Monday, January 29, 2007

The Bauer Family Smiletime Variety Hour: 24

Spoilers within, though that photo only spoils the first few minutes of the episode anyway (and I think it's probably from last week's show, at any rate).

So the Bauer family storyline isn't as dumb as I thought it would be, but it's still pretty dumb. I guess that's a testament to my ability to imagine some really dumb stuff. James Cromwell, though, as Father Bauer sort of makes all of this hang together, just by being there and being calm and acting as though his two sons being allied with the various forces of good and evil is just the most normal thing in the whole world. Cromwell has always been an actor who seemed like he might be well-suited for television (he was saddled with an unfortunate Six Feet Under storyline that obscured his talents for playing affable curmudgeonhood), and his work as Jack's dad was easily the best thing about the episode, which tried to convince you Cromwell's character was evil, then good, then evil again, and finally good (though it could all be an elaborate ruse, of course).

Paul McCrane's a good actor too, but his character is harder to get a handle on. The writers seem to be painting him as President Logan lite -- all sniveling ineffectuality in front of those who could put him away; all business when it counts. His relationship with Jack, though, is well-sketched enough that you can't help but think it was inevitable that one of them would end up a terrorist and the other one who fights terrorists and that it was obvious from the earliest point in Bauer family history.

Otherwise, this episode was kind of a yawn. It's the sort of filler episode 24 has to do when it's trying to link us between major twists (which the season was frontloaded with) and action sequences (which, again, the season was frontloaded with). There was too much stuff in the White House, and the interpersonal politics in CTU have never been the show's strong suit. It was nice to see the Bill Buchanan/Karen Hayes plot be resolved this quickly, though. Hopefully, she'll be back among the CTUers soon and helping them out. I wasn't sure I could stand another "your spouse or your country!" plot from this show, and the writers sidestepped that issue nicely.

I like the idea of the country turning against Muslim-Americans, but it hasn't been deployed in the most skillful manner (largely because the cast has no regular Muslim characters, so the scenes featuring this storyline are always happening to theoretical people that we don't know at all). Here's hoping this pays off in a more substantial way than it has in these few episodes.

The preview for next week, seeming to comprehend that this episode was not the most exciting, promised a week full of Jack exacting revenge on his brother (of COURSE he escapes right away!) and Palm Springs possibly getting it (not before I get to visit, 24!) from the nuclear brigade.

But none of that was enough to keep me from yawning.

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