Well, well. It’s episode six of 24: Live Another Day. Halfway point, bitches!
So, Mark is still an execrable sack of poop. I don’t like him at all. His little sit-down with Audrey really ground my gears to dust. Sure, he says he’s concerned about what Jack’s presence might to do her mental well-being, but I don’t believe that one little bit. Audrey has lived through more crises than this one, and her capture by the Chinese wasn’t really Jack’s fault. No, she went to China to rescue him after he’d been disappeared by some very angry Asians. Her choice. And her catatonia resulted from the men who tortured her there. Not Jack. Sure, the world of Bauer is a dangerous place, but come on already. Audrey is far from a porcelain doll. No, this isn’t about concern on Mark’s part. It’s about his need to control and his desire to prove that his dick is bigger than Jack’s. Which it isn’t.
Because it’s not just Audrey; he tries to control Heller too. And this week that little stunt he pulled forging the President’s signature on Jack’s extradition papers seems like it’s about to bite him in the ass. Mark gets a call from the Russians wondering where the Kiefer Sutherland the President promised them in writing has gotten to. Perhaps he got stuck between the couch cushions? I took a great deal of pleasure in watching the little bastard try to weasel his way out of the situation as the Russian diplomat gets more and more suspicious of his reticence to put Heller on the phone. I am very, very pleased to see the Russians come into play this season, given that the last one ended with Jack cutting a bloody swathe of revenge through several of them. It’s just one more spanner in the works, one more element at play to complicate things and I love it.
On the al-Harazi front, it’s actually pretty quiet this week. Margot herself doesn’t have a whole lot to do, anyway, and instead we’re focusing on Simone. Watching this it struck me that whoever cast these two women did one hell of a job, because not only are they good actors, they actually look rather alike. Margot gets a call from the late Naveed’s sister wondering why he insisted that she leave town, and so Mother al-Harazi sends Simone to eliminate her. Ian does warn his mother that even Simone has limits and that Margot’s control over her daughter isn’t absolute, but she orders the deed done anyway.
I’m not sure I quite follow Ian’s reasoning here, though. I mean, Simone ratted out her own husband and watched on icily while he was executed. Sure, she might have a guilty conscience, but one would think that she loved her husband more than she loved his sister, and therefore murdering her would actually be the easier of the two. And I wasn’t terribly enthused by this story point to begin with, since I couldn’t quite understand how that little errand might pertain to the larger plot. I’m still not sure of that, but I did warm to it as the episode progressed.
Simone’s unwillingness to murder her sister-in-law and (her niece!) might seem a little bit wonky to me from a logic standpoint, but it is well played by all the actors involved. There’s some very nice scenes of Simone spending time with them, hesitant to complete her mission despite her mother’s urgings. Of course, Naveed’s sister does begin to piece things together and Simone eventually has no choice but to get stabby. One of my favorite aspects of this little plot was the fact that Simone wears gloves the entire time to cover up her missing pinky. It’s never pointed out to the audience in dialogue, nor does the camera linger on them. They’re just there and the viewer either picks up on it or they don’t.
However, as much fun as it was to watch a grown woman wielding a knife chase a little girl through the streets, this subplot did ultimately feel like it didn’t matter. The entire point of this seemed to be so that we could watch Simone get creamed by a bus. It’s not entirely clear if she’s actually dead, but if she is, it seems a little premature given that without her, Margot doesn’t have anyone to do her dirty work other than faceless goons, and given the choice I think I’d rather it be a real character. If she’s not dead, it’s entirely possible she’ll end up in hospital and spill the beans on her mother to one of our heroes, in which case I’ll take back most of what I said. We shall see.
Jack, meanwhile, convinces the President to let him try to track down Margot through his arms-dealer contact, Karl Rask, and to take Kate along with him. I can’t help but grin as President Heller overrides Navarro’s objections by telling him that what Jack wants, Jack gets. End of story. Yes. That is how every authority figure ought to treat Mr Bauer.
