Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer
Has there ever been a show that stands up to scrutiny worse than 24?
Each episode is undeniably entertaining, and there are a few that, even after so many seasons, can still manage to surprise us. However, 24 is not meant to be taken on a per-episode basis; the entire conceit is that the season is one uninterrupted series of events. And that is where it all falls apart.
Here’s a brief and approximate timeline of the events in Jack’s life, starting from 8am “today” until last night’s episode:
8:00am – Harshly criticized and questioned by the Senate about past activities. His professional life is over.
8:10am – Subpoenaed by the FBI, taken to FBI Headquarters
8:30 – Learns that his former colleague Tony – who he thought was dead – is leading a plot to hijack the nation’s infrastructure.
8:45 – Goes on field assignment with FBI agent.
9:30 – Tracks assassin with agent to a dockyard.
10:00 – Captures Tony.
10:10 – Interrogates Tony, learns that…
10:11 – Tony is NOT evil, but deep undercover with other former members of CTU on a secret mission to save the world.
10:30 – Breaks Tony out of FBI headquarters .
10:45 – While laying down in a car without wearing a seatbelt, drives car off a multi-story parking garage.
11:20 – Goes undercover as mercenary for hire with Tony’s gang boss.
11:50 – Breaks into embassy to kidnap foreign leader.
12:15 – Poisons leader and leader’s wife with toxic fumes to force them out of hiding.
12:30 – Takes foreign leader as well as FBI agent who now thinks he’s evil.
12:55 – Fakes assassination of FBI agent
Wow…quite a day, huh? The very notion that a single person could undergo this is simply insane. In addition, there are some other hilarious moments thrown into the past few episodes, including:
1. Agent Walker’s slow descent into accepting torture into her field practices – She started the DAY thoroughly against the use of torture. One hour later she allows Jack to use force to gain information, and two hours after that she herself is torturing a suspect. Who knew ideals could be so malleable?
2. The Attorney General’s speedy response – Agent Walker tortures a man in a hospital room at about 10:45 on this day. At 11:15, someone from the Attorney General’s office appears at FBI headquarters, looking to get some answers about the incident. WOW!! Even better than that, this man stands around for about fifteen minutes while the office deals with a massive crisis, then walks into the supervisor’s office and demands he drop everything else to answer questions. It’s great to know that justice is so swift in government.
3. One FBI agent (who is showing himself to be a real tool) spends the first few episodes bitching about his security clearance, breaking into confidential records to get flight information for his wife, impersonates his boss to get his wife’s plane on the ground ahead of schedule, and snaps a female coworker during this crisis. He then participates in the greatest exchange I’ve ever heard with that same snapped-at coworker:
Man: My wife just landed. She’s going to be okay.
Woman: That’s good.
Man: Yeah. Sorry I snapped at you earlier.
Woman: It’s okay. You were worried about your wife.
Woman: You know…I can’t stop thinking about last night.
Man: Me either!
I can’t say I’ve ever cheated on my wife, but I can bet that the sexiest thing to talk about next morning is your how happy you are that she’s okay.
And since that catches us up, let’s get to tonight’s episode.
Just in case it’s not clear, Jack and Tony’s plan for saving the day is as follows: after kidnapping Matobo from the embassy, they intend to hand him over to the evil General Dubaku, at which point they will trace his location, swoop in and retrieve the CIP device. When the episode begins, they are speeding away from the place where they buried Agent Walker alive, to get to the meeting point. Luckily, only a few minutes elapse before Bill and Chloe arrive to dig Walker out in time. (They apparently know her location because Jack called and told them so. It’s hard to imagine just how he accomplished this without the bad guys seeing, but regardless, he had to do it after 1:00pm, since we were watching him until that point. Thus, assuming he made the call at one second past 1pm, it still means that Bill and Chloe were able to receive the call, hang up, walk down to their car, drive to this abandoned site, and dig her up in less than ten minutes.) Tony and Jack arrive at the dropoff point, dispatch the rest of their crew, and effectively hand over Matobo after Chloe (who is now with them…) affixes a tracking device on his teeth.
Meanwhile, there is ongoing conflict between the president and General Dubaku. Dubaku is still insisting that the US withdraw troops from the Sangalan borders, but President Taylor refuses, despite the best efforts of her chief advisor, who urges her to comply for the fourth time in three hours (Why would a president abide an advisor who’s such a nag?) Dubaku responds by causing two planes to collide near the White House. This tragedy effectively convinces every single person working in the Taylor administration that withdrawal is the only option, and Taylor is forced to give yet another impassioned yet bravely understated speech about her ideals. She refuses once more, and the episode ends with Dubaku ordering the beginning of his next move against the US.
For me, by far the stupidest part of this episode involves the tragedy that destroys morale in the White House. Dubaku and his men, by making two planes believe that they are mission control, are able to steer them into each other, in such a way that, when he calls the President to gloat, he can tell her exactly which window to look out of to see the catastrophe. Now call me crazy, but that is some DAMN good air traffic control! Maybe…MAYBE…this could be done if the two planes were the exact same size, with the exact same engines, starting at points equidistant from each other. But the show makes it clear that it was a commuter jet and a small propeller plane. Dubaku is clearly superhuman, and so if I were president Taylor, I’d give up right now!
The second great part deals with the President’s husband subplot. Two “hours” ago, Taylor learned from his dead son’s former girlfriend that he was murdered as he suspected, and hadn’t committed suicide as he had been told. Of course, the proof of this cover-up came in the form of a thumb drive that is filled with encrypted files. Mr. Taylor’s bodyguard agrees to take him to a friend’s house to decrypt them, and in the least shocking twist of them all, he turns out to be evil. He actually takes Taylor to the former girlfriend’s apartment, and then drugs him with a nerve paralyzer. The former girlfriend is compelled by another evil agent to go to her apartment (on 8th street and D in D.C., which we know since the exterior shot proves this. That there IS no apartment building there should come as no surprise; why couldn’t they have gone four blocks down for their exterior, so we could sing the Capitol City song from The Simpsons?) where she is quickly murdered by the agent. Gedge (what a great name for an evil guy!) hauls Taylor up to the top story of the girlfriend’s enormous loft apartment (I forgot how big DC apartments are!) and prepares the noose that will be used to fake the President’s husband’s suicide. However…Taylor gets his ability to move back. And just when Gedge is about to finish the deed, Taylor attacks! That’s right: a middle-aged man still fighting off the effects of a paralyzing drug grabs the throat of a young secret service agent…and wins! Perfectly logical!
So much to mock…so much to love.