Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) and Goth Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) chase subway trains around London and beat them to their destinations.
Let’s bitch it out…
I mentioned last week that I never warmed to the real time gimmick that 24 runs with. Most of the time I just roll with it, but sometimes I find that it creates jarring cuts and disjointed plots. In tonight’s episode, I found it quite annoying that the President’s speech to parliament is cut away from. I don’t know if the writers feel that they got all that they needed from that scene, with President Heller (William Devane) getting shouted down a couple times, or if we’ll see some sort of aftermath on the episode next week, but count me disappointed. So far the President has been a pretty lame duck, and I was hoping that he’d make an impression this week. I obviously wasn’t expecting him to change parliament’s mind or anything, but he could have swayed a few people (Prime Minister Stephen Fry, for example, and maybe a few influential ministers), including the audience. I haven’t watched the old seasons in a while, but I remember Heller being a more impressive character back then.
It seems as though the drone issue will remain the focal point of the terrorist plot, as well as the President’s focus. Drones are an interesting subject that don’t seem to get as much play in real-life media as they should. 24 has couched the argument as “us against them,” with the perception being that most of the Brits are opposed to drones (it’s worth noting that, in the real world, the U.K. uses drones, also – as does France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Turkey, China, India, Iran, and Israel, and probably others too). The benefit of drones is clear: you don’t have to risk soldiers’ lives to eliminate hostile targets. Is that benefit enough to offset the most obvious downside? That, without eyes on the ground, there are a large number of non-military casualties? It’s easy to press a button and kill somebody when you’re sitting safely in a room a thousand miles away. I’m really hoping that 24 engages this discussion at a deeper level in the coming weeks, and that we aren’t just supposed to automatically assume the “pro-drone” American stance. We’ll see.
Torture on 24 was also always a hot-button issue, to the extent that the U.S. military actually met with the creators of the show and asked them to stop showing Jack Bauer torturing people, as they believed that it was having a negative impact on their training of troops. So I was quite pleased to see Agent Kate Morgan’s (Yvonne Strahovski) approach to getting valuable information – taking the bad guy into the spooky lair of other bad guys, and threatening to turn him over to them. Torture in the real world is a long, drawn-out process; it’s not something that you do for five minutes and get answers (and it’s debatable that any form of torture is reliable since people will just say just about anything to make it stop). I found Agent Morgan’s solution to be more clever and believable.
What I found less believable is that she still thinks that Jack is the bad guy. Ok, I’m biased, because I know that Jack isn’t bad. But she was the one who caught on to what Jack was doing last week, and Jack tipped her off to information that led her to want to question the drone pilot. Like, what more does she need to give Jack a little benefit of the doubt? Or maybe she’s just playing it that way so her superiors and/or partner-by-circumstance, Agent Erik Ritter (Gbenga Akinnagbe) don’t catch on. I’m not sure, but she seems pretty sharp, so I’d be disappointed if Kate hasn’t put two and two together yet. Jack could have killed her a couple of times already, and instead he gave her leads. Doesn’t scream “guilty.”
The other thing that ‘1:00pm – 2:00pm’ did was introduce us to the rest of the terrorist family. The motivation for their crimes ties directly back to the drones, since Margot Al-Hazari’s (Michelle Fairley) husband was apparently killed in a drone strike that was authorized by President Heller (or maybe it was authorized by a forged signature!). Her husband’s death is clearly fueling her desire for revenge, which apparently means killing not just the President, but 10 different, highly populated, London targets. I’m not sure why she wants to kill British people to get back at the Americans for killing her husband, though. Does she actually think that the British people will believe that the Americans would blow up London? That seems like a bit of a stretch, but I guess we can just chalk that up to her being a little off the wall.
The whole family dynamic is interesting, though. I like the introduction of Navid (Sacha Dhawan), although I suspect that he’s not long for this world (seriously, mommy has cameras set up to watch her daughter get it on? Blech). I’m curious to see if his hesitation to follow through on their plans will rub off on Simone (Emily Berrington). 24 doesn’t often give the terrorists much ambiguity (I suppose the writers don’t want the audience to feel any sympathy for the bad guys that Jack will eventually kill?) The bad guys are bad, and Jack is good.
That leaves our protagonist. Jack’s storyline tonight is a little dull – basically he and Goth Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) just drive around London for a while. Jack jumps on a subway and then almost immediately loses his target. Goth Chloe has a weird moment where she thinks she sees Morris and her kid, which I guess is the catalyst for her new alternative lifestyle. But it doesn’t really go anywhere – character work isn’t usually 24’s strong suit. Eventually Jack ends up at the U.S. embassy, where there’s a giant protest. His fake credentials don’t work, so he steals a gun from a British police officer to incite a riot and storm the embassy. That’s an interesting touch, considering that British police officers don’t actually carry guns. Even if they did, there’s no way this plan would work – there’s a giant protest outside the embassy, with a high-value target being delivered, and there are maybe a half dozen soldiers guarding the entrance? Chalk this one up to suspension of disbelief.
The one thing that has impressed me so far is that all of the different story lines actually seem to be on point – thus far there are no ‘Kim being chased by a cougar’ subplots. Premium cable channels figured out a while back that 22 episode seasons (or, in this case, 24 episode seasons) get bloated too easily. There’s too much filler. You can tell a much better, much more streamlined story in 10 or 12 episodes. There are a few reasons why HBO and AMC shows are considered superior to the networks, and one of them is shorter seasons. I say this now, but I know that I’m going to be let down by some terrible love triangle subplot once Jack is revealed to Audrey.
- I was curious about whether there are actually U.S. drone operation stations on British soil, but I couldn’t find anything one way or the other, so I still don’t know.
- Is it a coincidence that this season is set in London, or was it to create easy writing shortcuts? London is one of the only cities in the world where almost everything outdoors is on camera. And when your sidekick can hack into any system – and use facial recognition software at the same time – it makes it pretty easy to track people down.
- More real time annoyances: Jack was waiting in line at the embassy for like 15 minutes, even though there only appeared to be a few people ahead of him. And after the first commercial break, the split screens show four different screens of people in cars – are we meant to believe that London traffic is better or worse than Los Angeles traffic?
- Finally, Ron Fairbanks sounds like a much wussier name than Jack Bauer – I’m glad that alias didn’t last long.
What’s your take on the third episode? Are you disappointed with President Heller’s treatment? Are you hoping for a more in-depth political analysis of the drones and the terrorists’ motivation? Do you hope that Kate stops pursuing Jack and starts working with him soon? Sound off below
24: Live Another Day airs Mondays at 9pm EST on FOX