It turns out Jack has been working for Rask all this time, using him to bring the more dangerous clients of his to justice. I rather like the idea that even though Jack’s been underground, he’s not sitting on his hands. No, he’s still out there being Batman. Or the Punisher. Or that woman from The Blacklist. Whatever.
Anyway, Jack going back undercover with some shady people after time away is something of an old chestnut, but this is a pretty good take on it. Blaming the leaks on a conveniently dead goon and stuffing an unconscious Kate into his trunk as “proof” is one hell of a risky plan, and the sequences that follow are dripping with tension as Jack tries to goad Rask into doing a computer thing so Chloe can also do a computer thing and find the whereabouts of House al-Harazi. And I rather like Rask, actually. He’s one of the better thugs.
It’s pretty impressive that after all the torture scenes in this series over the years, 24 can still make me cringe just watching it. Poor Kate is really put through the wringer in this episode, and it’s really unpleasant to watch. Yes, Belcheck is outside with a sniper rifle to save her bacon if things get out of hand, but I mean, who the fuck is Belcheck? Oh, right, he’s that Serbian motherfucker with no character development or backstory who’s helping Jack out because of reasons. I hope to hell his first name is Niko.
I very much enjoyed Stephen Fry again this week. As I’d hoped, this whole debacle has driven a wedge between the Prime Minister and the President, as has his discovery of Heller’s health issues. I’m glad Davies is being written as a powerful man and head of state in his own right, and he’s not just an accessory to James Heller who stands around being charmingly British. His decision to go against the President’s orders that Jack is not to be fucked with, much like Mark’s Russian problem, adds yet another complication on top of everything else and ratchets the tension up even further. The more disparate problems that keep getting added to the stack, the happier I am.
Unfortunately for Jack, this results in Davies sending MI-5 to storm Rask’s warehouse and completely fuck up Jack’s little ruse. The ensuing battle is satisfyingly chaotic, and both Jack and Kate are given plenty of moments to show off their badassery. There have been a lot of shots fired on this series over the course of eight seasons, and they’re still able to make them interesting and exciting. I mean, hell, they managed to make Jack trying to press enter on a laptop thrilling, and that’s saying something, shootout or not. And if anyone out there on the interwebs still had doubts about Kate being awesome, now’s the time to eat your hat.
Other than Kate, CIA plays a minor role in this episode, given that they’re still recovering from their colossal mistake from last week. Neither Erik or Navarro seem to be too bad off for having a building explode on them. I really, really would like for Erik to do something interesting eventually. I like Gbenga Akinnagbe, but they haven’t done a whole lot with Erik yet. He had a good dynamic as a straight man for Kate’s unorthodoxy earlier on, but seeing as she’s going to be tied to Jack for the foreseeable future, the character needs to be developed further to stand on his own.
As soon as Navarro gets back to CIA, he spends all his time trying to keep their techie, Jordan, from investigating the false address embedded in Margot’s video. Now, why would he do a thing like that? Why, you ask? Because he’s dirty! And I fucking knew it! It’s on the internet in black and white I was fucking correct!
But seriously, as much as I love being right, I don’t really like what I’m right about. Because I didn’t make that guess because I’m particularly astute or insightful. Well, I am, but that’s not why. It’s because 24 fucking LOVES moles. Loves them. Every fucking season except the third has featured at least one character secretly working for the baddies. Sometimes more than one. Like fucking clockwork. It’s pretty much the most clichéd of all the 24 clichés. There’s always a mole, as sure as there’s always a man, a lighthouse, and a city. And I’m tired of it. It was a big shock in the first season, sure. It made for jaw dropping TV. But they’ve pulled the same trick at least ten times since. So it’s no longer shocking. It’s boring. It’s cookie cutter. And I don’t like it.
Episode 6’s greatest strength lies in the omnipresent feeling that things are beginning to spiral further and further out of control. One crisis piling on top of another and another, and they’re beginning to converge and bounce off each other to create yet more problems. It makes for a very entertaining hour of television, but I am sincerely disappointed in some of the choices the writers have made here, especially when it comes to leaning on some very old crutches.