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24 Season 8, Episode 14 5:00-6:00AM – review
A van full of black ops soldiers is heading to kill Jack Bauer and a Secret Service detail, so they can abduct Omar Hassan and deliver him to head terrorist Samir Mehran. This episode is the best of the entire season, and worthy of the series as a whole. The writers waited for the first post-cancellation installment to make things worthwhile and entertaining again. (24 being cancelled has shed light on the production, with show runner Howard Gordon complaining that the audience has been hard on the show because it is so old, and that they had no ideas for a ninth season. Still, a movie is very possible, so it isn’t the death knell for Bauer.)
This time around, 24 is delivering solid action with real stakes and reasonably intelligent discussions on governance. Every season prior has operated on a two-threat arc, with the mid-point episode being the fulcrum that changed the game. Inevitably, Jack defeated the terrorists by episode 12, only to spend the latter half of the day dealing with the involvement of powerful players in the federal government trying to cover up their crimes. This season is breaking the mold, with the terrorist threat continuing to dominate past the middle marker.
Dana Walsh is in full double agent mode, constantly whispering to Samir Mehran by cell, so that he can evade CTU while taking the nuclear fuel rods to his bomb-maker in Manhattan proper. Dana seems a lot better in this pure evil role; her facial expressions really suit this kind of black subterfuge. Samir is proving more and more to be a very competent 24 bad guy–he has the right evil look, and a confidence displayed in easy swagger and soothing threats delivered to the President. Dana reveals through her conversation that she is no Jihad Jane (redneck islamic extremists, the show still gets it right sometimes), but working for the terrorists on a contract basis for a mysterious third party. She also manages to take out satellite coverage long enough to facilitate Samir’s escape. Poor Hastings gives a pep talk on the imminent threat facing New York, and his most believable moment is sadly telling the President he can’t protect the city, deflating his bureaucratic gusto.
Jack, fresh from his chest-cracking gunfight, is tasked by President Taylor with escorting Hassan to Fort McGuire Air Force Base. President Taylor smartly places her confidence in him. The round table discussion Taylor has with her advisors is clunky, but at least the show is trying to say something about the morality of the government’s actions. Taylor’s lame moral conviction speech is awful, but General David Brucker steals the show. This character is the best of the season, and his silver-tongued pronouncements about the “Fourth Nuremberg Principle” entices Chief of Staff Rob Weiss to go against the President in the end. Taylor choosing protecting Hassan over the citizens of Manhattan is at least truthful, as many American lives have been sacrificed propping up real-life autocratic dictators in the Middle East. Secretary of State Ethan Kanin is sand in the gears of General Brucker’s scheme to kill Bauer and take Hassan to the terrorists himself via a “wet ops” team that was en route for the retaliation on Kamistan. The threat of the dirty bomb as ransom for Hassan makes for good stakes, and the peace process in general is meant to be the goal of the season. Brucker is so good at justifying his evil deed, and Weiss gives in, but Kanin catches them, and has a heart attack. Of course, the two wait to call an ambulance, so his fate is in question.
Kanin manages to warn Jack about the attack, and he turns back in a service tunnel at the last minute. Renee and a cadre of Secret Service members back up Jack, but we know everyone’s life is forfeit save the main characters. The head of the squad looks a lot like Oscar from The Office, but otherwise the team looks grim and professional, all black and olive drab equipment and high-powered rifles. The tunnel is strewn with crates, and the flow of the firefight is done reasonably well through the obstacles, the gun lights searching the tunnel with real menace. This firefight is well done, and the Secret Service doesn’t seem to kill anyone, leaving the slaughter to Jack and Renee, who easily dispatch the team with pistols and smoke grenades. I always liked that Jack preferred his pistol, even when going against more heavily armed opponents. This is classic 24, Jack fighting rogue government troops, uncovering conspiracies upon conspiracies. The aesthetic is on the mark, too, pale earth tones in the tunnel, black on black heroes and villains. When the wounded team leader spills the conspiracy and tells Jack he must deliver Hassan to the terrorists, Jack delivers the first line that rings true: ”I only follow the orders of the President.” This is a display of the character that has been missing, fierce loyalty and simmering patriotism. Also, Hassan looks ridiculous, all grim-faced shooting a soldier.
The evil bodyguard Tarin Faroush has been tasked with exploding the bomb in a delivery truck, and the 15 minute timer is struck at the end of the episode, though he is feeling trepidation at leaving the mortal coil. Spoiler alert, since some were upset with me including the preview of next week’s episode in the review; President Logan will be back (guess he didn’t die when that crazy bitch of an ex-wife stabbed his ass in season six, though his survival was certainly in question). The finale is in production right now, so let’s hope the writers send the series off with a huge bang, a proper finale with some closure; if Logan is part of that, all the better. This episode got things back on track, General Brucker is a great new character, and this is officially the last season of 24. I hope the show keeps this momentum up; maybe the end of the series will provide some incentive.