Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer
There are some shows that can be absolutely riveting, despite the fact that nothing profound “happens” during a given episode. Seinfeld proved this in an irreverent way, but even dramas such as my dear, departed Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip clearly showed that sharp writing and good character development truly make up 90% of good television.
Conversely, there are some shows that somehow end up boring, despite almost wall-to-wall happenings. Tonight’s episode of 24 fits this category to a tee.
In every season of 24, there are a few episodes that, despite the best intentions of the writers, end up as bridge episodes, meant to get us from one major storyline to the next. These are the truly clunky “hours,” where stale plots are wrapped up, and they haven’t yet put the pieces in place for what’s next. You can recognize bridge episodes by characters acting like things have gone back to normal despite the continuance of dramatic music, a lesser character getting shot or killed as a means to elicit sympathy from us (but not too much, of course), or by any female character being chased by wild feral cats.
Tonight’s bridge episode marks – we can only hope – the very last time we are forced to hear any character say the word “CIP Device.” Following the tracking device placed on Matobo, Jack, Tony, Bill, and the recently recruited Agent Walker discover the location of General Dubaku’s secret hiding spot. They plan their assault, while Chloe continues her unbroken record of finding a computer program that shows her every detail of every building schematic in the world, with real-time updates as to which people have entered which room. They begin the siege, and it ends with Matobo rescued, the CIP device destroyed, and every bad guy gloriously butchered. But wait…where has Dubaku gone? After creating a diversion in the form of a bomb made out of the poor kidnapped father from the very beginning of the season, he escapes. No further explanation necessary.
It was a good thing that CIP device was destroyed too. It seems that just before Jack’s siege, Dubaku was using it to cause a chemical factory in Ohio to malfunction, which would make it release gas that would kill thousands. Mere minutes from this catastrophe, Dubaku sees a photo of Bauer outside his building, which causes to pull the plug on the mission completely. This disaster is averted, with only the plant manager as a casualty. Lucky break there, huh?
Finally, there’s the White House storyline. President Alison Taylor, who we all know wisely filled her cabinet and advisor positions with people who disagree with her every decision, seems to have something of a penchant for having the exact same conversation with the exact same people about once per hour. (Man, if she knew that the main function of the President’s office was to serve as exposition for the exploits of one government agent, I bet she’d NEVER have taken the position!) In this case, it’s the same old “What do we do about Sangala?” debate. Luckily for her, the crisis is averted, and they can now concentrate on the whereabouts of her husband. Unfortunately, the “First Gentleman” is still suffering from the effects of the nerve toxin he was given by Agent Gedge, and for two hours, the only movement he was able to make was to kill the far younger and stronger agent. Before he gets all his strength back, another agent comes in who – in a turn of events you’d never see coming in a million billion years – actually works for General Dubaku! Mr. Taylor is unceremoniously tied up, placed in the trunk of a car, and as we leave him he’s being carted into the too obvious by a half hostage storyline that awaits him.
For me, there are two undisputed highlights of this episode. The first is the entire sequence involving the raid on Dubaku’s hideout. As I list out everything that’s hilarious about this sequence, remember that Dubaku’s title is GENERAL – meaning, one would assume, that he has spent most of his life in the military, studying the tactics and practices of war:
- Dubaku and his men have chosen as their secret lair…an office in an office building. With non-bulletproof see-through glass doors.
- When Dubaku and his men rented this office space, they apparently also wisely decided to rent the space directly above them as well, then leave it empty with an easily accessible crawlspace into their lair.
- Dubaku and his men accept their prize – Matobo – without once checking him for any tracking devices.
- Dubaku has surveillance around the building, but when it captures images of Bauer and Tony Almeda outside, no one catches this until TWENTY MINUTES after the fact.
- The siege includes automatic weapons, and ends with a man blowing himself up. None of these things alerts anyone else in the building. (Come to think of it, how did they move all those weapons INTO that space anyway?)
- FBI Agent Renee Walker was vital to the success of this mission. Just a note, two hours ago, she hated Jack Bauer with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. And just a little over an hour before this siege, she was dug up from being buried alive, and an injection of adrenaline into her heart was needed to resuscitate her.
The other thing that was just wonderful about this episode was the twist ending. Over the years, the final minutes of the show are where we learn all about the shocking betrayals and horrifying direction changes that besiege our heroes. Tonight, we saw the evil General Dubaku make his way into a hip “D.C.” apartment that we are meant to believe is his own. There is a knock at the door. He slowly opens it with gun hidden…and we see…A WOMAN WE’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE! She’s going to make him lasagna! He agrees, pecks her on the lips, and closes the door. Now I have to admit, after six seasons I thought I was prepared for everything. But introducing an unimportant character in a heightened moment? 24, you got me again!