'24': The lamentable Dana Walsh situation

March 17, 2010

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Brian Hastings (Mykelti Williamson) and Dana Walsh (Katee Sackhoff) do counter-terrorist stuff at CTU in season eight of "24."

Word is, this is going to end up being the last season for 24. Based on what we've seen this season, I'm thinking that wouldn't be such a bad idea, especially if it allows the show to just get it over with and become a movie franchise.

24 as a series has gotten awfully long in the tooth, and clearly it has simply run out of ideas. The question is not whether the show will surprise us, but whether the show will be entertaining enough in recycling itself to deliver respectably for an hour. I'm not sure what's worse: The general malaise of this season, or the haphazardly messy multiple shark-jumping of season six. Season eight has so far merely alternated between the typically competent 24 action moments, plenty of mediocre beats, and lots of filler.

But by far the worst thing about this season has been what about the last thing any fan of Battlestar Galactica like me would've expected: that any scene featuring Katee Sackhoff, as CTU analyst Dana Walsh, would immediately lead to eye-rolling and infuriation. Sackhoff occupies a subplot that sucks beyond belief and is stupid beyond words. Even in the world that is 24, which we know and expect (and generally accept) to be endlessly contrived, this storyline defies sense at every turn.

To sum up, Dana Walsh works at CTU, but she has a Bad Secret Past which she has hidden by faking her identity and creating a new name. How she could do that and get by background checks into a job at a government anti-terror agency, I can only guess, but never mind.

She's engaged to a CTU coworker played by Freddie Prinze Jr. But then her Sullied Past caught up with her, in the form of a loser criminal a-hole of an acquaintance who found her and decided to blackmail her into doing various nefarious things for him that would surely get her fired and/or arrested if anyone ever found out. Early episodes of the season featured Dana Walsh being terrorized by this lame-ass loser of a character (and Sackhoff acting really, really scared of him) when what we're really waiting for is for Starbuck to simply kick his ass and be done with it.

I cannot tell you how many scenes in this idiotic plot could've been solved by Dana Walsh simply NOT ANSWERING HER GODDAMNED CELL PHONE or simply HANGING IT UP — which, by the way, you'd think should not be answered while she's running a counter-terrorist surveillance operation in the middle of a FREAKING GOVERNMENT INTELLIGENCE AGENCY.

Ultimately, Loser Guy ends up dead, via plot machinations I won't bore you with. Now Dana Walsh and her fiance must cover up the deaths. Later, Stephen Root (!) shows up as Loser Guy's parole officer, wondering, at 3 a.m. of all times, why he can't contact his missing parolee. Just when we thought we were out, they pull us back in; this sets in motion yet another situation where the screws are put to Dana Walsh and she must squirm while we watch in disbelief how this makes no sense whatsoever. Really? A parole officer is looking for some loser at 3 a.m. because said loser has been missing for, what, four hours? Really? And now parole officer comes to government anti-terror office to question this possible witness, in between moments where she tries to help TRACK DOWN MISSING NUCLEAR RODS? Yeah. That works.

You had to pick up the phone, Dana. And then instead of hanging it up, you look all scared and then do exactly the opposite of what might defuse the situation. Good job.

All of this is accomplished with Katee Sackhoff doing her damnedest to look scared, and desperate, and boxed in, and trapped, with the walls just CLOSING IN, I tell ya! The performance doesn't work, because the character doesn't work, because the plot the character is trapped in doesn't work, because, well, it's just godawful writing.

I detest this plot not simply because it's terrible and defies all logic, but because it makes mincemeat of Katee Sackhoff, which is just a shame.

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41 comments on this post

    That was a nice little rant, you should do that more often.

    I stopped following 24 after season three, because I thought they emptied there bag of tricks. Casual torture and betrayal just didnt cut it anymore for me, 24 clearly lost it's edge. Today, this show seems to be more about contractual obligations than, you know, the actual show.

    This reminds me of the "X-Files", another show that overstayed it's welcome by at least two seasons. There is an interesting quote by Chris Carter on the tanked ratings in the final season: "We lost our audience on the first episode. It's like the audience had gone away, and I didn't know how to find them. I didn't want to work to get them back because I believed what we are doing deserved to have them back." (via wikipedia). It sounds like the 24 production crew has the same mindset, just waiting for the fans to suddenly realize how great the show really is, Walsh-plot and all.

    I agree 100%, it is such a horrible waste of Katee Sackhoff. I keep yelling at the TV for her to go Starbuck on them already! Who did they get to write that storyline anyway, it is that bad. The only positive thing I can say is I am glad Katee is getting a paycheck.

