In the ninth episode of Live Another Day, Jack employs a clever ruse, shots are fired, and I am grinding my teeth.
In the President’s office, Audrey, Mark, and Prime Minister Davies are all looking on in horror at the smouldering crater in the middle of Wembley Stadium, but in Casa del al-Harazi, Ian’s noticed something’s off – the footage of Heller fed to his screen was actually a loop! And sure enough, Chloe had hacked into their feed and thanks to her and Jack, Heller has survived.
When the camera panned over to reveal Heller standing there without so much as a scratch, my heart sank. What utter, utter bullshit. Oh, I admit, it was quite a shock to see that he’d survived, though I’m not sure if that says more about how bloodthirsty 24 is, or how gullible I am. But it’s not a pleasant surprise. Sure, I like the character, but I’m absolutely appalled from a writing standpoint. It completely undercuts the emotion and the impact of last week’s episode, which centered almost entirely around the fact that the good guys are out of options and Heller’s sacrifice was inevitable. That sense of helplessness was expertly conveyed. And now, this week, we realize that all of that durm und strang was for absofuckinglutely no reason.
And never mind the devaluing of the story up until this point, from a simple logistics angle, I wasn’t sure it all hangs together. Not quite. I mean, we saw Heller walk out into the middle of the stadium at the end of last episode, and we know from this one he didn’t know about Jack’s plan. Taking 24‘s real-time claim at face value, there is only a 30 second gap between our last shot of Heller in the flesh, and Ian al-Harazi pulling the trigger on the missile. So, then, are we to believe that at minimum, Chloe managed to loop the footage of Heller standing there while Jack runs from his position near the entrance out onto the middle of the pitch, grabs Heller, and runs back out of the blast radius in only thirty seconds? How likely is that, really?
In fact, let’s do some bad math. The size of the pitch at Wembley Stadium is 137 yards by 74. So let’s say Jack has to run the smaller length out to where Heller stands in the center. Since he has to run there, grab Heller, and run back we don’t need to halve the distance. 74 yards is equal to 222.001 feet. Jack seems to be the kind of guy who can run a four minute mile, so let’s clock his running speed at around 15 mph, or 22 feet per second. Which means Jack could actually make the round trip in ten seconds, but that’s ten seconds by himself. Heller probably cannot run as fast as Jack, and it doesn’t take into account any distance outside the pitch Jack must travel, but with twenty seconds to spare I think it’s actually pretty plausible, at least on Jack’s end.
Even so, I’m somewhat confused by the chronology of all of this. Was Jack’s obvious disapproval and sadness last episode an act? When did he and Chloe cook this scheme up? When did Chloe manage to get so far inside Margot’s network, and when did she call Jack and tell him? If she doesn’t call him until they’re already at the stadium all that math up there doesn’t mean shit when you have to add a phone conversation on top of it. I guess I should just let that one go.
Anyway, it’s too risky for Heller to be found, so while Jack gets to go have adventures in his helicopter, Heller has to driver around in a car with Belcheck, everyone’s favorite random Serbian. As frustrated as I am at the lack of explanation for who Belcheck is beyond owing Jack a Wookiee Life Debt, he gives Heller some wonderful snark. Heller demands to be taken back to his residence because he is the President of the United States, dammit! But Belcheck tells him, essentially, I’m not American, so neener-neener.
Margot doesn’t like being tricked, so she’s turned the last drone around and sent it on course for Waterloo Station, clogged with civilians trying to get the hell out of the city. Not a lady you want to cross, it would seem. And it’s a shame, too, given how she seemed to genuinely want to hold up her end of the bargain.
Meanwhile, Chloe gets Cross’ help to find Margot’s location, and Kate and Erik lead a CIA strike force on the ground, while Jack approaches from the air. I must say, Michelle Fairley’s performance during this sequence as she realizes she’s been found is Margot at her scary best; scarier, perhaps, than we have ever seen her. As her final drone makes for its target she forces Ian to stay with her as Jack and the CIA fight their way through her goons.
It’s quite a large scale battle with Jack up on the roof and Kate n’ pals down in the parking lot, and from there through the hallways and waves of faceless goons, plus a memorable sequence of Jack rappelling down the building right over to Margot’s window. Despite its complexity, it feels rather workmanlike, lacking the visual flair of some of the other setpieces this season. And during all this excitement, I honestly didn’t want Jack to win. I didn’t want him to bust into Margot’s office, I didn’t want the CIA to cut through her henchmen so easily, and I didn’t want Jack to stop that final missile from hitting Waterloo station. I certainly didn’t want him to throw both Ian and Margot out of the window to their deaths.
