24 – Episodes 7-3 & 7-4 Review

I’ll be honest: my thoughts for these next two episodes are short because there really isn’t much to say (and that’s not at all a good thing). While what we’ve seen so far of Season 7 is pretty much undeniably better than anything from Season 6, it dawned on me yesterday while watching the two episodes for a second time that it still feels to be that I’m watching a watered down 24, almost as if it’s an entirely different show post Season 5.

First, the good. I loved that as soon as Jack and Renee had nestled into the best working relationship since, well, Jack and Tony, they get split up and are now on opposing sides. Even better is Jack and Tony being reunited in the field, this time without any bureaucratic interference. The moment where Jack, Tony, Bill, and Chloe all stood together in their little hidden base of operations (arguably the best four former CTU characters still alive), waiting on Jack to decide if he was going to join up or not was a moment for the ages. It signaled that 24 was back and ready to go.

Obviously, the return of Bill and Chloe was great. I (and anyone who doesn’t live under a rock) knew that these two were returning, but it still felt good seeing them once again. Also a positive is still Garofalo’s character of  Janis Gold, who not only proved a worthy diegetic adversary for Chloe last night, but in just four episodes is proving to rival her as a written character as well. I remain liking the way she is being used, much the same way that Renee and Jack are paired. Perhaps we’ll see some Bill Buchannan/Larry Moss paired rivalry in the future?

In the middle for me are the president and first gentleman stories, as well as the further elaboration on the status of Tony.  President Taylor had better have more to her this season that sitting around barking orders at SoD Ethan Kanin and the other staff members, otherwise they’ve wasted a potentially excellent character, especially considering 24 has a history of creating excellent female characters. As for Henry’s story, it’s right where it was before for me: filler with the potential to become interesting. Thankfully, thus far it has been kept largely out of the way of the more important parts of the story, and left mostly to intrigue rather than a pointless mystery treasure hunt for him to follow. I also quite liked how they’ve established his minion agent, Brian Gedge. He’s a nice little character to have involved, an example of someone seemingly entirely unnecessary, but adding an extra layer to the story as long as it doesn’t detract from it from it can often work to a writer’s advantage.

As for Tony, I think I’m sold on the “how” Tony is alive, but not really the “why”. I can buy that Emerson and his crew got word of Tony’s death, and even somehow had the people and resources in place to secretly revive him and turn him into a terrorist. I also appreciate that the writers didn’t take the easy way out and make Tony just a regular undercover agent, and instead made him a “double double agent” of sorts. However, there is still a lot of confusion here. When exactly did Chloe and Bill find out Tony was alive? I can’t say I buy that it was before Season 6, or there would have been talk about it, but it appears the three of them have been in league for quite an extended period of time. Hmm. More importantly, I am well aware that Bill, Chloe, and Tony are essentially Jack’s three non-family, non-girlfriend people closest to him, but we all know Jack’s true love is the country… why in the world did he put so much faith in the three of them that he couldn’t explore other alternative to solving their problem? He basically just hopped on board without barely a word about what more could be going on (one theory could be that Jack simply wanted to get back into the action, whether consciously or subconsciously, but I think that’s a stretch).

Now for the three big disappointments. Firstly, Larry and Sean. I stated in my review of one and two that both characters seemed like they had potential to be flawed but likable characters turned into cringeworthy idiots in three and four. Larry was stubborn, and not in a good way, to the point of me wanting to scream at him to get out of the way, while Sean just became a smarmy weasel whose willingness to break codes to the point of impersonating his own supervisor just in order to ground his wife was not for one moment believable for me.

Second disappointment? The villains. Early on, I liked the fact that there appear to be three or four different power players in league here. We have the evil African Colonel, we have Emerson and his mercenary thugs, and we have some representatives involved from the corrupted weapons company from 24: Redemption. The problem is, none of them seem at this point like they’re anything but a gaggle of generic baddies allied for the sake of story purposes. What happened to the days of Seasons 2 and 3, where layers upon layers of villainy were explored in relation to the terrorist plots? One of those three groups had better do something interesting like breaking off, or backing out, or secretly scheming to do something even more diabolically evil soon, or there will not be a lot of positive things to say about the antagonistic force this season. If we want to see Jack and crew succeed, we need to have others that we want to see fail. So far, I’m too indifferent.

Finally, I was disappointed with how familiar the story felt last night. While on one hand you could simply call it pristine, classic 24, it could also be called unoriginality. There were recycled 24 icons everywhere! Sean, the all too easy mole-decoy who actually just has pure intentions. Jack asks to do the interrogation, and they blindly let him, despite knowing that he will undoubtedly lose control. Tony having to be the one to kill Jack in order to “prove himself”. Etc, etc.

Ultimately, while the material so far has been rather mediocre, I am still leaning positive at this point simply because nothing so far has been poor to Season 6 levels. But I still want the TRUE classic 24 back; the Season 1 and Season 2 days with brilliant writing, a show more than just action sequences and boring conspiracy plots. I yearn for it… but it may be nothing more than a faded dream at this point.