This has not been a very good season of 24. Not saying it's a complete write-off; Jack's had his usual share of ass-kicking moments, Renee's craziness had some potential in the early going, and the action scenes have been as solidly choreographed as ever. But the standard "Foreign people threaten Americans with bombs" plotline just doesn't have the same spark it once did, and the recycled twists and contrivances have lost a lot of their charm. Plus, we had the terrible, awful, no good, very bad "Dana has a past" sub-plot, wasting the normally reliable Kate Sackhoff in a quagmire of blackmail and annoyance. There were no shocks when Dana's ex-boyfriend came to town and demanded her help, because we've seen this before, and there was no real suspense, because nothing that happened between her and Jerkwad had any connection to the main story. It was like every fifteen minutes, the real show was put on hold and someone switched channels to a Lifetime Original.
That changed at the end of tonight's episode, "4:00am - 5:00am," right after Dana finally snapped and murdered the ever inquisitive Prady. (Goodbye, Mr. Root! Let's hope you were well paid for all this foolishness.) Holy cow, right? Seemingly sweet-natured, ever put upon Dana was pushed one too many times, and her demons finally took control. It wasn't a shocking scene, though, given the situation. Either she murdered Prady, or Prady would've exposed her to Hastings, and besides, the whole Dana arc had been following a very predictable template so far. She was inevitably going to dig herself in deeper before she inevitably got caught or sacrificed herself to save, oh, let's say Cole.
That's not the change I was talking about. The murder was nicely done, and it was amusing that she stuffed the corpse in an incredibly large ventilation shaft. Then she pulled out her cell phone and placed a call to--
Yeah, looks like the World's First, Best, and Last Defense Against Terrorism has managed to hire yet another mole. On the good side, the Dana plot is finally connected to the main storyline. On the bad side, this doesn't make any sense at all. If she'd been a bad guy this whole time, why string her jerkwad ex along? Why hesitate before killing him? I can't imagine she'd need her cover to last beyond the current operation, so why not just shoot both morons in the head from the start? This twist takes the one morally ambiguous plot-line the show had going (boring as it was, at least Dana herself had potential) and eliminate any shades of gray entirely. I guess we're supposed to worry about Cole now, in case Dana drags him down with her, but c'mon. What little suspension of disbelief the series had going for it has just gone out the window. (There really wasn't much left after Tony came back from the dead.) A good twist changes our perspective on earlier events without contradicting or trying to change the events themselves. As much as I dug Sackhoff's "murder face," the reveal that she's a stone-cold villain doesn't work.
Which is a shame, because there was a lot to like in this hour. The stand-off with Samir's men at the East River, and Jack's improvised bulletproof shielding; Chloe going mental and pointing a gun at the creeps from NSA who wouldn't let her do her job; Chloe then managing to single-handedly restore power to the crippled CTU; and, maybe best of all, Renee's triumphant return to the scene. Not a lot of story momentum, but since story on 24 is just an excuse for gunplay and shouting, I don't see much reason to criticize. And then they had to go blow it all to hell with one stupid twist.
There are ways this could work. Well, way: Dana could wind up as Nina to Cole's Jack, and it'd be nice to have a Nina-style villain again. But it's still a goofy idea, largely undone by the show's need to ensure it's twists are as "shocking" as possible. Well, you got me this time, 24. I honestly believed no one would be dumb enough to pull this kind of crap, this late in the game. Boy, is my face ever red.
- Hey, at least Hastings continues to be a surprisingly stand-up dude. Admittedly, "stand-up" here translates as "rolling over for the few characters on the show I actually like," but I'll take what I can get.
- Oh, um, the rods are going across the East River. So, expect to hear more about that.
- Ah, Frank Haynam, yet another in a long line of Assholes In Authority.
- Best moment of the whole Chloe scene: her clipped, "I'm not good with praise," to Hastings.
- I'm torn on the grade. Most of this episode was solid B+ stuff, but the Dana reveal really, really stung.