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24 Season 8, Episode 12, 3:00-4:00AM – review
24 is committing sins worthy of a straight-to-DVD Steven Seagal movie, and during the middle episode of the season no less. The hackneyed writing has fallen into a steady tempo, at least, but 24 pulls some really awful stunts on the audience during what should be a pivotal episode, considering every other season offered up a two-hour episode at the halfway mark. The beats are coming as steady as clockwork, and this week it is time for the perpetually compromised CTU HQ to be violated in a vicious way. This used to be a way to ratchet up suspense and add an extra blanket of danger to the proceedings, but as it happens year after year, you have to wonder how CTU keeps letting these fucking terrorists breach their base of operations.
Of course, the ballad of Dana Walsh hasn’t stopped just yet, and that meddling probation officer keeps being a real pain in the ass. I’m pretty sure the actor playing him is the old gay vampire that got killed in the first season of True Blood, and he is really one of the better cast members as far as talent goes. It is amazing how he is able to push Walsh around, though she puts some of her famous subterfuge on display to tell a grand lie. The probation officer is incredibly competent, just not competent enough to catch the felonious hick before he started blackmailing poor Dana. Though she decides to fold her cards in the end, the attack on CTU buys her some more time. As usual, Agent Ortiz responds in a completely rational manner to his fiancee’s brilliant fuck-up that keeps getting worse and worse. Jack Bauer remonstrates Ortiz about “getting his head in the game,” but we all know that it is perfectly okay for Jack to be over-concerned when his womenfolk are on the line.
Speaking of Bauer double standards, he gets real angry when the NYPD SWAT Sgt. Amos disobeys him and goes in full force; this is all perfectly okay when Jack is leading the troops, but not anyone else. To be fair, this is the most incompetent SWAT team ever, being gunned down easily by terrorist goons armed with nothing more than pistols. The Don Juan bodyguard traitor is even able to do a Terminator-style voice change to impersonate a dead officer. When Marwan was killing LAPD SWAT in season 4, his technique felt real sneaky and clever, but these police are just pushovers, without even the benefit of a trick. The “cinematography” is up just a notch this season, the dynamic visuals of shadowy troops approaching down a New York street finally taken advantage of. The NYPD needs to invest in some new body armor, because one pistol shot is able to kill a total of five “highly trained” officers with no problem.
Princess Hassan is really rethinking her relationship with the Bodyguard, as he kidnaps her and delivers her to the head of the terrorists, who bears an unfortunate resemblance to Tony. In a double feint, the Bodyguard pretends to save her and be shot dead, but it was all a ruse to deliver the killing blow to CTU. The Terrorists use the daughter, plastic bag over her head, to force President Omar’s hand on “File 33,” long on ominous name, short of content. File 33 is Kamistan’s info on circumventing the US’s nuclear detection capabilities, and (gasp) radiological detectors in Manhattan, making way for the dirty bomb threat. To his credit, President Hassan actually mentions Al Qaeda in passing, and gives some token conversation about the threat the US posed to his country, and File 33 being a deterrent to invasion of sorts. Iran’s nuclear program is the international flash point to talk about, and the idea of their right to a bomb as protection from US aggression is bandied about, but make no mistake, it is an authoritarian dictatorship abusing its population on a mass scale. The US is guilty of torturing foreigners and perhaps a handful of US citizens found on foreign battle fields, but at the very least our government isn’t sending political protesters to jail to be raped man and woman alike, then executed. Our government has done some terrible things, but it’s nothing compared to whats been going on (for many years) in the dictatorships of the Middle East. Omar is a voice for these naive arguments in support of Kamistan (Iran) and their rights to nuclear technology.
There are two terrible things this episode. One is when Jack and Ortiz are heading to the Terrorist HQ, and their vehicles change from the current model Chevy Suburbans to the early 2000 body style. It is pretty lazy to not even keep your characters in the same car while in transit, but they will save some money when it gets all shot up (impressively) next episode, complete with another “Jack’s gonna die” lie. CTU loses its suspects in a tunnel, maybe the same tunnel from season 4, and act completely surprised. Terrorists have been using tunnels to escape from CTU for a long time, and they escape their awesome abandoned bank headquarters by one of three more tunnels. CTU really needs to up its game with some ground penetrating satellites, or stop complaining. The tunnel scenes are another nice touch of “cinematography” as far as it goes; the on-location filming and pale green color really open things up in a way that the claustrophobic CTU and various abandoned industrial locales fail to do. A panoramic shot of Jack, gun drawn, in front of the SUV approaching a menacing cab with tinted windows is probably the most dynamic of the episode, which is kind of sad, when you think about it. The bank HQ was pretty cool, and the faux Iranian flag with an incoherent coat of arms was all right, too, but I figured the bank vault would be used to keep a SWAT team from getting in with explosives at least.
The coup de grace the terrorists serve up is so lame that it squelches any goodwill built up to this point. Princess Hassan was fooled by the bodyguard into thinking he (1) loved her and was wrongly accused by her father, (2)was a terrorist ready to kill her for ransom from her father, (3)turned against the terrorists and saved her (my prediction last week was at least half-right) and (4) faked his death and pretended to save her so that (5)she drove a car into the heart of CTU HQ laden with an EMP bomb. This EMP bomb is real stupid, the second terrible thing in this terrible episode, and so is the random guard who decides to drive it away with a few seconds on the clock. This poor fool is inexplicably fried to a crisp (and he knows it’s coming), and Hastings makes a ridiculous jump away from an EMP pulse renedered in some of the most awful CGI in recent memory. 24 has done EMP bombs before, but not like this. They should stick to the flash of light, not some idiotic single plane plasma graphic. This has been a terrible season, but that takes the cake, like the cougar, or evil daddy Bauer. Also, Renee has been completely absent for the past few episodes without comment or explanation. It is clear that the show isn’t even trying any more, and it is also clear it is likely to be cancelled and (unlikely) sold to NBC. Maybe things will start looking up once the sun comes up, but right now it appears that this tired show is going to die with a gasp, not a bang.