24 fans rejoice.
The show is back in a huge way and with the triumphant return of the Jack Bauer Power Hour comes the return to regularly scheduled Blog updates. As for you non-24 Hour Party People, not to worry, the various projects that have siphoned my free time have passed critical mass and I should be posting more frequent updates on all manner of topics in the very near future. But enough about me, let’s talk Jack.
Before I dive into my observations and asides, I wanted to post a brief review of the first four hours. From minute one through the catastrophic event that punctuates the closing seconds of Hour 4, the sixth day appears to be off to a great start. Last season was great – easily the series best yet, although it took a little while to reach those lofty heights. It wasn’t until 8 or 9 episodes in – when Peter Weller’s Christopher Henderson and Gregory Itzin’s evil President Logan took center stage – did the season hit that sweet spot. Right out of the gate, Season 6 has started at a level equal to where we left off last season – with Jack begrudgingly taking that slow boat to China.
1. I like the way the writers on this show play with our expectations. Case in point – the first scene in Hour 1 depicts a group of Angelenos hanging around some street corner watching an outdoor newscast drop 30 seconds of exposition – bringing us all up to speed that the US has been under siege for 11 weeks. As a Middle-Eastern man walks by – casually taking in the briefing – he notices the crowd begin to turn their wary eyes towards him. His bus arrives and the man (carrying a huge satchel) tries to board but the distrustful bus driver won’t allow him on. We’re kept off guard. One moment you feel for the guy as he’s a victim of obvious profiling – the next you think, “hey maybe this guy is a bomber who just missed his connection.” Of course, moments later, chaos rains as the bus is revealed to house the true bomber already on board who successfully blows up the bus.
2. Jack Bauer’s return was handled in mythic fashion. Seeing him step off that transport with a legion of armed guards awaiting his transfer – his Jesus beard and robes flowing – really gets the juices flowing. Interesting how deftly Kiefer imparts the reality that this Jack is a broken man. His mannerisms seem meek – less confident – as he demurs to his former Chinese captors. We soon learn that he has been released as part of a secret deal struck by the US. The terrorists want Bauer dead in exchange for a cease-fire on the attacks. As the Chinese official intones – “Your country has paid a steep price for one man.”
3. Writing about this episode with the benefit of having seen the first five allows me to focus on what could have been a throwaway line. Pay attention to Morris’ reference of having done a little under-the-table work on a rogue Russian satellite. His knowledge of that satellite comes into play in this episode (he and Chloe reposition it and almost kill the Jack trade) but in Episode 5 (which I’ll touch on in a separate post) there are some surprising developments that may loop back to that throwaway line. Bookmark that thought.
4. Hour 1 ends with Kiefer tossing a nod to his past work and noshing on some poor guard’s neck. “That’s the problem with Southern California. Too many kick-ass vampire secret agents.”
5. Hour 2 covers two big plot points. First Bauer escapes from his captors (his strength rejuvenated with that little protein snack he wolfed down) and with the knowledge that Abu Fayad has duped the US and has no plans to cease his attacks (thanks to some Bond villain grand-standing) he hightails it to Fayad’s former boss, Assad, who has actually entered this country in a bid to stop Fayad and broker a peace treaty. The Assad character is especially compelling as he is essentially a cross of Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams and Osama Bin Laden. He is the most feared terrorist organizer who has waged war against the US and its allies for 20 years and has now decided that the means to achieving their goals are better served by laying down arms and joining the political process.
6. That knowledge births an interesting dynamic as Jack joins forces with Assad to hunt down Fayad – including a brief layover as they track a suicide bomber in the LA subway system. Assad has trained these men and knows what to look for – how they’ll behave – who their handlers are. The subway sequence is striking as Assad lays out the intel for Bauer who couples that with brute force to drop kick the bomber out the back of a train before he can cause some real damage.
7. I’d be remiss if I gloss over 24’s trademark family in jeopardy subplot. Every season has one and if there is a saving grace to this tired convention, it’s that the writers now seem to know when to quit. These B-plots used to drag on for half a season. Season 6 wraps it up in about 4 eps. Kal Penn guests as a neighbor whose Dad is accused of being a terrorist and suddenly sees his friendly neighbors turning on him. One family comes to his defense, though they quickly find themselves in suburban hell as the plot twists and it is revealed that Kal Penn is in fact a terrorist. Again, the writers do a great job of teasing our preconceptions. As Penn is tormented by the oaf next door, we bristle at the discrimination. Suddenly, it turns out that the oaf may be onto something. By the time this plot point plays out – this poor nuclear family has been obliterated.
8. Props to Penn for getting more lines in his first 10 seconds of 24 then in all of Superman Returns.
9. With last season’s shocking deaths (Tony, Michelle, Edgar) having thinned CTU of its regular co-stars we have some of the old guard returning in bigger roles. Specifically, Milo (the analyst from Season 1) returns as Chloe’s boss. Her ex-hubby/current boy friend Morris bristles at Milo’s presence – presumably because Chloe hooked up with Milo at some point during their hiatus. Man, that Chloe gets around. For such a grouchy, frumpy chick – she sure gets a lot of man tail in that office. But you know, there’s always Jack. You just know she’d hit that.
10. Did anyone notice that the FBI agent featured in the President’s sister’s subplot is the cocky Harvard guy from Good Will Hunting? “How do you like them apples?”
11. If there is one blight on this season it is the President’s sister. Shrill doesn’t accurately describe her – she is just downright annoying. Her scenes have her coupled with Henry Lennox – who played the hard-as-nails commander in the Matrix Reloaded (you know, the guy that was always badmouthing Morpheus and his blind faith in The One.) I thought that guy was insufferable in that movie so it is a credit to Regina King that her performance here has actually moved Lennox back into my good graces. Yikes. Nails on a chalk board. Shut up, already!!!
12. Only four hours in and 24 closes with two huge shockers. First there’s Jack’s cold-blooded killing of Curtis – who threatened to kill Assad for wartime acts his foot soldiers performed on Curtis’ squad. Sure Jack could have shot Curtis in the leg – but with a hardened soldier like that – it would be merely a flesh wound – not nearly enough to defer him from his plan of capping Assad. So where does Jack aim? Right through the throat. I get a lump there just thinking about it. Jack’s reaction immediately following was harrowing – as he wanders down the street, crying and vomiting until something finally slaps him in the face.
13. Shocker Number 2. Terrorists successfully detonate a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles – wiping out one square mile.
And that is why the Jack Bauer Power Hour is the greatest gig running.