Establish a perimeter, retask a satellite, and don’t forget to pack a satchel, because tonight is the start of another very long day for Jack Bauer. CTU has been disbanded, and a Senate subcommittee is investigating Jack’s methods. Jack has been called to testify, but then something crazy happens in the world and the President sends out the Jacksignal.
Or at least that’s what I gather from all the pre-show publicity. Apparently, the producers of 24 are freshening up the show a bit by eliminating the whole CTU operation and moving the show to Washington, D.C. I think both changes are an improvement.
For one thing, it’s about time someone higher up in the government noticed that the Counter Terrorism Unit sucks. It’s run by petty bureaucrats whose only motivational tool is fear, its computer network is filled with viruses, and every third employee is a terrorist mole. And don’t even get me started on the charnel house known as CTU Medical. The place was rotten to the core, and it had to go.
It makes sense to move to D.C. because of how often the President gets involved in whatever it is that Jack is doing. There’s more opportunity for interacting plots if they’re in the same city. Besides, we’ve seen enough of Los Angeles. Washington has some beautiful scenery, and the famous landmarks will provide some really cool new places for Jack to kill people.
The best part of this season, however, is that because the gap between seasons was a year longer than usual due to the writers’ strike, this could be the best-written season of 24 ever. Rumor has it that the writers actually had the entire season written before the first day of filming, so maybe this season’s plot will be less incoherent than usual.
Still, It’s still the same production team, so I’m expecting a lot of familiar elements: Mysterious canisters, encrypted hard drives, bad guys with bluetooth headsets, some very bad computer security, super cell-phones with amazing data bandwidth, bad leadership at all levels, and a mole or two in high places.
Also, to show what a tough guy he is, the writers usually have Jack do something insane in the first hour or two—beheading a prisoner, tearing someone’s neck apart with his bare teeth, and so on—so watch out for that.
(Actually, Jack is apparently testifying before the congressional subcommitee without a lawyer, so maybe that’s the insane part this year.)
The other thing to expect, of course, is lots and lots of gunfire. Despite all the annoying characters, the silly plots, and the bad dialogue, I’m still willing to watch 24 for the action scenes. They blow things up real good.
Besides, this is a big night for Jack. Including the Redemption movie last year, he’s killed 198 people so far in the series, and if things go they way they usually do, he’ll get his 200th kill tonight.
In truth, watching 24 is like watching slow-motion video of a plane crash. It’s fascinating, but I feel bad about watching. Basically, I’ve just gotten sick of watching a show where the hero is always torturing people. The first time, it was edgy and dark: Jack was desperate and he needed answers fast, so he did what he had to do.
By the third or fourth torture scene, it got pretty disturbing. Jack has tortured a lot of people. As a civil libertarian, I should hate him (and the show) for that, but television doesn’t work that way. For one thing, the usual pro-torture scenario—“What if there’s a ticking bomb and you need to torture a terrorist to find out where it is before people are killed?”—happens to Jack every day, and when he tortures people, they usually tell him something important. In Jack’s world, it’s hard to argue with Jack’s results.
In the real world, stuff like that doesn’t happen. Jack gets those results—and gets into those situations—because he’s a fictional TV character, a fact not always appreciated by idiots who think our military should torture people just like Jack Bauer.
I think 24 has so many torture scenes for two reasons. First of all, it’s an easy way for lazy the writers to show us how dangerous and hardcore Jack is. Second, the writers are severely limited by the real-time format. They need to have Jack get information about what the villains are up to, but a realistic police-style interrogation could take hours, and since the show happens in real time, it would stretch for weeks, boring the heck out of everyone watching.
So the clock is always ticking, and Jack always needs information right now, and there are only a few ways he can get information from the bad guys quickly. Sometimes, in classic talking villain style, they simply tell him what they’re going to do because they want to rub his face in it. Sometimes he finds a laptop or a cell phone and Chloe decrypts it for him. And sometimes, Jack gets out the electrodes.
Speaking of Chloe, how much do we love her? She may have a personality disorder or two, but if you need approach vectors or want something reconfigured, she’s your girl.
Chloe has always been my favorite character. I wouldn’t exactly want to spend time with her, or have to work with her, or talk to her, but she’s got more personality than any three other characters in the series.
(Chloe’s even killed a few bad guys. The first time, she goes out into the field to do some computer stuff and gets ambushed by a bad guy. She flees back to the car and gets inside, and although the bad guy follows her out and starts shooting at her, the windows of the CTU car are bulletproof. There’s a submachinegun in the car, but it’s locked up, and Chloe has to call CTU to get the combination while the bad guy tries to shoot up the glass enough to get a bullet inside. It’s not a big action scene, but it worked very well.)
That’s enough rambling from me. I’d love to write some more, but the series premier is just a few hours away and I’ve still got to go open a socket and run a bunch of protocols before I can sit down to watch it.
Update: Edgar is still dead.