    I gave up watching this season weeks ago, half because the Dana story is awful, dull, pointless, etc, and half because Jack has done next to nothing so far. He's driven around a lot, and for a while wore glasses...that's it. Extremely disappointing season.

    I can't understand why so much time has been spent on this storyline. What was the writing staff thinking exactly? Meanwhile, like Derek pointed out, Jack has been relegated to driving around for nearly two episodes straight now, mixed in with him being perpetually late to every action scene. Excuse me? Why do the writers think we watch this show? At least this season had Dark Renee sawing some poor guy's thumb off. Even if they just made up backstory for Renee between seasons, that was way better than this train wreck imo.

    The latest development is even worse. What cop calls people up at three in the morning, and demands that they speak right now? And Dana/Jenny gets caught in the dumbest lie ever:

    Dana: "I've never heard of Kevin"

    Cop: "Oh really then why did he call you several times?"

    I mean, where the hell did he get your number from? Why else would he call you at three in the freaking morning if he didn't know that Kevin had called you? It might be nitpicking, but the Dana character has been so idiotic this season.

    Like you said Jammer, its criminal to waste an actress like Katee Sackhoff on this nonsense.

    Awesome as usual, Jammer! Although... perhaps I'm missing your point, but it did seem like her career and her relationship may have been compromised had she not agreed to Kevin's blackmail. But yes, it's particularly interesting to me how they've taken Freddie Prinze Jr - arguably the most mainstream high-profile main cast addition to the show since Kiefer - and bundled him into this horrendous storyline as well. Bizarre.

    "Lost" is a great series and I highly recommend it. It's not for the impatient, but if you can accept its drawn-out pace, it's well worth it, especially if you can start from the beginning and approach it spoiler-free.

    "24" was quite good for a long time. If you like the genre, I can recommend the first five seasons, to varying degrees. Obviously there are problems along the way (absurdity must be expected and often embraced), but it is a very well-made action show that at its best posed interesting dilemmas for its characters. Given the sheer number of episodes, I'm surprised they were able to sustain the show as long as they did.

    This doesn't look like a Caprica review.

    The parole officer guy really gets me. He is so persistent and has craaaazy eyes. This is the trap of the real time format. You don't have freedom to have events happen at times that make sense. That have to need to take place as the story develops even if that means stupid o'clock in the morning.

    Anything past Season 1, and this show is brutal. Season 1 was one of the best single seasons of TV ive ever watched. The problem? It was too indepth, too complicated, and too much for the common viewer. 24 has tried its damndest to dub it down to make it easy for people to follow. And it just sucks.

    And in my opinion this show hit the shitter when Jack shot Ryan Chappele to make amends to the bad guys. A hero should never do that.

    re: The Ryan Chappelle comment above me, that always struck me as such a bizarre moment, in television and in writing. I'm not sure what they were getting at. I think it may supposed to have been a "Jack makes a hard choice" moment, or a "Jack must sacrifice one for the needs of the many". But it really didn't work.

    Now had it been Chloe, I would have been fine with it =P
    (Apologies to Chloe fans)

    So I wasn't much of a follower of Katee on Battlestar Galactica. But why is she thought of as such a great actress that this role is a waste of her talent? I'm not saying that she's bad by any means. Just that in my opinion, any number of other actresses could have performed just as well in the either the BG role or the 24 role. The 24 role and plot is crappy beyond all belief, but I don't think she has anything to do with it. In fact, if she's such a top flight talent, she should have known what she was getting into before ever accepting the role.

    Back to 24. I had such high hopes for this season. I thought they figured out that they were off the reservation the past couple of seasons. I was excited about the move to NYC. But really, they hardly show anything having to do with NYC other than a map. So why move there? How about some scenes in more recognizable locations like Central Park, Times Square, etc. So that's bummer number 1. The other bummer is the absurd side plot with her character. Major waste of time. Was it just some excuse to get her into the show? If it doesn't advance the main plot, no matter how absurd the main plot, what's the point of wasting time, money, and energy on it.

    All I have to say is thank you Jammer for saying what everyone trying to endure this season was thinking!

    Do you think he's really just a parole officer? Maybe a bounty hunter would have the stones to call and visit CTU. Speaking of which, that guests are let near or into a facility like that is beyond the pale. At least Katee has a pretttttty good way to weasel out of anything she *almost* implicated herself into.

    Jammer-I like these spicey flavor-chunks in your review:
    "Sulied Past" (all caps--and yay, not the caps in the ass variety)
    "various nefarious"

    PhilaDLJ. Nope, not Caprica. You clicked on wrong link. This is a FarScape review.

