Monday, February 05, 2007

"They're all dead because of me.": 24

Okay. Maybe this whole "Jack Bauer has an evil family" thing won't turn out to be SO bad. James Cromwell makes a good baddie, and while his episode-ending murder of his own son (disguised as a medical death, natch) wasn't exactly a surprise, it was a good jolt, and it sets Jack up with yet another enemy who cannot be beaten (to go along, I guess, with Drazen, Saunders, Robocop, President Logan and his brother -- though all of these people went down pretty easily). Father Bauer is a tough nut, and Jack thinks he's a good guy still. How long before he puzzles out that his dad is bad.

This was a marked improvement over last week's episode, even finding a new way to do a torture scene. Torture has become something people engage in far too complacently on 24. That's not just a moral standpoint either -- it's a structural one. Torture almost always gets the desired result on this show, which means that whenever Jack breaks out the implements o' destruction, we know that the show is just killin' time before it gets to the next plot point. In earlier seasons, when torture was something we embarked on at Great Peril to Our Souls, it was an interesting story point every once in a while. Now, it's always the way CTU gets information, and that information is always accurate. It's become a lazy storytelling device, and that offends me more than any moral scruples.

That said, tonight's torture scene was pretty rich -- Jack had to torture his own brother to get information, something he was surprisingly eager to do. But when it was all over (and Graem Bauer had said that, really, they were just the same man on different sides of the issue of what was best for the country), Jack broke down, giving Kiefer Sutherland a chance to show off his "manly men DO show emotions" acting style, and all was well with the world.

As always, the CTU scenes were a big snooze. I might care that Morris was kidnapped by the terrorists if I cared at all about his character, but I don't. I don't mean to second guess the writers, but having Tony or Edgar around would provide a welcome friendly face this season, and I'm sure they wish they had that go-to.

24, of course, has never been realistic, but the show is starting to grow untenable. Tonight, a friend and I tried to lay out the extent of the conspiracy that seems to run throughout the whole series, and it's grown completely unbelievable. Then again, 24's greatest strength is that it makes you forget about all of this stuff, thanks to its sheer momentum. And the episodes with enough stuff to get us over the hump (like this one) are still pretty good.

Final note: This was the first episode I bought Wayne Palmer as the president in. For such a conservative show, 24 seems to really favor liberal Democrats in the White House (at least, I THINK we're supposed to be on Palmer's side here). I guess it all goes to my theory that the creators are Kennedy Republicans or Reagan Democrats.

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