Filling the gap – Thoughts on Season 7

April 13th, 2009

Time flies and good intentions sometimes fly out the window. So it looks like neither Dan nor I have managed to keep our little site here updated with our thoughts on the newest episodes of the show… We’re quite a few weeks behind. Eleven, to be exact. With episode 18 just around the corner, this means we’ve been silent here for almost one half of the season. So first of all, allow me to apologize for that. But let me also remind you that we do have a forum on which we and some other fans have been sharing our opinions and criticism of “24” and anything related to it. You’re very welcome to chime in.

Down to business, then.

In the US, episode 17 aired last Monday, and it will air in the UK today, so I’ll start right there. I watched this episode 2,5 times by now, and thought that it was very good. At least 9.5-ish good, on our 1-10 scale. It pulled me in, made me hold my breath, had me cheering for Tony in the field… Action-wise, acting-wise (which really goes without saying), and tension-wise, it was flawless. In fact, this whole season has managed to stay on a high quality level throughout – with a couple episodes a little below that high standard, but I can’t go into all the details here.

I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t see Olivia pulling a Sherry or having more than a work relationship with her journalist friend, or Starkwood having missiles to launch the pathogen on or many other things, actually… A lot of plot elements have been predictable throughout the season, but I do understand that it is hard not to be when you’re writing in this genre, especially after all this time. It may even be unfair to expect new solutions to the same problems seven years into the show, and in some ways, it is unnecessary to develop them, if the old solution is the most plausible one. The important thing is to remember that those solutions had already been offered before, and that the characters involved would remember that. And that worked so far, so I’m okay with it. And hey, there are only so many secure places a goon can hide relevant information – and I admit that having a chip implanted under your own skin is one of the cooler places, if not the coolest! So, I don’t mind that Ike Dubaku did just what Jonathan Wallace had in S2 because it worked, it was plausible, and because Jack also had an instant flashback at the mention of metal in the guy’s chest and instantly acted upon the information. Maybe the other most memorable instant flashback was that of Jack faking Renée Walker’s execution much in the same way he’d staged Nina Myers’ execution back in S1, when he shot her in the flak jacket he’d previously given her to wear.

I’m also willing to swallow the implausible to a great extent. Like that of Tony’s return from the dead because “Henderson purposely missed the artery” (in the heat of the struggle!) or the unlikelihood of anyone breaking into the White House that easily, or even Jack and Tony being able to mix up a fake gas from household chemicals since Jack is so awesome! The one thing I won’t be able to swallow is if Jack walks out of this season cured – because that would not be plausible at all. It was a very brave move on their part to actually infect Jack, the star of the show, with something lethal and incurable. They should stick with it now.

Do I miss CTU? No, not really. The FBI turned out to be a good replacement for it. Yes, it’s just another government agency and employs the counterparts of everyone we’d had back at CTU, but it still does feel fresh because the surroundings are different and the characters are interesting. Even after 17 episodes. Among my favorite new characters are Renée Walker, David Emerson (who died much too soon; I would have loved to see more of him, but at least it the showdown between him and Tony was as perfect as it could have been) and Larry Moss, who is putting on such an amazing performance, being caught in situations both Tony and Jack had been through in earlier seasons. Watching him dance inside the triangle between himself, Renée and Jack with such a turmoil inside himself makes the emotions inside him palpable. I hope we’ll see him again next season. That said, I did get annoyed in one of the more recent eps with his damn stubbornness at his not going along with the suggestion of letting Jack interrogate Senator Meyer’s chief of staff at the hospital. I was annoyed because it seemed like he was refusing just because it was Jack’s idea, and unnecessarily wasting time, when he could have and should have gone to the President and suggested the option. However, I eventually became convinced that Larry wasn’t doing anything different from what the others are always doing – what he believed was right. And in his case, he believed following protocol was the right thing to do.

I could go on and on, praising each actor, because I haven’t spotted a single weak performance this season – they’re all good actors, from the simple field agent or goon right up to President Taylor. It is somewhat of a pity that the season eats through its storylines and characters quite fast, so that I didn’t get to enjoy some of them for as long as I’d have liked to, examples being Colm Feore (Henry Taylor), or the character David Emerson, and even Sean Hillinger, who would have been fun to watch squirming and trying to work his way around being detected. I was almost disappointed that he had been such an obvious mole from the start. I never took my eyes off him, especially after they “cleared him” by giving us the story about his wife on the plane! I guess the surprise was that Erika was in on it with him, and then above all, Sean’s clever exit strategy. I think you’ll agree he was the best mole since Nina Myers.