    Wow, I have to fervently disagree with the comments about the Ryan Chappelle situation. That was such a nice moment for the show I felt: an amazing moment of showing just how far Jack will go (after all, isn't the point of the show that he is almost as bad as the villains, but luckily his patriotism is for America and not Kamistan?). Not to mention you expect a network show to provide the out at the last second: how nice for them not to.

    A ballsy move, if I may say so.

    With this week's episode, I think the Dana Walsh plot managed to jump the shark into "so bad it's good" territory. I love the way her personality and voice completely change when she's on the phone in the final scene. Talk about ham-handed.

    I feel like "24" is paying homage to all its cliches of seasons past simply because there's a checklist in existence somewhere.

    Cliche #1 being "The Mole". Knowing we'd all be looking for inevitable signs of duplicity from one of the new characters (and Katie being prime suspect #1 for the role of a badass), I guess they figured the best way to hide her in plain sight would be to make her look as weak, scared, and helpless as possible.

    You would think her cover would have been better served by simply blowing tweedle dee and tweedle dumb away the first time she went back to her apartment. And yea Jammer, that final scene was too funny for words.

    AR: But that's why this is so bad. It makes absolutely no sense in retrospect. The writers just arbitrarily decided "time for the mole!" without any regard for consistent characterization. Granted, this isn't the first time they've done that, but this is by far the most egregious.

    Part of me suspects the writers didn't decide for her to be a mole until they realized, 12 episodes down the line, how awful the plot she was trapped in turned out to be.

    Wade: Regarding the use of NYC locations on this season of 24, I'm going to hazard a guess and say that 90 percent or more of the show is still shot in Los Angeles, and they simply don't have those NYC locations to work with. A lot of it could be handled with green screen composite shots with NYC skylines, or second unit photography. I would guess that only a handful of scenes were actually shot in NYC, as probably only a handful of scenes last season were actually shot in DC (although I seem to remember more location work that used actual non-faked DC locations).

    Maybe, if this does turn out to be the last season of 24, they will do some more actual NYC location work in the later episodes, after the sun comes back up and we head into the endgame.

    Can anyone confirm that the show was still shot mostly in LA the last two seasons?

    Most of the show is still shot in LA, yes. Last season, they spent a week in DC filming material there to insert into the first 8 episodes or so. A lot of stuff later on (such as Tony and Jack's meeting at the reflecting pool) was created using green screen effects. I'm not sure if they ever went back during season seven after the writer's strike ended and they resumed production.

    I'm surprised you didn't bring up Brannon Braga, who happens to be an executive producer on 24, alongside Manny Coto.

    I was never a devoted Battlestar or Katee Sackhoff fan, so i don't see this Dana Walsh subplot with that amount of disdain. I don't think the story's interesting, but it's not an abomination either.

    24 may be feeling its age, but i still think the episodes generally work, in terms of suspense and excitement. It's not just about Jack, but also about the beautiful Renee Walker. Season 7 was quite a high point (and many of Braga/Coto's scripts were nearly flawless).

    @Wade - She's considered a top talent because she WAS Starbuck. Her character was one of the best on that show, and her acting had a lot to do with that. Maybe another actress could have taken the part (I think that goes for most any part honestly...), but that doesn't mean the character would have had the same charisma that made Starbuck so enjoyable on that show.

    As for her knowing what she was getting into on 24, yeah...probably. But at the same time 24 is a moderate hit and a way to keep working. Just because she's talented doesn't mean she can just get any part on any show she wants. Even the best actors end up in the occasional bad show or movie. That's the nature of the business. It's better to take a so-so job and keep working rather than just sit around and be forgotten altogether.

    I would say this is a huge step up for her as an actress than from BSG. BSG was critically acclaimed and we loved it, but the majority of the public never watched it or has even heard of it. 24 is a national TV show that gets pretty good veiwership.

    Jammer. I hope they add some green screen our outdoor footage, because the whole advertising of moving the location of the show to NYC has been a waste otherwise. They could have had this exact same plot in any decent sized city where some foreign dignitary was visiting. What a waste of a great location. I want to see the Brooklyn Bridge have some car chase scene (even if done with green screen), I want to see Jack dodging Taxi cab chaos during ush hour. Anything to make it worthwhile. And as to the jumping the shark, I think that was when, without tools, she takes a whole panel off the wall to presumably expose a ventilation duct and stashes the body in there and replaces the panel. What kind of HVAC system is that?

