Jammer's '24' Day 6 debriefing

May 23, 2007

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DAMMIT! Jack Bauer has found himself prisoner to the most mediocre season of "24" yet.

Warning: Spoilers through the finale of season six of "24" follow.

So, "24" wrapped up with its finale on Monday. It was a by-the-numbers finale to a thoroughly disappointing season — easily this series' weakest. Given what they'd set up, there was virtually no other way this season could've ended. After the finales of seasons four and five, another shocker like the ones that sent Jack off into self-imposed exile or Chinese prison would've felt superfluous and false for the sake of needlessly cliffhangering us. It was time for a more dialed-down ending. We got that, at least — not that I liked the outcome.

The rest of the finale's proceedings followed the plot down the only path available. It offered competent (if routine) action, but not much tension. If you think back to last year's finale where Jack interrogated President Logan in that riveting multifaceted scene, you realize how far this series has fallen in the past year.

Meanwhile, here's a question: In how many ways has "24" jumped the shark this season?

One could argue that the show jumped the shark in the "true" sense of the phrase when the nuke blew up in the season's fourth episode. "Jumped the shark" used to mean that a point of extreme, over-the-top drama had been reached that could not be topped. The more widespread and current use of "jumped the shark," however, has come to mean any plot development that is obviously ridiculous.

Under that definition, as my friend Eric mentioned to me in an e-mail earlier this season, "24" has jumped the shark many times over this season.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy aspects of "24" even when it's bad. For example, this season had Peter MacNicol, who was a good addition to the cast. But as I said before, this season of "24" has been a haphazard mess. This was true right through to the end. Aside from Jack, whose motivation always is to Save America and do the Right Thing in the Most Reckless Way Possible, no character has had a motivation that has lasted more than a few episodes before some kind of awkward about-face. Let's look at the ways in which this season has strained credibility by switching directions in mid-stream.

  • Wayne Palmer starts as a man of caution before being blown up, put in a coma, then brought out of the coma, where he then pretends to be a hawk which turns out to be a bluff. Then he collapses from his prior injuries and exits the season, perhaps the series.
  • Homeland Security absurdly revokes Nadia's security clearance at the beginning of the season because she's Muslim. By the end of the season she's running CTU. Talk about a policy shift.
  • Vice President Daniels starts as an uber-hawk so extreme that he's willing to be complicit in the attempted assassination of the sitting president. He ends as a self-doubter that is humbled to the point of paralysis. His stones must've been vaporized somewhere around Hour 18.
  • Philip Bauer disappears for at least a dozen episodes before coming back into the game. He tells the Chinese that he's had it and is done working with them. It turns out he's not. This is not a plot twist or a matter of motivation; it's a purely contrived device to move the plot from A to B. And his death in the finale had a distinct "who cares" effect, having been stripped of all personal meaning between father and son long ago. As Jack aptly puts it, "He was dead to me years ago."
  • Nadia has feelings for Milo (maybe), and then it's revealed she has feelings for Doyle (maybe) — despite the fact that earlier in the day Doyle suspected her of being a traitor and tortured her for information. This silly triangle results in some of the most inane dialog imaginable regarding would-be relationships. (The writers of "24" need to stay away from office romances.) Milo ended up with a hole in his head and Doyle at least half-blind, so I guess there won't be any CTU hook-ups to emerge from this.
  • The Russians threaten to attack an American military base and start a war if the Americans don't recover a component before it falls into the hands of the Chinese. The clock put upon this scenario is totally manufactured by the plot. And the Russians are simultaneously friendly enough that they don't want to go to war, but enough of a plot device that they are willing to go to war because they must apparently make a strong political statement or risk looking like wimps. How any of this makes sense is beyond me. Also beyond me is how sinking an oil platform provides the proof that is necessary to avert the crisis.
  • Audrey Raines is alleged as dead, then captured, then freed, and, ultimately, crazy. It's a truly thankless role for Kim Raver, who had previously been one of the better female characters on this frequently male-dominated show. In the finale, she has a scene, but no lines. Jack concludes he must let her go for her own sake, which is the hoariest cliché possible in this particular playbook.
  • Recycled plot lines from previous "24" seasons: Granted, some of this just goes with the territory on this show, but we had: Nuclear bombs chased around like MacGuffins, electronic components chased around like MacGuffins; terrorist leaders chased around like MacGuffins; assassination attempts on the president; a scene where the president's competence is questioned and a vote attempts to strip him of power; Jack Bauer torturing guys for information; Jack Bauer taken into CTU custody more times than you can count; Jack Bauer forgiven and put into the field again and again; the head of CTU forced out; and someone new put in to replace the forced-out CTU head.

