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Breaking Down Bauer: A Look at 24, Season 7

Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer


 

1/12/09

After an eighteen month delay and about four hours worth of total ad time, 24 finally returned to Fox’s airwaves last night. (Now wait a minute…did I forget entirely about 24: Redemption, which aired nearly two months ago? Well frankly…yeah. Redemption’s sole reason for existence was to get those digital red numbers back on the air, and it was clearly born out of a need to get Jack from wherever he was at the end of the last season to the Senate hearing chamber where he begins this season. All the rest was pretty much nonsense.)  Since I am both a huge fan of this show, as well as a HUGE fan of mocking it, I will once more attempt to capture my thoughts as the series unspools from now until May. Let’s jump in!

One thing that’s always funny to me about 24, especially in later seasons, is that each “day” begins by showing Jack in a far different “place” than he was at the end of the previous “day,” but you can then start a timer to see how long it takes him to get right back into being the same old Jack. In years past, the seasons have begun with him: mourning the loss of his wife, hopelessly addicted to heroin, and on the run out of the country. Hell, last season began with him returning to the US after eighteen months of constant torture as a prisoner of the Chinese, and he was STILL back to normal about halfway into the season, or after about twelve hours his time.

This season, Jack begins his day in the witness chair, as members of the Senate set about crucifying him for past actions. It is hear that we learn that CTU has disbanded, but before anything else can be revealed, the proceedings are interrupted by an FBI agent with a warrant to take Jack away for a reason she will not disclose to the Senators. Because FBI agents do not have to answer to the country’s legislators, of course.

Turns out, a new threat to the nation’s security has been discovered, and the FBI needs Jack’s help to stop it because the man in charge of it is…none other than Tony Almeda! Since Tony died two seasons ago, this comes as utterly shocking news…or at least, it might have if this fact hadn’t been teased last November in the Season Seven trailer, or hadn’t been heavily prevalent in any of the promos on air for the past three weeks. As it was, I was just happy they got it out of the way quickly, and didn’t make us wait four weeks pretending not to know who the shadowy guy was who keeps whispering all his lines.

Tony’s plan has something to do with breaking into the “CIP Firewall” (a term that sounds official, but I suspect is just more jargony bullshit), thus granting them access to the nation’s power grid, water supply and air traffic control. In fact, Tony’s plot arc in these first two hours dealt mostly with one particular airplane that he took control of from the air, and they wanted us to believe that he was going to crash it on purpose as a show of power. (I never believed it; Tony is a favorite character, and if they are going to make him evil, they need to give fans time to get used to the idea, or give him a backstory that makes him sympathetic at the very least.) But based on a shadowy conversation in a dark room, it seems that Almeda might actually be working for an agent from Sengala.

Ah, Sengala. This is the fictional country that Jack found himself in at the start of Redemption for some reason, and the brutal regime of a general there has made international headlines for its atrocities. When we get our first look into the new White House (with President Allison Taylor, no less), she is preparing to start a war on Sengala to remove this despot from power. (A quick note: while I think that creating a fictional name for this country is kind of stupid – especially since it sounds SO MUCH like an actual country name that no doubt people all over the country think this is a true story – I do think that it is FAR better than the policy from the past two seasons of never referring to countries by name to avoid angry feedback.) These are the scenes where, in case you needed it, you got to be freshly reminded just how right-wing and conservative are the makers of this show. President Taylor is horrified by the atrocities in Sengala, and wants to stop them at any costs. When an aide recommends allowing the U.N. to do this work instead, she bitches that they have their hands tied, and that more sanctions aren’t going to accomplish anything. Invading this country is the only responsible thing to do as a world power. Later on, when someone else expresses reservations about the plan due to the lack of a post-war exit strategy, she chews him out in front of the Joint Chiefs for being weak. Man…isn’t it great to know how simple world politics can be? (I hold out hope that this situation plays out more like Iraq, and less like how the creators of 24 wish Iraq had gone. Only time will tell.)

But getting back to Jack Bauer: though the FBI have subpoenaed him to help them find Tony Almeda, they are extremely leery of him, and openly distrust his methods. And yet, within fifteen minutes he has found the detail that the entirety of the FBI overlooked, and they are off to question a suspect. (Jack is taken along in the hopes that the mere sight of him will encourage our bad guy to talk.) When they get there, the bad guy is emboldened by the restraints put on Bauer, and he invites him in. Unsurprisingly, the FBI’s pussy “asking questions” tactic fails utterly, but just when they are about to leave empty-handed, they are handed a lucky break when the bad guy’s henchman pulls out a gun. Much ass-kicking ensues, and in a fit of desperation, the FBI agent allows Jack to do “whatever it takes” to get answers. The man caves just before Jack plunges the Bic into his eye, but before he says anything, a sniper across the street guns him down. This gunman is subsequently trapped in the building, but two things then happen: first, a mole hidden within the FBI helps him escape (Wow! A mole within the good guys? Who ever HEARD of such a device??), and he ultimately leads Jack and his foxy agent friend to Tony (since, once again, Jack identifies what’s happening when no one else can.) The shows end with a face-off between Tony and Jack that just drips with (homoerotic) tension.

One thing I’m going to love about this season of 24 is its setting, since unless three or more episodes are going to feature Jack sitting on an airplane, then we are looking at Bauer on the streets of DC for the duration. And as a resident of DC, it was already a TON of fun to laugh at the absurdities in the first two episodes alone! Here’s a few facts about this city: there are no tall buildings (mandate states that nothing can stand taller than the Capitol building), there are no private dockyards, and I have never seen a single city street that would be clear of traffic at 9:30 in the morning. These facts alone should increase the humor factor of this season by about 50%

And finally for this installment, another thing that always amuses me about 24 is its inability to find distinction between the facts that WE know, and those that its characters know. This first night featured three air-traffic controllers who alert their boss when a glitch seems to indicate a breach. This information finds its way to the FBI, where it eventually becomes clear – as we already knew – that this is Tony’s doing. Just a little while later, one of these three controllers – who are lackeys without real authority – refer to something that “Almeda” just did. Impossible. On an even more egregious scale, when Tony talks about his decision to have a sniper take down the aforementioned bad guy, he reassures a colleague that he was “stopped before he could reveal anything to Jack.” True enough, Tony…but short of watching the same episode we did, I don’t think there’s any well in hell that he’d be privy to that fact.

Two more episodes tonight of the show I love, and love to mock. What did you think?

Author: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer

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