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24: "8:00pm - 9:00pm"

Oh, this does not look promising.

The early hours of 24 are generally clumsy, because so little of what we're seeing now will be relevant by the end of the season. Despite the show's full-day time limit, early developments tend to get buried under the increasingly complex demands of plot, so it's hard to get overly caught up in all the initial excitement. But there's still usually some craziness or risk to grab us until the real story gets started, generally revolving around Jack, be it murdering a government informant in the heart of CTU (and then stealing his head), or holding up a gas station to delay a suspect. After a so-so beginning, last week ended strong, with Renee's hinted at craziness bubbling to the surface. Jack is a grandfather now, so his days of decapitating may be behind him. How perfect, then, if his protege from last season stepped in to take control--and in doing so, managed to thoroughly wig the unflappable Bauer out?

At first, I thought "8:00 - 9:00" was going to stay on this. After showing us the conspiracy against Hassad (who is president of the Islamic Republic of Kamistan, which is not real place) is larger than we knew, and introducing a loose end or two, we see Jack trying to shut-down the undercover operation, while Renee blandly refuses to back down. It created a dynamic that had a lot of potential, because we're so used to seeing Jack as the on-the-edge, willing to lose everything hero; watching him struggle to keep someone else in check would be a relatively new experience. But as the hour went on, Renee's behavior became increasingly desperate, and even worse, we learned that she and Vlad, the Russian contact she cut off a dude's thumb to meet, have a Past. No rape, thank god, but the clear indication is that he screwed her up. So now Renee isn't just playing things fast and loose for results, she's damaged goods with a suicide wish. Which takes some of the fun out of it. (This could still move in an interesting direction--I'm just betting based on previous experience with the show, and the way it handles its female characters, that it won't.)

That said, at least Jack and Renee's woes had dramatic umph. This episode gave us not one, not two, but three tedious sub-plots, and while Dana's problems at home were far and away the worst, there was a whole lot of boring to wade through. President Hassad is cracking down on the conspirators in his homeland, and President Useless wrings her hands and worries about the peace treaty. I can understand her objecting to executions without trial, or the massive violations of civil rights, but her concern is the sort of ill-defined nagging we've come to expect from the role. (After all, I'm pretty sure if somebody tried a coup in the States, and failed, they wouldn't be let off with a warning.) Hassad is also having domestic strife with his wife, and there's a daughter, and I have both ladies names in my notes but I care so little about this storyline that I'm not going to bother to scroll down. (I promise I'll be more diligent if this ever matters.)

We learned tonight the man suffered from radiation poisoning we saw last week is actually Evil Foreign Busnissman Jurgen Prochnow's son, Oleg. Purchnow's other son, Josef, wants to get Oleg help, and by the end of the hour, the two of them have taken a doctor hostage. I'm betting the doctor will somehow escape, and give Jack a way back to the Russians if the Vlad situation doesn't play out, but so far, it's just eating the minutes.

And then there's poor Dana and her dickhead ex. Words can't really describe how thoroughly useless this section is. Ignoring the obscene coincidence that has the ex muscle his way back into Dana's life at quite possibly the worst possible time, disregarding how bad this makes CTU look at researching potential personnel, closing our eyes to the fact that Dana's plan to hide her old life required the Dickhead Ex to have no interest in tracking her down once he got released from prison--I hate, hate, hate, hate what this is doing to Katee Sackhoff. Yes, she's an actress who chose to work on the show, I don't think she herself is being actually victimized or anything silly like that, but Starbuck was a such a bad-ass, and it's painful to watch such a strong, intelligent performer reduced to such tedious hysterics. For god sake, if you're going to have her menaced by a man she could probably bench press, at least give the character enough dignity to fight back. But no, on this one drags. Maybe next week, Dana will snap, and the rest of her storyline will be about how she and Ortiz have to hide a couple of white trash corpses.

Not really impressed by this hour. Renee staring down death at the end wasn't awful, but it would be nice to have more than one plot worth watching going into hour six. Guess we'll just have to hope things improve next week.

Stray Observations:

  • For such an ultra-modern, high-tech environment, the new CTU sure has an awful lot of places for people to take embarrassing phone calls in private. You'd think they'd learn that always works out badly.
  • Hassan actually told his wife, "The truth is, I'm just glad I could feel something, anything." Wow.
  • Arlo, the non-Chloe tech geek at CTU, is annoying the crap out of me. Again, mainly because Dana is for some reason forced to play nice with the creep. She can tell him to screw off, we won't mind!
Filed Under: TV, 24

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