24: Live Another Day Episode 8 Review

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24 returns with its 200th episode, in which bad things occur.

I was somewhat surprised to see Robert Cochran’s writing credit come up. He created the show along with Joel Surnow, but Cochran left his role as executive producer midway through Season 7 (as did Surnow), penning his final episode of the original run in February of 2009.  I wasn’t aware he decided to return, but I’m glad to have him aboard nevertheless.

So, as we saw last week, Heller has written himself a letter of resignation and agreed to turn himself over to Margot. Jack is naturally appalled at the notion, and the subsequent heated discussion between the two men is one of the standout scenes of the episode. In fact, all of the scenes they share are very well acted and completely absorbing stuff. Heller knows his days in office are numbered anyway and wants to sacrifice himself to minimize the loss of life, while Jack is torn between his instinct to protect the innocent and his distaste for negotiating or capitulating to terrorists in any way.

And Jack’s been down this road before. He’s had to watch people sacrifice themselves for the greater good time and again, and sometimes he’s had to pull the trigger himself. And it sucks. It’s only out of respect for Heller that he agrees to help smuggle him out of the residence, but being Jack, he also refuses to give up pursuing other options.

Speaking of other options, Simone has arrived at the CIA medical unit, and Kate demands to talk to her despite the fact that waking her up would be dangerous and might just kill….her……wait. Didn’t this already happen last week?

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No, seriously, this is exactly the same conversation Jack had with Simone’s doctor last episode. What the hell? WHY are we going back to this well again for some contrived non-tension? You know how in Tony Hawk or SSX or any of those extreme sports games, if you keep doing the same trick over and over again it’s worth fewer and fewer points every time? I think maybe I should enact that policy on these reviews because my fucking word.

I mean, yes, we want to see our heroes exhausting every avenue open to them to find an alternative to Heller’s sacrifice. A lot has happened since that conversation in Episode 7, so it’s certainly worth talking to Simone again to see if she’s more cooperative. Having your mother try to kill you via missile strike will do that. But honestly, why do we have to go through that can’t-wake-her-up song and dance again so very soon?

Kate definitely took Jack’s lesson to heart, though. Once he calls to tell her the bad news, she resorts to pulling a gun on the doctors and waving it around until she gets her way. Small nitpick: I don’t like how Kate holds her gun in this scene. It’s like some 40s Humphrey Bogart movie where no one holds their gun properly and everyone shoots from the hip. It’s very annoying in a series that otherwise has their characters using a proper grip.

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Myah, see?

Anyway, Simone comes to, and short story short, she gives up the location of Margot’s house, but warns that she will have left by now anyway. Oh, and the fact that there’s a hard drive with a possible way into Margot’s network hidden on the premises.

It’s nice to see that the whole Naveed rigmarole from earlier in the season wasn’t all for naught. To be honest, I’d completely forgotten about him telling Simone he’d hidden an incriminating hard drive under the floorboards, like so many of Harry Potter’s birthday cakes. Despite Kate and Chloe’s best efforts to acquire and upload the evidence in time, their failure never really felt like anything other than a foregone conclusion. No doubt this information will come into play during the remainder of the season, provided Chloe can actually get some work done in a noisy pub on free WiFi.

Navarro, in the meanwhile spends most of his time on the phone with either Adrian Cross or the hitman who’s after Jordan. While I am still interested to see if the Chinese play any part in the conclusion of the season, I am feeling more and more that Benjamin Bratt’s talents are being criminally underutilized. It’s bog-standard material and it’s simply a waste of a good actor. Not to mention, I’m kind of surprised nobody besides Jordan has gotten suspicious of him; he seems to spend most of his time acting like a dork, lurking in shadowy corners talking on the phone instead of actually doing any work or keeping a close eye on the enormous crisis the station is dealing with. It’s supposed to be ominous and moody, I guess, but it comes off a little silly.

