Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"Admiral, have a nuclear strike sub standing by.": 24

All hail Vice President Evil!

Now, if you had told me earlier this season, when 24 seemed to be turning into a walking, talking Michelle Malkin column, that the show would find its ability to conjure up liberal fears again (so deftly dramatized in season five), I might have been skeptical. I would have been even more skeptical if you had told me that the season would conclude in the imminent start of World War III. But both events seem to have happened in this episode, which seemed to finally give up on following the season's storyline of disgraced ex-presidents and internment camps and crazy Russians and just go nutso. This is a promising development because 24 does nutso well, especially when it has scenery chewers like Powers Boothe around to let go and let crazy.

So enraptured was I by Boothe's zany antics (using any excuse necessary to send nuclear missiles to the unnamed country that's the home of Assad and Fayed -- and the attempts to avoid naming it are really amusing) that I barely even noticed that the story of President Logan and his ex-wife Martha wasn't even alluded to, much less wrapped up in a satisfactory fashion (whatever happened to that ambulance?). Both Gregory Itzin and Jean Smart are committed to new pilots for next season, so I wasn't expecting either of them to be a regular on the show again or anything, but it might have been nice to have them around for longer.

Oh, who am I kidding? Powers Boothe out-evils Itzin and out-overacts Smart. Boothe is one of those players 24 brings in from time to time who understands that the show is fundamentally one of those Perils of Pauline style melodramas and acts the part of the villain accordingly. If he had his Cy Tolliver mustache, he could totally twirl it (not a bad idea, 24 producers!). His character doesn't make a lot of sense (how did he end up on the same ticket as the quite progressive -- for the 24-verse -- Wayne Palmer?), and his desire to start a war at any costs goes beyond any liberal's worst fear and into the realm of unbelievability, but VP Evil is rapidly turning into the best thing about any given episode, based solely on Boothe's understanding that the material ain't all THAT serious.

This was one of those weeks when Kiefer Sutherland doesn't have as much to do so the poor guy can have a break. Mostly, his scenes consisted of finding out that his lady love Audrey was dead (though, given the cancellation of The Nine, I'm going to guess that Audrey won't be dead for long) and letting us look at his awesome scars again (can't wait to hear THOSE stories). Then, he led a raid on a building two blocks from CTU to stop a nuclear weapon from blowing up San Francisco based solely on his totally awesome joystick skills. No! Really! The end of the episode didn't show us much of the drone bearing the weapon at all, instead choosing to show us Jack manipulating what appeared to be the original version of Microsoft Flight Simulator for the Apple IIe. I know there's not a lot to do in Chinese prison, so it makes complete sense that Jack would pick up some video gaming skills.

Meanwhile, Chloe did some computer stuff and continued with the subplot that justifies Mary Lynn Rajskub's continued employment (namely, checking out her ex's alcohol levels). Bill Buchanan made some phone calls. Tom Lennox sniveled and Karen Hayes tried to talk VP Evil out of launching nuclear weapons (c'mon, Karen, we all know only Jack could manage that). And, finally, we learned that the Marisol Nichols' character (the one I still haven't learned the name for) appears to be the latest CTU mole. Since it was so obvious that she was the mole and since she said she wasn't plaintively to Milo, I'm guessing she's not, and the truth will be revealed shortly. But she did get tortured, and the show finally delivered on its promise to show us that torture doesn't always work, though they made it seem that this was less because she didn't know anything (and/or refused to give anything up) and more because her torturer (Doyle) just really gets off on abusing people or somesuch. When Jack tortures someone, it always works because he does what he has to to save his country, man, but it takes an UNIMAGINABLE PSYCHOLOGICAL TOLL! Oh and Regina King showed up and did some stuff, but it was boring.

While this is probably 24's weakest season to date, I really feel that the show has turned a corner with the new threat of World War III. I don't know that it will be enough to save the season as a whole, but maybe I'll start looking forward to watching the thing from week to week again.

Just so long as Vice President Evil is there!


Luke said...

I can't get on board with VP Evil like you can. Like, soon he's going to start torturing kittens for no reason. He'll sit down in the war room with blood trailing down his jaw and a headless puppy hanging out of his pocket. This story worked so much better in Season Two.

You just want to see 24 blow up the world.

David Sims said...

Luke is totally right. Todd has been gunning for 24 to actually blow up the world since like, season three.

This show is bad, and I can't take it anymore. Which is really sad.

Todd VanDerWerff said...

I think the key difference between me and everyone else on the Internet is that they dislike the show for being ridiculous, and I think that's great. The season's unsalvageable, so why not see just how much wacky shit they can get away with?