    Matt. I'll write it off to to KS needing work for a year, but I still don't think its anything spectacular that she's in this role or that awesome of an actress. Good, yes, great no. Where's her range as an actress? Take a look at Amanda Seyfried going from Big Love to Chloe and demonstrating a much larger range. Personally, I think KS hype is BSG fanboy obsession.

    The last episode's unexpected turn of events makes me think that there is some hope left for the final hours of 24. Definitely a high point in an otherwise weak season.

    Agreed. I was genuinely involved through most of the two hours. It was well executed and entertaining, even if we've seen it all from 24 before. A reminder of what 24 used to be before it was a pale imitation of itself. This at least was an exciting imitation of itself. And Dana Walsh is far more entertaining as a Nina Meyers 2.0 than as a damsel in distress, even if the way we got here made no sense.

    Now the show got tense!

    Curiously enough, season 8 of 24 reminds me a lot of Enterprise's third season, in terms of story structure. The slow, sometimes questionable chain of events, that eventually ended building up to the amazing Azati Prime episode and the following unforgettable home stretch to the finale.

    It's obvious Manny Coto and Brannon Braga had a hand in putting the whole thing together this way. It made going through season 8 all the more satisfying at this point. One of the best things that ever happened to this show was bringing these two aboard as executive producers and staff writers.

    I love how we didn't even see Dana in the latest episode. If we don't see her for the rest of the season, I'll want to seriously hurt the writers for making us sit through so much utter garbage, and then not even giving her story any kind of resolution. And this isn't the first time they've just tossed a character aside like this. I find this to be one of the most annoying aspects of 24.

    Dana will be back. She was in the trailer for next week. Speaking of characters casually tossed aside, what about the major departure of that significant character in Monday's episode? Talk about an unearned payoff.

    Unearned payoff??? As brutal as it was, that was exactly what was needed to propel Jack to his own resolution.

    Jack spent a lifetime trying to build a barrier to shield his personal life, his family from the inherent darkness that comes with being who he is. That suffered a brutal collapse with Teri's demise. He started to rebuild it after the second season, to the point where he had Audrey Raines and a new lease on life. He ended up losing that over seasons 5 and 6, along with Kim's love. Season 7 was a new starting point, designed for him to rebuild his beliefs, and overcome his regrets. Renee Walker was crucial to achieve that. Her role in reapproaching Jack with Kim is worth noting.

    Looking back at the premiere, with Jack starting a new life with a granddaughter, it's tragic to realize he can never really escape from the perils of the life he chose to live.

    With Renee out of the picture (one of the most sad and brutal scenes ever on 24), Jack is going to become something more dangerous than any nuclear bomb. The next seven shows will be an unrelenting sprint to what will probably be a tragic, but inevitable resolution. Looking past Renee's demise, i don't think 24 could end any differently.

    SPOILERS for many 24 seasons contained herein:

    Okay, "unearned" is actually the wrong word. Perhaps "hackneyed."

    The problem is, once again, it's all about "24" going to the same well over and over again. Even a major death like this feels less emotional than it should because it's so relentlessly ... well, typical "24." Major Deaths of Fan-Favorite Characters (David Palmer, Tony Almeida [even if he did un-die], Bill Buchanan, Michelle Dessler, Curtis Manning, Edgar Stiles, the list goes on) have become so commonplace on this show that they just become expected, and therefore it's hard not to just shrug, no matter how previously important the character or how devastating for Jack it purportedly is. We've just seen it so many times.

    I think the consequences may be more interesting than the actual death, because, as you said, watching Jack go nuclear will be compelling to watch, as in: "An all-new 24. THIS TIME IT'S PERSONAL." Or something.

    I mean, it was so hopelessly mechanically set up. (They had sex, you say? Across from a sniper? Okay, then, someone is Obviously Dead Meat. Will it be Jack? Naturally!)

    So I rescind the word "unearned." In fact, it was TOO earned, via shamelessly manipulative setup. Which made it feel kind of hollow, I must say.

    I'll concede to the term hackneyed. But then again, there's only so much you can do with the characters in terms of finding new directions to take them after 8 seasons, and 190 episodes.

    I didn't see the foreshadowing of her death as mechanic though. Both characters needed the action. Plotting a story is essentially a mechanic process. It's how you naturally portray the characters in any situation that makes the difference.

    I'm actually tempted to just read plot summaries for the rest of the season rather than watch the same stale scenarios play out.

    At the time this post was written, the Dana Walsh story was bad. Lamentable sounds like an accurate word. However, now, a month later, it has gotten even worse.