The ultimate shark-jumping, however, came in the utterly predictable "revelation" that Chloe is pregnant. Let's see — she faints in the final seconds of the next-to-last hour, but she's quickly revealed as okay. This happens while she's facing a questionable future with her ex-husband Morris. Do the math — what is the only possible outcome here for a previously unexplained medical condition that causes fainting and nausea and maybe ties up as-yet-unresolved romantic subplots?

Yes. An effin' pregnancy. On "24." Involving Chloe.

Chloe was vastly underused this season and, when used, used wrongly. What we always liked about Chloe was her anti-social quirkiness and her tendency to buck authority. This season she's been in the middle of trite relationship spats and friction between Milo and Morris. Bo-ring. Now we have the prospect of Chloe as a mom? Is that something anyone actually wants to see? I have my doubts.

Also, Jack Bauer never got on a plane all season. He got off a plane in the first episode, but I have a new rule: You know something's wrong with a "24" season when Jack doesn't spend at least most of one episode doing something crucial on a plane. Helicopters don't count.

In interviews, the producers have admitted the weaknesses of this season and their intention to shake things up next year. I hope they do. I will be watching "24" next season and hope for a return to form. Something different needs to happen. A nuke blowing up is obviously not the answer, because nukes are about consequences, and there's not enough time in a "24" day to deal with heavy stuff like that. You get one episode of intense aftermath emotion, but by episode 24, it's just another day at the office.

Jammer's "24" Season Six Rating: 2 stars. (out of 4)

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12 comments on this post

    You are too generous on this season Jammer. It wasn't just bad, it was horrendus. I almost gave up on it half way through but didn't. I probably should have. I would have given it one star, or go Spock's Brain on it and give it a half star.

    I disagree with both of you. Though it wasn't the best season, it was certainly not the worst. Actually, I didn't really see anything wrong with the season except for the Chloe being pregnant thing, which seemed really forced.

    I agree on all counts: a disappointing season, void of any real shockers (or at least ones that I cared about). I know it must be difficult to write this stuff, but this season really did seem to lack originality. And they lost me when they made Jack's family the bad guys. Things I liked: + Bill Buchanon jumping back in for the finale - I've come to like Bill's character a lot, and I hope we see more of him in the future. + Doyle's character during the finale - He was a little over the top when the first brought him in (seemed to follow the typical "24" "introduce a new a-hole character to put shackles on CTU" format), but I like how things ended. I wouldn't mind seeing him return next season (maybe to replace Curtis as Jack's right-hand). Things I didn't like: + The typical "24" cliche of politicking during a crisis - I still have a hard time believing that people would really be seeking personal glory/advancement when the world is about to end (though this season was toned down compared to others). + The whole "go to war with Russia" story arc - Did the Russions ever really have a leg to stand on, considering that they are partially/mostly responsible for the nukes ending up in the US in the first place? Wasn't one of their embassy people involved in orchestrating the original terrorist attack? + Nadia: Not a powerful character, not a strong leader. I know this was partially the point, but I found her uninteresting. + Jack's family is evil - A definite Jump the Shark moment for me. Where can they go from here? Of course, even with all the flaws, I'll continue to watch every episode.

    Mebby the writers saw the way the ratings were going, as NBC's "Heroes" continued to steal all of the target demographic audience they had so carefully built up the last few years. They couldn't change time slots, so they just kinda gave up. I switched to "Heroes' after the first break, and I never went back. Yatta! P.S. Jammer, your review of 'Bound' for "Enterprise" is my hands-down favorite...frakkin hilarious!

    The season was so bad...I didn't even see it!!! Although, to be fair, I've only seen bits and pieces of three episodes of 24. "Heroes" is the shizzle.

    I still can't believe the whole Curtis 'thing' (don't want to give plot away to those that haven't seen it). He's a great character. At least now that Stargate has jumped the shark and finished, he won't be a guest star as YET ANOTHER old clichéd Jaffa friend of T'ealc.

