Actually, that ought to read “Thoughts on 24‘s next season premiere” because this post is all about the future.
Almost every season since the first one, 24 fans have grumbled that this season wasn’t as good as some of the others, and inevitably the show turns around after the usual slow setup.
This season didn’t.
There was a definite build in the first half of the season, but things went off the rails a bit in episode 12 when Jack raided the Russian consulate. After that, things became too rote. You can only threaten the country with nuclear attacks or bombings or germs so many times before that happens. Or invade a sovereign nation’s consulate. Or cut off body parts, or…well, you get the idea.
Spoilers ahead, so you’ve been warned.
The last 15 minutes of tonight’s episode were better than most of the last half of this season. The great thing about Sec. Heller’s character is that he had an ability to strip things to the bone. So when Jack started the pissing contest, Sec. Heller whipped out a mirror, instead of a ruled. Jack knew his presence near Audrey would only bring her pain, and his goodbye speech to her – while not the emotional gut punch that his speech to Kim was while in the plane over the California desert in Season 2 – gave the show a weight it lacked (kudos to the writers for not having her wake up with a teary “Oh Jack…”).
The problem with this season is that the character of Jack Bauer has to have something to lose in order for there to be any dramatic tension. If he doesn’t then it’s all gun-pointing and “I’m commandeering your helicopter so get out or I’ll shoot you” any time he’s taken into custody. Throughout the show, the question that’s always lingered is whether Jack will lose his humanity. In earlier seasons, his humanity was symbolized by Terri, Kim, Blonde Girl Whose Sister Was A Terrorist, David Palmer and then Audrey. He formed loyalties with his co-workers and this kept him grouded, too, but in the past two seasons (since Tony and Michelle died), the scenes of Jack interacting with CTU have rang false since he’s now lost that as well (I’m not sure what happened to the Jack/Chloe dynamic, but I think it got lost somewhere in the love pentagon between Chloe, Morris, Milo, Nadia and Doyle).
The last scene felt tense because there was a sense that Jack had something left to lose. Now, he doesn’t. In other shows, the next season could utilize this as a device and say “Watch what happens when the gloves are off,” but 24’s all about the gloves being off. It is a gloveless universe.
So better to put the gloves back on. Remove Jack Bauer from the 24 universe, so the writers don’t have any crutches to lean on when things get boring (cough*PresidentLogan*cough). Take CTU out of the equation, and construct a new world around him. Sec. Heller said it: Jack will always find a way back into the game. He’s a man who lives for crisis, but the series has exploited the macro-level crises to their breaking points. Better to create micro-crises again that aren’t shoehorned in. (Exactly what was his prior relationship with Marilyn, and was I supposed to care?)
Also, why was it always “Ricky Schroeder” in the opening credits? Aren’t we supposed to call him “Rick” now? I couldn’t ever figure that out.