Monday, May 22, 2006

Day Is Done
(Warning: If you taped or TiVoed the season finale of 24, spoilers are ahead.)

Jack Bauer saved California from terrorists, brought down the President of the United States, got to kiss his beloved Audrey--and ended up in more trouble than he'd been in all day. Day Five ended with Bauer in Chinese custody, presumably about to pay for his personal invasion of the Chinese consulate on Day Four, 18 months earlier.

In other words, the day that began with Bauer brought out of hiding because his cover was about to be blown ended with his cover being blown. It's like everybody at CTU forgot the Chinese might have an interest in Jack to begin with. Jack certainly forgot about it. Yeah, he's had a busy day, and stuff slips your mind when you get busy, but remember--but he was in hiding until yesterday.

Now that the season's over, the suspension of disbelief that's required to fully enjoy 24's video thrill ride starts falling away, and questions arise for which there are no good answers.
It was mighty clever of Jack to bug President Logan--but how could he know Logan would confess in time to save the lot of them from going up for treason? Presumably Jack and Mrs. Logan cooked up the plan for her to provoke him into confessing, but they did it off-camera, so we never saw it. And that's a dramatic cheat.

You've gotta wonder, too, why Logan didn't tip the Chinese to Bauer 18 hours ago, when he first realized Bauer was onto him. Surely that would have been easier than co-opting the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Secret Service into his plot.

And who was that omnipotent guy with the black eyeglasses who seemed to be giving orders to Logan for the second half of the day? He turned up in the first five minutes tonight, then disappeared.
(One thing we learned tonight about Logan--he may fancy himself a man of action, but he's not much of one. Exhibit A: At the end of the first hour, 6:00AM in the show's universe, he and the First Lady were getting ready to hit the rack. No more than five minutes later, they were getting dressed. Not much of a salute from the little soldier, apparently.)

For all the political meaning people try to hang on 24--how Logan parallels Bush, whether last season's explicit torture sequences were some kind of commentary on our reality, that the show represents a Republican fantasy of how the war on terror should work--it really can't support any of it for very long. I've been one of those people hanging meaning on it. Earlier this season, I wrote that 24 had become the darkest entertainment show ever seen on American TV, providing a sense of looming horror that could only be more dire if they started killing random viewers at home. It didn't maintain that--and there's a persuasive argument that for the second season in a row, the whole thing fell apart at the end.

But here's the thing about 24. When we sit down in front of the tube, we do it to be entertained, and the people who make 24 do that as well as anyone in the history of TV. If only they could manage it without leaving half-a-dozen loose ends hanging every year.

(Get much, much more from viewers at Television Without Pity.)

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