This week’s 24 delivers on the promise of the previous episode’s cliffhanger, wasting absolutely no time as all hell breaks loose at the US Embassy. Jack uses the riot he has created to get past the barricades and into the embassy to have a chat with our poor scapegoat drone pilot, Lt. Tanner. It’s a stunningly well-done sequence that’s equal parts thrilling and suspenseful. Now this is the kind of adrenaline rush that made 24 famous, and it all culminates in an extremely tense standoff between Jack, a squad of marines, and our dynamic CIA duo, Kate and Erik.
Jack’s gotten hold of Tanner’s flight recorder and has barricaded himself in a secure room within the embassy to decrypt and upload the evidence to Chloe and pals, while the fuzz tries to break into the room and apprehend him. I love how the marines don’t even bother trying to negotiate with Jack after he ends their one and only phone call by effectively telling them to fuck off. I think a lot of TV shows would try to have an extended hostage-negotiation sequence, but in this case both the writers and the audience know full well Jack Bauer will not surrender, so the script doesn’t even bother to pretend otherwise. Naturally, the flight recorder decryption will not be a quick or easy process, raising the tension by adding in the ticking clock factor that 24 does so well.
Lt. Tanner himself has proven to be quite an enjoyable supporting player. After his initial shock at the friendly-fire drone strike, he’s maintained his innocence with a calm defiance. It’s very gratifying to watch him tell Kate and Erik he’s not telling them anything because they won’t believe him anyway. And no, he’s not going to rat on Bauer, so go away. I hope there’s more in store for this character than sitting in a cell all season, because he seems like the kind of guy Jack could use on his side right about now.
President Heller’s address to Parliament seemed to have quietened down versus what we saw last week, and to be honest it’s much less interesting this way. Instead of watching Heller try to work against a hostile audience, he seems to have won out over the MPs’ outburst and delivers a very Presidential speech about how the victims of the strike are heroes, continued cooperation, great nations, god bless, yada yada. I was hoping for it to be more of the uphill battle the last few minutes of Episode 3 seemed to indicate it would be.
The speech itself struck me as a little odd. It’s kind of weird to hear US military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq mentioned so explicitly on 24. Over the first eight seasons, when Middle Eastern antagonists were used, the show went out of its way to either not mention a specific country at all, or to fabricate themselves a new one they could do with as they pleased. Not to mention, these events have their roots in 9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror, and while 24 certainly took advantage of the zeitgeist at the time, I don’t recall whether or not 9/11 even happened in the 24 universe. If it had, it would have ceased to be a singular tragedy to some degree since it would be followed by not one, but two nuclear detonations in the Los Angeles area, citizens exposed to biological weapons, nerve gas attacks, planes being blown up, the White House invaded and held hostage by angry Africans, and a President complicit in terrorist attacks on his own people. Among other things.
Despite this, the Presidential storyline continued to be a very strong and engaging element for the show. Events in Heller’s camp have come to a bit of a head, as he and Audrey finally learn that Jack has resurfaced and is causing all kinds of trouble. It was a big moment to see Heller pick up the phone and speak to Jack directly for the first time since Season 6, and an even bigger moment when the fact that Stupid Mark kept Jack’s return from the President comes tumbling out in the open. You can’t help but cheer when Audrey shuts down all his lame excuses and believes none of his bullshit. Finally. I’m actually beginning to suspect Stupid Mark might be in on this terrorist plot somehow, given the way he’s been acting. Well, that or he’s just a colossal asshat.
Meanwhile, the Terrorist Family Robinson plot is cooking along rather nicely, with a number of interesting developments over the course of the hour. While I mentioned last week that Simone’s husband, Naveed, seemed like a needless distraction, I’m forced to eat my words now as it’s revealed that poor Naveed is to be the pilot for their hijacked drones and his reticence at the prospect is going to be a problem. I find it very interesting that Simone goes to her mother with this immediately. I’m still not sure quite how total Margot’s control over her children is, but Simone clearly chooses her mother over her husband reservations aside, knowing it’s going to cost her and Naveed both.
Margot herself proves to be just as cruel and ruthless as I thought she’d be, taking some seriously extreme measures to ensure Naveed’s cooperation. Michelle Fairley is absolutely chilling in this role, and she’s an absolute pleasure to watch. I get the feeling we’ll be seeing even more of her in the coming weeks given how close to fruition her scheme appears to be.
Open Cell remains something of a puzzle. I can’t quite understand why they needed to exist in the first place. The tech support they offer Jack isn’t anything Chloe couldn’t do on her own, so what’s their deal, exactly? Thankfully, the plucky elite hackers mostly just sit around in the background doing nothing, and Adrian Cross remains delightfully shady. I’ve definitely warmed to Michael Wincott’s portrayal over the last couple of weeks. Like Mark, he’s another character that seems to be up to something. He seems to have a rather intense dislike of Jack, and I have to wonder if the reason for it will come into play at some point down the line.
Kate and Erik seem to be getting over their initial friction with each other as they hunt for Jack inside the embassy. Kate continues to prove she’s got a good head on her shoulders, and Erik is getting less rigid. They make for a good team, and unlike some of their superiors they seem to be keeping a more open mind about Jack’s claims. Speaking of higher ups, Navarro is still obstinately refusing to lend any credence to anything Jack has to say and it’s beginning to make me suspect him too, because 24 makes me paranoid, apparently.
The fourth episode of Live Another Day is the best one so far, delivering everything that makes 24 what it is in a tidy little package. It’s exciting, it’s tense, it’s shocking (and gruesome), and many of the plot lines over the last three hours have begun to converge. By the end of the hour, it seems like Jack may have won himself some allies, and he’s going to need them because it looks like the drone strike is imminent. If the series can keep up this momentum, Live Another Day will be remembered as one of 24‘s finest achievements.