It’s extremely frustrating to watch. It’s frustrating because while Ian was actively shooting at Jack when the poor guy got defenestrated, he had managed to handcuff Margot and stop the missile before he throws her out the window for the hell of it. I mean, what the hell? The threat had been neutralized. I suppose this has shades of the Jack we saw at the end of Season 8, a vengeful man who had given his last fuck. But as a viewer, I feel cheated. Margot al-Harazi was one of the greatest villains ever to grace the show, and I feel cheated that we never got to see her and Jack have any real sort of face-to-face interaction, we never got to see those strong personalities bounce off each other. Her death doesn’t feel logically correct, or emotionally correct. It feels like the writers didn’t want to deal with her anymore beyond this point. What a terrible waste.
In the aftermath of the fight, Heller returns to his residence for tearful, unwarranted reunions. Kate’s police contact rings her up to tell her he’s found the bodies of Jordan Reed and his killer, so they bugger off to take a look. Navarro gets nervous because the hitman can be traced back to him, and he wants Cross to get him out of the country. Cross demands the drone-override device Jack has brought back to the CIA station in exchange. Michael Wincott is really rather good at being skeevy, and especially in this episode. Cross has grown on me a good deal. He’s no replacement for Margot, but he’s fun in his own way.
Being as sick of the double agent gag as I am, I was very glad to see Jack being all shrewd about mole-shit, because lord knows he ought to be by now. Especially since Navarro is acting suspicious as shit the entire time he’s there. When Kate tries to run the hitman’s prints, she finds they’re classified. Jack insists on digging into them himself, despite Navarro’s protests, and sure enough, the guy was ex-Black Ops and Navarro was once his handler.
For fuck’s sake, Navarro. How on Earth have you been a successful mole inside the CIA for this long if you are that stupid? Why wouldn’t you hire an assassin you aren’t connected to through Cross or something? You don’t use someone to covertly kill people when you used to be their boss, dum-dum. ARRRGH.
Well, to his credit, he manages to make off with the device and make his escape while Jack gives chase. It’s not the least bit suspenseful or exciting, because it’s just tired old horseshit. We have seen the Mole Escaping from CTU or Equivalent scene so many goddamn times and they always follow more or less the same beats, it’s absolutely boring to be subjected to it yet again. And we know Navarro is going to get away because there’s three episodes left and the show ALREADY SOLVED ITS MAIN FUCKING PLOT POINT.
SERIOUSLY, WHO IN FUCK’S NAME THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA? YOU JUST BLEW YOUR LOAD. IT’S OVER! STOP DOING THIS TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. Why are they throwing away a perfectly good villain? Why are they tacking on boring old bullshit? Why are they stripping out the emotional core of a previous episode for a cheap surprise in this one? What the hell has happened to the writers’ room this week? Like, oh, let’s take our fantastic season and just piss it away. Fuck good writing, let’s just do the same shit over and over again! I am so disappointed in you, 24.
Chloe, in the meantime, has decided not to return with Jack, but rather to go back to Open Cell. I got kind of an uneasy feeling about the whole scenario as Cross came to pick her up. Something just feels off about it all. She went so far as to kiss the man, which, firstly yuck, and secondly, hm. She doesn’t seem terribly suspicious when Cross tells her they’re going to meet “an old friend” (Navarro), and I’m left with a number of questions and suspicions of my own. Is Chloe in on Cross’ evildoing? Is she playing along to bring him down later? Or is she just oblivious? I don’t know, but I’m left feeling a little queasy about it. This little thread is certainly the most interesting of those presented in the back half of the episode, at least for now.
Had many of these events been saved for the season finale, it wouldn’t bother me so much. But it’s not the season finale. It’s episode nine. Of twelve. Three left. And the story, by rights, is already more or less over. Sure, they’ve left themselves a few plot-threads here and there, but the main conflict is, for all intents and purposes, resolved. And there are three hours left. In the past, 24 has often had the season broken into two or three acts where the initial threat is taken care of, but has led to a larger conspiracy or some such. But that’s over the course of 24 episodes. Not fucking twelve. The direction the show seems to be going from here wasn’t seeded through previous episodes all that well, it relies on tired old clichés, there’s not enough time to unfold another layer, and above all it doesn’t feel like a natural path for the story to proceed. It feels like tacked on fucking filler and it’s infuriating to be changing horses this far downstream, trading a prize thoroughbred for an old nag with saddlesores, a prolapsed uterus, and a broken leg.
And it all started so well.