Friday, July 6, 2007

The whimpering of 24

At one point I thought I'd be so cool and post about each episode of 24 just like a real blogger instead of the sporadic quasi-sequiturs that otherwise mark this Funhouse. But as much as we all pretended otherwise this past season started bad and just went downhill from there. I knew the pre-season hype about it being the redemption of Jack was just fluff - he's barely even a character and the writers have never shown the slightest interest in anything other than pure plotting. By episode 4 it was obviously all up. The death of Curtis was so badly botched that what should have been well not shattering but at least unnerving moment was just tossed off. Just think of what they could have done with Curtis alive and involved but nobody quite trusting each other. Again, pure plot, pure effect. Same as last season when the Peter Weller character was introduced and the prospect of Jack working with somebody who may or may not have been wronged opened up. But then once again any ambiguity was shut down immediately; in the same episode Weller first appeared if I remember right. And then episode 4 ended with a nuclear bomb explosion in L.A. Surprising certainly but then where do they go from there? More bombs? Something bigger? (I was half-convinced that the terrorist scheme involved detonating enough bombs to trigger an earthquake which seemed like a stupid idea at the time but I now wish they'd used.)

But I honestly think that when the ratings weren't at the top the writers just threw up their hands and let the pieces fall where they might. There was one point about a month from the finale when I literally couldn't remember what the story was; weren't the terrorists already dead? One producer even admitted that they start filming without having determined the ending or even mapping out much of the season's story. That at least explains the slapdash feel to nearly all seasons and even the poorly done finale to Season Four (where stopping a missile depended on whether CTU hackers could recover info from a smashed PDA - hardly a tension building device). This writerly indifference would explain why there are so many rehashes of previous story devices not to mention why it's nearly impossible to figure out just what a major character like Jack's dad actually wants.

By the time the story reached the point where Chinese-hired mercenaries entered CTU headquarters through a sewer gate it had started to look like the worst Mad parody ever. After being bombed, gassed and infiltrated by double agents you'd think CTU would be darn near a fortress. And in the middle of a major incident have more than just a few rent-a-cops around; if I was CTU boss I'd have National Guard or at least SWAT. But at least this invasion finally got something going. How about the investigators from Division who showed up near the end (fourth episode from last? fifth?), set up shop in CTU, promised to be watching and then were never seen again? Or what about the brother of the dead agent who shows up an episode later (yeah it's no security breach to allow uncleared people inside a major government agency devoted entirely to stopping a world war) and then--my last boldface, promise--vanished! Like Chloe turns around and he's gone like some magic trick.

And let's not even get into Jack being the one who almost started the war due to his arrogance about tricking the Chinese but only one person even bothers to call him on this; the offshore oil rigs being by a beach within walking distance of the Secretary of Defense's vacation house; the complete pointlessness of the former president story line (and how did he know about all this anyway?); the fact that a freakin' NUCLEAR BOMB goes off but it only ties up traffic for a couple of hours; the needless complexity of stealing drones when terrorists could have just driven to another target; the probability that nobody else will ever want to be president in the 24verse considering they barely outlive mayflies; the odd fact that apparently all CTU agents are trained helicopter pilots; the Russians moving troops in a few hours rather than the days it takes in reality; and on and on. I don't expect plausibility in 24 any more than I would in a Marx Bros movie but at some point you just don't care.

I'll certainly watch the opening of the next season but won't be giving them the benefit of the doubt again.