Live Another Day is back to Air Another Week, and this episode is a quieter affair than all the ruckus last week. Jack spends most of the hour cooped up in the President’s suite doing not much of anything but growl urgently. I can’t say I mind – on 24, our characters almost never get a breather.
Kate and Erik are similarly sidelined for the most part. Erik barely has anything to do other than stand around and glower while other characters have important conversations. Kate is given a little more as she makes it back to CIA and finishes uploading the flight recorder to Chloe.
I kind of enjoy seeing the two of them work together to try to prove Jack right, especially since Chole gets kind of catty towards, well, just about anyone other than Jack himself.
I’m not quite sure I’m on board with Kate’s traitor husband backstory, though, I have a sneaking suspicion it’ll become relevant to the story before the season’s out. Navarro sure likes to bring it up whenever he can; perhaps he’s the real traitor and blamed it on Mr. Kate.
All of Jack’s claims are validated, just like always, when Lt. Tanner’s flight recorder data supports the drone hijack story, and Margot al-Harazi releases one-a-them ultimatum videos terrorists seem to enjoy making so much, which means that the President and the CIA are at last on board, and that’s a welcome relief. And before the halfway point, too. I don’t know why “Listen to Jack Bauer” isn’t rule #1 in the intelligence community’s handbook. Sure, he might beat up a few agents to rescue a kidnapped family member or murder some foreign dignitaries here and there, but in the end it’d save everyone a lot of trouble.
Chloe’s loyalty to Jack has always been kind of sweet, and she’s kind of the ideal friend for him. I definitely enjoyed seeing her tell Cross to blow it out his ass when he begs her not to get involved. Some very good snark written for her this week.
Open Cell is packing up and it would seem that potential drone strikes against London are a little more than they were willing to handle. Good riddance, I say. They felt more than a little extraneous after the first episode or so, despite Cross being as delightfully miserable as he is. I’m certain we haven’t seen the last of Cross, especially since he’s now admitted to dilly-dallying on purpose to get Jack caught, and, well, I think Mr. Bauer is going to have a word with him. As for the rest of the nerds, meh. Go ‘way.
It’s certainly very gratifying to see Jack and the Hellers face-to-face after all this time, and particularly with Audrey. The President himself is more or less all business, but with Audrey we get the rare opportunity to peek through the cracks in Bauer’s armor and see the broken man underneath. It’s kind of a depressing reunion, really. Audrey has moved on with her life, and she’s one of the very few people to escape Jack’s wake of destruction alive. As far as he’s concerned, the best thing she can do for him is to stay away. Sutherland and Raver have some nice chemistry together, playing that sadness with an undercurrent of temptation. Sure, it might seem assholish of Jack to try to push away someone who’d believed him from the word go, but the truth is he’s exactly the monster everyone says he is, and trying to keep someone away from all that is a courtesy extended only to the people he loves most. Doing this clearly breaks what’s left of the man’s heart.
Meanwhile, Audrey’s husband continues to be an ass, to the point of arguing with Heller over changing the drone policy in light of the current threat. Even though he gets slapped down he still tries to be the meddling middle-man between the CIA and Heller, filtering the information so that the President only knows what Mark thinks he ought to. What a dick.
Stephen Fry hasn’t had more than a few short scenes so far, but here he has a wonderful scene with William Devane as President Heller informs Prime Minister Davies that his country is about to suffer a devastating terrorist attack made possible by US hardware. I tend to associate Fry more with comedy and whimsy than I do with drama, but he conveys a very real mix of emotions in a short space of time – anger at the President, fear of the unseen drones about to rain hellfire down upon them, concern for the citizens of his country. I get the feeling that Davies and Heller’s relationship will be strained by this disaster and I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up clawing at one another.
Michelle Fairely is simply delicious in the role of Margot al-Harazi. She’s so, so evil, and it’s just a delight to watch. Last episode, she resorted to having one of her own daughter’s fingers hacked off to get Naveed to agree to pilot the drones, and in the opening minutes of this one, she’s at Simone’s bedside stroking her hair and telling her it wasn’t her fault. That’s so manipulative and it’s so fucked up. I’m becoming quite enamored with Margot as a villain.
And Simone swallows it, too! She’s firmly on her mother’s side against Naveed in this episode, playing him for a complete fool.
Naveed himself is, frankly, a bit of a dweeb, but he comes good in the end, leaving a backdoor in Margot’s ultimatum video in the hopes of the CIA tracing the video’s origin. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for us, Margot’s a step ahead of him.
The al-Harazi stuff is really some of the best bits of the episode. It’s chilling to watch the drones switch over to Margot’s control one by one, six of them, and then seemingly drop off the face of the earth as far as the military’s concerned. The US built themselves a fine stealth ship, and now that it’s turned against them, they can’t bloody find it.
The thing I didn’t really care for was Margot’s three-hour ultimatum from her video. I mean, what’s the point? It just seems like a stall tactic to me. This is the kind of thing I might have expected and even accepted from a normal 24-episode season, but given half the usual running time, it’s needless wheel-spinning. We, the audience know that the President of the United States is not going to surrender himself to a terrorist. Margot’s a smart lady, so she knows it too. So why give him three hours to prepare for your attacks? Why not just drop the bombs as soon as they’re in range?
Much to Navarro’s credit, as soon as he gets confirmation Jack was telling the truth, he rolls with it immediately and doesn’t waste time dicking around being all salty that he’d made the wrong call. What I don’t quite get is that he leads the raid on what is believed to be Margot’s estate himself.
I know it’s a very common thing in fiction to have authority figures performing tasks they really should be delegating to their subordinates because very often the higher ups are the characters we’re following and that’s who we tune in to see. And you get around that by having an ensemble with main characters on different levels on the chain of command. 24 has that. So it’s especially annoying here because there’s really no reason a CIA station chief should be gallivanting out to a potentially hostile location just because he’s in the regular cast. That’s what characters like Erik are for. That’s what Kate’s for.
And of course, the house turns out to be the ol’ bait-and-switch. I won’t deny that watching the hijacked drone blow the house and some of the assault team to smithereens wasn’t gripping, because it absolutely was. You’re waiting for the whole hour to see Margot finally pull the trigger on the drones, and it’s a very exciting payoff, even though it’s not really the attack proper.
On paper, we’ve seen the strike-team-lured-into-a-trap gag many times before, but there’s something to be said for presentation. It’s nicely directed and edited, and even a little eerie as we watch the President’s live feed go dead. In fact, I think that sequence might be one of the nicest looking special effects in the whole series.
Live Another Day‘s fifth episode proved to be yet another enjoyable hour, despite being more subdued and a couple of logic problems. It’s strong on character moments, and boasts a number of excellent thriller sequences. Jack is finally vindicated, so where do we go from here?