail desperately behind him was, in a dark and morbid way, absolutely delightful. The Rube Goldberg nature of disaster on this show can, on occasion, generate some absolutely terrific comedy, and the fact that I can’t imagine caring about any of these characters (even Drew seems like kind of a putz) means it’s a relief when things become so ridiculous that I can just enjoy the ride.
The episode also starts digging into our assumptions about the main threat. The biggest surprise is that Henry Donovan is actually responsible for the leaks that got Carter and Grimes’ unit killed. It’s not an unprecedented twist for the franchise; the terrorists, while still the most immediate threat, were too straightforward to be the only danger, and the smear campaign against Nilaa Mizrani, the woman Henry is attempting to frame for the leak, was too blatantly obvious and early in the season to be legitimate. But even if this sort of development is routine, it still works—and Henry’s discomfort over what he’s done should make for some interesting times ahead.
The centerpiece of the hour was Carter’s meeting with Grimes at the train station, a solid action sequence that has the sudden arrival of Jadalla bin-Khalid and his men throwing a wrench into everyone’s plans. There’s nothing here quite as unexpected as Carter throwing down against an entire police station (an assault which was admittedly kind of deflating in practice, but hey, it’s still an amazing idea), but it’s solid, and getting Grimes off the table is necessary. The first few hours of a 24 day function a bit like a longer version of a cold open on a more traditional series—we meet characters and get information that will be important long term, but there’s also an immediate crisis that will inevitably get taken out early on.
That’s where ole Grimy fits in. Carter’s desperate efforts to score $2 million in cash were really just a way to kill time—Grimes ends up with a bullet in his shoulder and, most likely, a treason charge for his efforts, but not much else. Still, the way the show spends a few minutes humanizing him before he loses is well done; obvious as hell (“Have you ever swum in glacial water?” = “I’ve only got two days left till retirement!”), but well-acted and a nice stab at pathos for a guy who we haven’t had much reason to like.
Overall, this hour was just easier to enjoy—the Nicole/Aisha plot is a bummer, but one weak thread out of the bunch is a very good ratio for the show. Rebecca and Keith have resolved their differences, at least temporarily, and I always find the show more fun when the good guys are all pretty much on the same page. Henry Donovan is going to throw a wrench into that soon enough, but for now, I’m going to enjoy the sudden lack of complication.
- Andy and Tom Locke have a romantic history. Is this the first gay couple we’ve had in CTU? I can’t remember.
- Really smart call on handing your wife to your brother’s gang, Eric. That is definitely not backfiring at all.
- Rebecca and Andy are quickly cleared because CTU has amazing anti-lie tech. Which is a bit ridiculous, but hey, at least no one was tortured.
- The cop who helps Carter out sure was lucky that Rebecca called.