Well, that happened.
The mark of a good episode of 24 is just how many different events “that” can refer to. Is it the fact that last week’s big “death” turned out to be a hoax? (Congrats to everyone in the comments who figured this out; I almost wish I hadn’t read the theories, because I doubt I would’ve come up with any of them on my own.) Is it the pell-mell rush to find Margot and Ian before they use the last drone to take out Waterloo Station, killing thousands of innocent civilians? Is it the firefight outside of Margot’s final hiding spot, climaxing with Jack first throwing Ian out the window, then shooting Margot in the shoulder, then single-handedly diverting the drone missile into the water, then throwing Margot out the window? Is it Chloe going back to Adrian? Is it Steve’s web of lies finally collapsing? Is it Steve escaping into the night with the override device which, it turns out, is actually so powerful it can get inside any defense system in the world?
A lot goes down from “7:00 PM—8:00 PM,” and it’s a mark of how well this season has been plotted that most all of it works. The fake-out with Heller was initially a letdown; I’m always disappointed when a show steps away from strong choices, and something about Heller sacrificing himself was so brutal and sincere that it seemed a shame to walk it back. (I’ll also cop to feeling slightly embarrassed that nearly all of my review last week has been rendered moot. You win this round, 24 writers!) But as the hour unfolded, his survival gradually made more and more sense.
This current season of 24 is the most smoothly plotted of the show’s run to date, and the trick with Heller plays into that. If he’d died, the signature Mark had forged would no longer have been a pressing issue; that’s not the most important thread in the show right now, but it’s more than just a passing thing, and so far at least, this season hasn’t had much in the way of loose ends. More importantly, there needed to be some way to both reduce Margot as a threat, and also make the final rush to take her down all the more suspenseful. The fact that Margot initially believes that Heller has sacrificed himself means the end of four out of the five remaining drones are out of commission, crashed into the ocean by a reluctant but obedient Ian; the fact that Ian discovers the hoax in time to save the last drone means that Margot is even more pissed off, and determined to strike at the target that will punish Heller the most.
It all makes for a thrilling opening half, as Jack basically takes over the operation (another thing that saving Heller made possible; if Heller had died, I doubt Jack would’ve been immediately arrested, but I don’t think various governments would’ve been so eager to follow his lead) and orders Kate, Eric, and a bunch of guys to Margot’s hideout. To find the hideout, Chloe had to enlist Adrian’s help, which sets up the twist at the end of the hour; while Chloe was willing to work with Jack during the immediate crisis, she still has some deep issues regarding governments and trust, and once Margot goes down, Chloe is back to Adrian’s side. And apparently they are lovers, too, which I don’t think had come up before. Poor Chloe. The next few weeks should be a fun time for her.
We’ve got three hours left in 24: Live Another Day, which means now is as good a time as any to switch threats. It’s a trick the show has used before, and while the surprise factor isn’t huge anymore, it’s still a smart structural idea; Margot’s storyline is given enough time to run its course, no more no less, and when she takes a header out the window, Steve and Adrian are waiting on the sidelines to pick up the ball. And it’s impressive how natural this all feels. Sure, the evil mole has been run into the ground at this point, but Jordan’s death, which before played like a goofy time-killer, now turns out to be instrumental in forcing Steve’s hand, just as Adrian learning about the defense override from Chloe puts him in a position to demand it in trade for getting Steve out of the country safely.
Ideologically, this means that the show’s nominal Julian Assange stand-in is the worst sort of traitor imaginable, a man who would do anything if he could profit from it. (I mean, say what you will about Margot Al-Hirazi, at least she had an ethos.) That combined with Jack’s willingness to throw an unarmed injured woman out a window means the show is still more than willing to push certain buttons. If any of those buttons are supposed to mean anything, who knows. (I’m still curious if Jack’s behavior is building towards something. He just doesn’t seem like someone who could live in a civilized world anymore.) Regardless, this hour hit the ground running and did not stop, offering enough narrative resolution to satisfy while still pulling us towards the next cliffhanger.
- “I’m not an American citizen. This is not America.” -Belcheck. Belcheck is awesome.
- Eric says “Margot may have set up a perimeter” like it isn’t supposed to be funny.
- Boy, Mark just got triple screwed this week. First his wife feels he betrayed her, then Jack manages to save Heller and the day, once again reminding Audrey how much she (presumably) still loves him, and oh hey, there’s still that forged signature to deal with. I expect he’ll do something stupid about all this soon enough.
- Steve is so bad at being the mole that I’m impressed he’s lasted this long.
- “Belcheck. Just one word. Like Madonna.”
- If this season ends with Jack killing Chloe or Chloe sacrificing herself, I am going to be very upset.
- Good bye, Margot. At least you got to go out doing what you loved: holding a gun on one of your children, and forcing him to die for your cause.