I don't remember all seven previous seasons of 24 that well. I remember highlights, and since I've seen the first and second seasons a couple times, I know what they were about, but apart from that, it's largely bits and pieces. With most shows, that could potentially hurt my enjoyment, because a good show can build off the past to create a strong sense of place and character. 24, though, is all about the moment. It has some recurring characters, but those tend to die eventually, and given its tendency to regurgitate old ideas, you're almost better off coming into each new day fresh. Watching "10:00am - 11:00am," though, I found myself wishing I had a stronger sense of the past, because it would help me determine once and for all if President Alison Taylor is one of the worst or actually the worst character the show has ever given us.
I don't mean worst as in "most villainous." I mean worst as in just flat-out craptacular. Really, she's always been terrible, even in season seven, but Cherry Jones is a strong enough actor that the stupidity wasn't immediately obvious. I've had my suspicions, of course. We all have. But tonight has to be one of the most embarrassing moments I've seen on the show since Kim Bauer got caught in a bear trap, and even then, Kim Bauer was just some eye candy heroine. She wasn't supposed to be the ruler of the Free World or anything. Taylor changes her opinion on a major conspiracy, a conspiracy that she's just set in motion on the advice of an ex-president who already tried and failed to lie to the country years ago. She changes it two times in the space of about five minutes, and both times, despite Jones' best efforts to indicate some kind of thought process, the character is clearly just making a decision depending on who happens to be standing next to her in the room.
How stupid is she? She's engaging in a grand cover-up in order to set in a motion a peace treaty whose goals are vague at best, non-existent at worst. She's blackmailing an entire country into signing the damn thing, and--augh, brain-freeze. It makes no sense, and Ethan's attempts to explain her motivation to us late in the episode, claiming its some kind of trauma brought on by the loss of all family connection, only makes it more pathetic. Logan may have been a bastard, but at least he was a consistent one, and at least there was some twisted logic to his goals. And even when there wasn't, at least it was fun to watch him screw around. Taylor is just this empty suit of clothes spouting lines. Her betrayal of Jack is meaningless because she herself is meaningless.
This is a terrible season, because there's no danger. Right now, the stakes are: can Jack Bauer manage to rescue Dana Walsh before she's killed, and then use the information she gives him to reveal the cover-up. Not bad, right? The whole world is against him, his country is once again turning its back, lots of running around and yelling. Except Chloe is head of CTU, so she just wants to bring him in, not have him killed, and Taylor certainly hasn't given a kill order. So Jack isn't in any real danger here. I mean, Logan's probably gunning for him, but he's not dictating policy quite yet, and even if he was, is anybody worried Jack could get killed? There are no civilians being threatened, no bombs in play, no massive biological hazard counting down in a warehouse somewhere (that we know of). Right now, literally the only person in immediate physical danger is a double agent who betrayed her country for money.
There is no suspense here. We can worry if Jack will avenge Renee's death, but only in an abstract way, and, let's face it, this is not a show that does abstraction well. Watching Jack take out Cole's crew was cute, but it once again reminded us that Jack isn't in over his head here, he isn't facing an unstoppable threat, just a bunch of incompetent bureaucrats and president with a spine made out of turkey fat. There have been moments of great pathos this season, but once that's gone, there's no underlying intensity to keep the engine running. The MacGuffin is ridiculous, and without any thrills to distract us, all we have are endless minutes to contemplate how little all of this makes sense.
- Dana freaking out wasn't bad. And then she got water-boarded, which was a surprise. So, um, yay there, I guess.
- Oh, there were guest stars: Michael Madsen and D.B. Sweeney.