What’s not silly, though, is Jordan’s desperate attempts to elude his attacker. His calls for help, of course, go straight to Navarro, which means he’s stranded in the middle of a shitty looking area and trying to struggle along despite his gunshot wounds. His confrontation with the hitman is a very tense scene. It’s not a glamorous shootout or even a stylishly choreographed fight. Jordan is wounded and not a field agent, after all. It’s a dirty, close quarters struggle, resulting in a very Saving Private Ryan kind of moment as Jordan tries and fails to stop the assassin’s knife from plunging into his chest. It’s like a metaphor for the episode as a whole, really.

When Jack agreed to the President’s plan, as soon as he said he needed one more person – someone the President trusts, I groaned. Please not Stupid Mark. Please not Stupid Mark.

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NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Oh, god dammit! To his credit, Mark actually makes himself useful for once and fulfills his part of the plan with no foolin’, no bullshit, and no double-crossing. Which might be the most shocking thing in this episode.

The actual escape from the residence is perfectly fine, but the real scene of interest is Heller paying a final visit to his daughter. It’s nice to see him reminisce with Audrey, and won her a lot of sympathy from me. Were I in her shoes I’d be absolutely livid that nobody sees fit to tell me anything. Ever. In any case, the two of them work really well together, and they always have. Unlike certain other people on this show.

After Jack has absconded with the President, Mark notices that Audrey has found out their little scheme, and in sharp contrast to the excellence of Heller’s argument with Jack…..oy vey. Now, normally, I rather like Kim Raver. I think she’s been a fine part of the 24 ensemble over the years, and I am delighted to have her back. But frankly, this scene just sucks. Both Kim Raver and Tate Donovan are fucking terrible here. Neither one of them imparts their shouting match with half of the genuine feeling that Jack and Heller had. At all. The whole thing just ends up being overwrought; it’s like they’re trying too hard and it just doesn’t feel real. They don’t have that kind of chemistry. And so the result is an awkward scene of two actors yelling and EMOTING at each other. Bleh.

In the end, though, there’s nothing that can be done. Jack and Kate and Chloe and everybody did their absolute best to find a better solution, but time is up. 24 viewers long ago learned the lesson that sometimes trying your best and doing everything you can just isn’t good enough. This is one of those times, and so much to my dismay, Heller arrives at Wembley Stadium to meet his fate, and there’s nothing Jack can do about it.

Their last conversation underscores how futile all this effort over the last eight hours has been. There’s a small glimmer of hope, though. Heller has given Jack a presidential pardon, and if this is to be the end of 24, maybe the writers will be nice for once and let the poor man go home. Well, that and I cannot wait to watch Stupid Mark squirm once the Russians find out about it.

At first, I thought the choice of venue was a little odd for a kidnapping, or an execution for that matter. I had assumed that Wembley Stadium was used because the show simply wanted to make good use of London. It was a pleasant surprise to realize that Margot wasn’t going to show up in person, or even send some goons, to throw a bag over the former President’s head and stuff him into a van. No, she’s smarter than that.  She’s got a drone in the area, and suddenly it all made sense. A big open, empty area with Heller right in the middle of it. It certainly puts a literal spin on going out with a bang, and I’m sure to Margot it seems like poetic justice.

I think it’s a little odd that Heller didn’t warrant a silent clock, apparently. I always kind of liked the little “moment of silence” for certain fallen characters. Ah, well. I’m not quite sure what Heller’s demise will mean for the remainder of the season. The simple fact is that everything over the course of the season has been for naught. Margot has won. She successfully took control of the drones, she rained fire and death on the city of London, and she got exactly what she wanted. It seems like she really will keep her promise and destroy the drones, but I can’t imagine this will go unanswered.

Episode 8 wasn’t as jam-packed and frenetic as previous episodes, but is instead loaded with feelings of impotent desperation. I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of Margot, Jack still has a score to settle, Cross and Navarro are up to some shit, and the Russians are still nipping at Stupid Mark’s heels. Even so, I’m left with one question: Where do we go from here?

Rating Banner 3-5