Monday, September 25, 2006

24, Season 3

Originally I was going to write a probing, imaginative essay about 24 but in the end just had these bits of notes and left it at that. After all, it's only 24, the most politically reprehensible show I've ever liked.

* Interesting how the show gets increasingly less plausible even on its own terms. Starts with a standard-issue terrorist threat then shifts to a daring counter-terrorist scam against organized criminals and then finally ends up against Lex Luthor. Speaking of whom - Saunders’ motives are never really explained; sure he wants to hurt the US and particularly Jack as well but that’s not much different from the first two seasons except that this is all there is. Saunders’ change from good guy to bad is repeatedly brought up but never completely addressed, unless the remark about two years of torture by Bosnians is meant to do so. But why should it? Saunders wants to cause great harm because, uh, well, because he can. And Americans deserve it. That’s why he seems more like a C-movie criminal mastermind who wandered onto the wrong set, sort of Jack Bauer vs. Dr. Mabuse. You particularly see this with Saunders' daughter. At the end he finally gives up rather than see her get killed though he was willing to unleash an unstoppable virus about an hour’s drive from where she lived. (It’s possible to motivate his surrender at the end as having finally realized he was beaten chose the "defend my daughter" reason as a way to save face. Too bad the writers put nothing like this into the completed show.)

* Some of this problem may have been caused by the rushed feeling of the final episodes. It’s almost like they got a few hours away from the end and realized they couldn’t finish the story so they not only sped it all up but just started omitting things. The entire subplot about the spread of the virus is just dropped cold when all it really needed was a line or two about the quarantines appear to be holding. Did Wayne report the murder or just leave the scene? (A deleted scene on the DVD answers this: Just left.) Did only three people survive the hotel? That’s all you see leaving, and we’re not even sure if the others were killed when Michelle was kidnapped.

* doubling: Bauer/Palmer (id/superego or action/thought but can’t take that too far) then Bauer/Saunders

* Reality is kinda irrelevant in 24 but you do wonder whether a husband and wife would be allowed to work together at some place like CTU. You can pass on Kim working there as Jack’s string-pulling. And who would let the wife of a dead agent (Gael) in the command center at any time, let alone during a major crisis? And why would a regional center keep an entire suitcase--a small suitcase but still a suitcase--of suicide tablets? If it’s used for actual field operations then wouldn’t these be distributed under much greater security at the appropriate time? Heck, do actual government counter-terrorist agents even use suicide tablets? Sure LA gangs are supposed to be tough but did they think the tablets would be needed for that? And Nina gives Jack a phone number which he just la di da calls. It’s not clear what he was intending to do but why would he trust her rather than checking the number. Even if it’s implausible that Nina’s backdoor would still be in the computer four years later at least they addressed this with a line about putting it in a section that wouldn’t be updated. You do have to wonder why she never sold that info earlier.

* An example of why the show isn’t real time: At 6:36am Chase is on the roof of CTU then commercial break and at 6:40 he’s about to storm Saunders’s suspected hideout. Nice of Saunders to place his lair across the street from CTU. Honestly, we all grant that it’s not actually “real time” and can excuse this as just a glitch in such a complex story but still....

* I sometimes wonder what the media reports afterward would be like. For Season Two, in the space of two days (we know it was 24 hours but it would appear as two days) there was a bombing at CTU headquarters, the president’s chief of staff (or something) is mysteriously killed (again viewers know why but the outside world wouldn’t), a nuclear bomb goes off, there are riots, the cabinet removes the President from office, there are assorted plane crashes and military actions all around LA and of course scads of dead bodies. How much would be pieced together? Wouldn’t Jack become the most famous man in the country? Would the woman who picked up a hitchhiking Kim while she said goodbye to her father appear in the New York Times or the Weekly World News? In Season Three there's about 800 dead bodies plus whatever the virus caused when it spread outside the hotel, a prison riot, the mysterious deaths of at least two major political figures, scrambled jets (twice), a shootout in a mall and so forth.