    Now she is a terrorist, and working with the other terrorists. The entire plot line with Kevin could have been averted if she had simply asked her buddies to kill him and his friend. Even if she didn't want to be a team player, she could have killed him herself. The guys were in her apartment, all she had to do was walk in with a gun and silencer and shoot them both quickly.

    All of her character development before it was revealed that she was a terrorist was just thrown out the window, and we are expected to believe that when Kevin and his friend were beating up the police officer, she was genuinely horrified, but sometime between then and now she became a sociopath who can shoot a man without any facial expression.

    I think the writers were trying to appease fans who were bored of the Dana Walsh storyline. People were complaining about how much she sucked, and so they tried to make her a bigger character. Unfortunately, they did it in a way that was inconsistent with how they had previously developed her character, and so now we are stuck with a clusterfuck of a story.

    The only way they can make it consistent now is if they reveal that she has multiple personality disorder. But I don't think that will make it better. But if they really want to fuck things up, they can say she has a twin sister.

    While the writing for this season may well be 24, Katee couldnt act her way out of a paper sack much less make GOOD writing seem believable.

    She is a hack.

    Going through the season right now (just finished episode 8) and couldn't agree more. The writers have really gotten down the action/suspense formula (for better or for worse) when it comes to the main plot but every single appearance of the Dana Walsh subplot is absolutely appalling.
    I've noticed that there is always one subplot per season (accept for the stellar Season 5) that annoys me: Kim in danger in Season 1, the family with the wedding in Season 2, really the whole first stretch of episodes in the prison in Season 3, the terrorist cell family in Season 4, everything regarding the Bauer family in Season 6, the White House battle in season 7.
    But never has something been so unbearable as Dana Walsh in distress. It's so unrelated to the main storyline, absurd, and inappropriate for a great actress like Katie Sakhoff. On the other hand I am pleasantly surprised that Freddie Prinze, Jr. is coming off well so far.

    I've never seen BSG; but my favourite part of this twist must have occured after this rant. Turns out that Walsh is really a terrorist plant! If nothing could have made the plot more retarded, that was it - if there's a plot twist more unoriginal on 24, I don't know what it is. The damn show could pull a plot twist that one of the workers at CTU is secretly the president of the US undercover trying to uncover a leak in CTU, and it would STILL turn out that the president was a terrorist plant.

    This plot twist, however lead to the biggest pile of bullshit in 24 history, where we learn that Walsh was happily willing to whack the parole officer and stuff him in the walls. YET when confronted by a lameass parolee from half the country away, she chose not to kill him and instead to completely jeopardize her CTU job, her cover, and her terrorist mission.

    If her endgame was to be the CTU leak for this nuclear plot, I presume she planned to leave CTU that same day anyway. What harm would it have done to kill off a few losers at her apartment? It wouldn't have been discovered until at least the next day.

    I've recently dusted off my 24 boxset and watched them all again. I actually enjoyed most seasons but I agree number 8 was the worst. As well as the awful plot for Dana Walsh, there was an equally poor plot involving Charles Logan and President Taylor. Now, I know Charles Logan was a popular bad guy in other seasons of 24 (with his weird bulging eyes) but this final appearence of his was a desperate re-hash of more corruption and murder that didn't work. The overall depth of the whole conspiracy where new angles were discovered every five minuets would need a genius to plan and Logan isn't that smart. But what annoyed me the most is this new logan conspiracy completly destroyed President Taylors character. In season 7 President Taylor was a women with solid morals and unshackable integrity and honesty, season 8 totally disregarded each of these character traits. Especially when she threatened to attack the IRK if the peace treaty wasn't signed. It just didn't make sense and I'm disappointed that these issues wasn't addressed before the season aired.

    I think its such a shame that Katee Sackhoff was tricked to play such an awfully poor idea for a character. I imagine she accepted the part because of 24's reputation up until then and if season 8 was of the same caliber, it would have been a smart move by her. However, saying that, I still think Katee Sackhoff played the part well and I don't think its fair to blame her for such a bad plot. Okay, she should have realised how bad it was from her script but its not easy going from one show to the next and you end up trusting the people your working for so as I said, she was tricked into the part. An actor / actress is not a producer or director.

    I never watched the show when it was on TV. I just decided to check it out when we got Amazon Prime. I just finished watching every season through the final season 8. Yes it is has stupid plots throughout the long, tiring seasons. But I don't care. I still loved it! I am just glad I didn't watch it when it was on TV because I wouldn't want to have to wait 'til next week. Glad I was able to binge watch episode after episode until I got to a good stopping point. Even with all the stupid and annoying filler plots throughout the show's history, to me it's still the #BestShowEver! Only thing left I haven't seen is the 12 episode season that came out in 2014.

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