Monday, 19 April 2010

24, 8.16 - "7:00AM - 8:00AM"

WRITERS: Manny Coto & Brannon Braga
DIRECTOR: Brad Turner
GUEST CAST: Graham McTavish, Bob Gunton, John Boyd, Nazneen Contractor, Mido Hamada, Necar Zadegan, Rizwan Manji, Assaf Cohen, Sarah Hollis & Jamison Haase
[SPOILERS] Usually around this time in seasons past, we've entered a dull and tedious final quarter where 24's running on fumes and the writers are shoehorning in last-minute threats to keep everything trundling along. Contrarily, Day 8 has actually found its footing of late, and appears to have reversed the usual downward trajectory of the series. This episode was very good, blessed with the season's most shocking climax since season 6's nuke detonated, and I'm now more hopeful this final year in Jack Bauer's (Kiefer Sutherland) real-time life will be a worthy salute to 24's end...

To recap: Renee (Annie Wersching) arrived back at CTU to help Chloe (Mary Lyn Rajskub) search for a mole they suspect is helping the terrorists evade capture, leading to the arrest of Dana (Katee Sackhoff) after calls are traced back to her phone and she decides to run; Tarin (Mido Hamada) takes receipt of President Hassan (Anil Kapoor) and prepares to broadcast Hassan's forced admission of guilt and execute him live on the internet; Dana agrees to help CTU locate Hassan provided she can be given immunity by President Taylor (Cherry Jones), who knows the death of Hassan will mean an end to the peace accords; and after Jack storms Tarin's hideout with a tactical team, they discover that the "live" stream of Hassan's torture was a pre-recorded video and Hassan was already killed before they arrived...

Everything about this episode worked, but particularly the three standout sequences. Dana's escape from CTU finally gave Katee Sackhoff the chance to fire some guns and have fun playing the villain (she's very good at both), and Jack's infiltration of the tenement Tarin was holding Hassan also had an air of plausibility you don't always see on 24. It actually felt like a professional team were at work, stealthily moving into position, taking out rooftop snipers and cutting fences, while acting on intel fed to them via CTU. It all flowed a lot better than usual, with a weight of credibility behind how things unfolded. And, of course, the episode's final shock that Jack was too late to save Hassan worked incredibly well, and would appear to signal an unexpected shift in the storyline. I'm assuming the Russians are about to enter the story because the Russian President Mikhail Novakovich (Graham McTavish) appeared here, and it was inferred that his country were against Hassan brokering peace with the US, so I'm guessing Tarin was colluding with them.

Overall, I wouldn't have expected this after such a disappointing first half, but Day 8's suddenly turned things around with a string of dramatic and exciting episodes. It's still true that 24's plot developments can feel dubious, and it often falls back on old tropes (moles, villains asking for presidential immunity, internet executions), but for a series that arguably ran out of new ideas four years ago, it's quite remarkable that it can keep recycling so proficiently and still manage to keep you glued to your seat for an hour. I'm interested to see what they have planned for the final eight episodes, at any rate.

Asides
  • Last week I lamented the passing of the chirping CTU phones, but here we heard Hastings (Mykelti Williamson) has one with a slightly updated tone.
  • Anil Kapoor has been excellent this season, and certainly went out in fine style. His speech to Tarin about trusting him as he once did when he was a general was a particular highlight. I'm not sure the writers really took enough advantage of having Kapoor around, but he'll certainly be missed. And I always like it when 24 does the "silent clock" to salute the passing of a regular character.
18 APRIL 2010: SKY1/HD, 9PM
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