Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Finally made it through the first season of 24:

spoilers ahead, if you care

1. I had originally watched the first couple of episodes but when it became obvious that they were lying about it being in real-time (in the first five minutes of the first episode) I sort of lost interest.

2. This would have been much better as 12 or even just 4.

3. Though the bad guys are in fact generally guys, they’re also the most straight-forward thugs and revenge seekers. It’s the women that are consistently traitors (two of ‘em), liars and sneaks, that is when they’re not damsels in distress. And while Jack and other men are pretty much just shot and assaulted, the women are raped (two again), kidnapped (one even by Jack the supposed good guy), hit by cars, forcibly injected with heroin, commit suicide, smothered to death, traumatized into amnesia (no lie), send flunkies to sleep with their husbands so they can be Lady Macbeth and whatever else. I wouldn't go so far as to call 24 misogynist but it certainly headed in that direction.

4. The ending wasn't inappropriate but it definitely was handled poorly, some last-minute (literally) taunt: "Hah, dead wife in your face, dude! How's that for rough realism?" It wasn't remotely organic as shown by the DVD's inclusion of an alternate ending where she lived that was just as plausible and I almost would have said emotionally coherent if that wasn't almost ridiculous with a show like this.

5. The split between Bauer and Palmer as Action and Thought was an acceptable structural device but too bad that's all it was. There were a couple of moments when it looked like Jack's might-makes-right action heroics might become their own barriers but no he's shown to be doing just fine all along, even when he murders one of the bad guys (the Dennis Hopper character and it is in fact unambiguous murder).

6. You'd think that with something like 16 pure hours of narrative story (often even double screened) there might be room for characterization beyond plot demands but somehow that never happens, even though we're treated to riviting scenes of digging, driving and wandering around the L.A. landscape. Nobody expects Henry James but a bit of John Woo or Peckinpah would have been nice.

7. Since the identity of the main traitor wasn't a secret this far from the original airings, it's a bit odd watching and seeing the lapses and ellisions where she works. Pretty much everybody who reads The Murder of Roger Ackroyd knows who the killer is and the novel is constructed cleverly enough that it's still an absorbing game. Here, there's a bit of this, things like her identity being underlined in the opening recap to every episode or seeing how she got out of the safe house in time (did she push Jack's wife into uncovering her relationship with Jack so she would have an excuse) not to mention how the rest of the bad guys even knew where the safe house was or when Jack's daughter was leaving the police office. And so on.

8. Guess the makers were already thinking about the second season which is why they didn't bother to offer the slightest explanation about Nina's actions or who she's actually working for.

9. I haven't read any interviews or background material but I'm curious whether the writers/creators were deliberately trying for top-this B-movie serial excess or whether they actually thought they were making good televisual entertainment. Amnesia? Hidden identities? Impossibly convoluted conspiracies? Shadow governments? Moral senators? The first season of Alias has some of the same attitude but is frequently merely clumsy and poorly conceived while even the frequent dumb stuff in 24 at least feels dumb in an unassuming way.