    Jammer, Jammer, Jammer… You missed the point again. Wayne Palmer was on a drug trip So his collapse was not that thin. He was blowed up real good Internal injuries it appears His head wasn’t made of wood And there are no Dr. Bashirs Daniels the ambitious VP Like most backups wanted more But he found that a real catastrophe Might force him into war Commanders in Chief at wartime All change when duty is due So to seem him finally climb To the office is a story so true The real villain it appears was Pop Bauer Killed his son early that day And disappear he did for some hours Reappearing at the end (No cliché!) After all villains have done this for ages For that’s the way the story goes The writers must produce more pages On the action of the plot’s heroes Nadia’s is not a bad tech Who forgives petty behavior of men When Doyle showed her honest respect She returned it in kind to him As for Milo, well he loved her for sure But Nadia took the professional stance She resisted his manly allure And rejected his office romance The Russian President was a hostage Of generals that were hateful war hawks So he could not mimic an ostrich When cornered he mouthed some tough talks And then we have hapless Audrey Her brain in total disarray Before you say it’s all phony Change places with her for one day Jammer, Jammer, Jammer… You focused on trivia I fear You dropped a large heavy hammer But missed the setup for next year Who’s the father of Chole’s baby? Edgar, her husband, or Jack We’ll find out in hour 23 Next season when 24 is back

    Now I've seen it all. A rebuttal to my review done in verse. Kudos. Very creative. (But the father of Chloe's baby can't be Edgar or Jack. Day 6 takes place nearly two years after Day 5.)

    Couldn't agree more on the review. I've come away feeling quite cheated. The last 3 seasons of '24' have shown there is a limit to 'jumping the shark'. I remember watching the 1st season on DVD. There was a huge emotional investment in the characters, and it paid off right to the end. It was tense - the stakes were high yet there was no huge terrorist threat to the country. The "it isn't what you think it is" cliché wasn't so obviouis is the 1st season. However, it's a mechanism that the writers used again... and again... and again... Let's see, "Hey look, CTU has ANOTHER mole. Well, fancy that! Oh, hang on - everyone's convinced she's a mole - ah, she can't be then." It has become woefully predictable. And once again the premise of this was based on the arrogance of "We can't be wrong." It's amazing that CTU get anything right. It made be think of the tape recorder subplot of season 2. Apparently the characters still believe that CTU is inpenetrable, even though it's constantly compromised. The other problem is that I couldn't give a damn anyway. So what if Chloe and Morris argue and can't get their job done? So what if Jack has to go against his father? So what if I fall asleep watching it? And as for discontinuity - my God! Some examples: 1) Jack's seriously wounded half way through the season. He's struggling to get about for TWO episodes, and suddenly he's running around like a loon with no explanation as to how this miraculous recovery took place. 2) Division visit CTU to tell Nadia that she's useless. She let's them use a room to investigate and you don't even hear a peep after that. So, as the season slowly wound itself down (or simply wounded itself)like a slow-motion car crash, I couldn't help but feel that I'd been spoon-fed a hits version of '24'. What started off as a good premise for a season, with the elements of US xenophobia, suicide terrorist attacks on home-soil, making peace with an enemy etc. then had to be escalated and watered down into a half-baked half-season of 'chase the nuke'. And even the climax of THAT plot-like was lackluster. I had to rewind and re-watch to make sure that I didn't miss it! There was just so much wrong with this season, it would probably take me another day to write it down. If there's going to be any improvement, the writers should seriously consider getting back to the original format, and throw all preconceptions out of the window. They've wrapped the season up with the possibility of starting the next season with a completely new cast (including replacing Jack Bauer - although I can't see them taking that risk). How about a cop who gets drawn into a day that is well over his head - and be enough of an everyday person to consider and dwell on the moral ramifications of his actions? Whatever they decide, I'll take some convincing to spend a whole day of my life to watch the next season. Such a shame.

    One of the things I find most fascinating about 24 is how the structure of the series needs to also conform with the structure of a regular TV series. So therefore you have things moving at a pace that is, frankly, ludicrous. For example, when Bill Buchanan gets fired, because someone has to take the fall for the political fallout of whatever... it's three in the morning. And it's based on information that has only been told to Justice Department less than an hour before. It's quite humorous that someone would be there, in the middle of the night, saying, "Well, someone needs to resign over this RIGHT NOW." Let alone the expectations that Morris should be getting over his issues with being tortured in a couple hours. I enjoy the show, but you certainly have to shut off the brain and not think about the pace in which things proceed during the "day".

    Anyone seen the South Park take on 24? Cartman as Jack, Kyle as Chloe working at CTU (His bedroom with a PC), with 15 different government agencies coming in to take over Kyle's bedroom ever 30 seconds. They only have 24 minutes to stop the evil Muslims/British from destroying South Park. Quite frankly, I'd expect to see this plot in 24 Day 7.

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