This week’s 24 was a great example of how to telegraph each and every plot development, ensuring that nobody in the audience gets needlessly excited when something dramatic happens.
The most obvious example of this telegraphing was, of course, President Palmer’s big collapse. By the end of last week’s episode, Palmer was having trouble standing up. Yet this week, after a brief mention of Palmer’s health problems at the start of the episode, there were no indications that Wayne was suffering from even minor discomfort.
All throughout the episode I was thinking of a trick that some of the lesser murder mysteries like to pull. When there are a lot of potential suspects and the writer is trying to make you suspect just about everyone the real murder tends to disappear about half way through the story only to turn up in time for the big reveal. It is a fairly effective trick as long as the audience doesn’t catch on to it. But if the audience knows the trick, it makes the identity of the killer quite obvious. In this case it was a missing medical condition instead of a missing character but the trick is similar enough that I figured either the writer, director and actor all completely forgot Palmer was supposed to be seriously injured or else they were planning to have the injury make a ‘surprise’ return.
And then, just in case there were a few people out there not anticipating the President’s little dive, there was Daniels attendance of the press conference. He was standing at the back of the room, ready to be written out of the show, holding his resignation letter in his hand. It sure was convenient he had that letter so he could provide a straightforward visual cue in the event something happened which made Daniels change his mind about resigning.
Even with all that, the writers could have preserved at least a little bit of the surprise factor had Palmer collapsed during his victory speech. Ordinarily on 24 we would never stay with a press conference once it moved on to the questions from random reporters phase; the action would switch to see what Jack was up to, or how CTU was dealing with its latest crisis. By extending the scene beyond its normal endpoint, the writers were further telegraphing the not so shocking collapse that was to come.
Really the only surprising bit that came out of Palmer’s storyline this week is that Daniels didn’t try to use the President’s collapse as yet another excuse to nuke the Middle East. In fact Daniels actually seemed to be just the tiniest bit upset when he was talking about sending out a press release on Palmer’s current condition.
Much less surprising was his decision to cancel Jack’s operation to use the Russian circuit board to secure Audrey’s release (on a side note, how are the Chinese going to be able to use an older model circuit board to compromise Russian defense systems exactly? No matter how much sensitive information they may be able to gleam from the board itself, surely the Russians update their security measures from time to time. The board is apparently old enough that it isn’t encrypted, yet we’re to believe that the only thing the Russians have changed about their defense in the last couple decades is that they added some encryption protocols to their circuit boards). It was even more exactly as shocking when Jack saw through Doyle’s ruse and went rogue to follow through on the mission as planned.
I actually did have a brief period of hope that this wasn’t going to be yet another Jack goes rogue storyline. Sadly that hope was short-lived and there’s yet another reiteration of the Jack on a rogue operation storyline. And, as usual, his only likely ally is Chloe (though she’s in trouble already for helping him this week. It’s odd how in the long run Chloe ends up taking a lot more flak for helping Jack when he violates orders than Jack ever does for the actual violation of orders).
The predictability continues on in to the start of next week’s episode as well. Obviously Jack’s plan to rescue Audrey and then destroy the circuit board is going to awry. The only question is exactly how Jack fails. Does Jack rescue Audrey but the Chinese get the circuit board? Does he destroy the circuit board but fail to find Audrey? Or does he not only lose the circuit board, but fail to rescue Audrey at the same time? My money is on option #3.
Sir Linksalot: 24