Finally, I must single out John Voight’s superb performance as Jonas Hodges. Each scene with Voight in it is a jewel in itself. Hodges’ sarcasm is refreshing, pointed, and his coolness – at least on the outside – is a fear factor all of its own. I can’t wait for the showdown between him and Kiefer – if sparks don’t fly, anything less would be a letdown. We must be thankful for Voight’s participation in this. With him, “24” finally has a true villain again. Hodges is not only misbehaved, not two-dimensional, not just bad for the sake of it, he’s actually scary. He’s a betrayed man with a peculiar logic. A patriot turned against the country who made him. He has his beliefs, and he’s protecting himself now. He has layers, even layers that we haven’t discovered yet, I’m sure. Whatever they’re paying him, he’s worth it. “24” desperately needed  a person him. The “bad guys” on the show have been lacking true badassery for a few years now, really. Some have just been “bad”, and money without belief doesn’t always work as justification. I haven’t really liked any of Bauer’s angatonists since Saunders. Marwan was terribly two-dimensional, and I don’t even remember anyone else apart from… I think his name was Bierko. If that was the guy with the sentox gas, he was cool. But between him and the you-didn’t-see-that-one-coming President Logan, who developed from a wuss into a traitor, no one really stuck with me. Until now. Until Hodges. He is yet another proof that the casting department did a very, very good job this season. There was one unnecessary slip, however. They cast Michael Brian French as a Secret Service agent at the White House during the seige. That in itself was all well, had it not been for the fact that MBF had already played a Secret Service agent back in Season 1, but had a different name, Frank Simes! I know, some of you haven’t even noticed, and to others, it’s not a big deal because actors can get recast. But I don’t think it should be done on “24” with actors who’ve had more than just a bystander part. And above all, because Frank Simes stuck with me (he was the guy who arrested Jack at the powerplant after the attempted assassination of David Palmer), and since MBF’s role this season was essentially the same, it wouldn’t have been a problem to give him the same name. He would have had a history with Jack and it would have worked well.

But even the best actor, even a John Voight, or a Kiefer Sutherland, or even my dearest Carlos Bernard, can only do so much with bad material. So the  casting department’s mostly flawless work is only one half of the story. The other half are the writers. Although resurrecting Tony Almeida (hmm, fitting that I’m writing about this on Easter Sunday) could have killed the show, they pulled it off. I can buy their explanation, even though they tried a little too hard by suggesting that Henderson was involved. Less would have been more in this case. But that’s okay. My only real beef with them really was that Tony was MIA in a few episodes. They had announced his return with all that fanfare, and said they had this great storyline for him, and then left him out of – I don’t know, four, five? episodes. Somehow, that worries me, because he wasn’t as central to the story as I’d expected, and now that he’s back in play again, I’m afraid they’re leading him towards his doom. It’s not that I’m not enjoying him being in the field, of course I am! I’m just seeing so many ways he could get himself killed again that it’s hard to keep my mind off it for a moment while watching.

But let me get back to ep 17 for a moment.

Jack has been infected with an incurable disease for which there just might be an experimental treatement that would involve his daughter. It goes without saying that Renée will track down and call Kim, and that will explain how Elisha Cuthbert comes back to the series. Tony is out in the field, while, in a complete role reversal, Jack sits around in the FBI offices and waits. I don’t hate Jack, but it’s really nice to see Tony getting some things done while Jack sits it out for once. Now, as far as this treatment goes… It’s plausible, yes. There’s so much research going on on prions and prion diseases that it’s easy to see that some research lab might have something Jack can try. But I still hope that they won’t insinuate that he can be cured, and especially not during this season, because something like this can’t be cured in six hours, they can’t even get the stem cells from Kim during this time. And honestly, it would be so damn cool not to cure him. After the season ends, have the stem cell treatment slow down the progress of the dementia, keep the shaking down, so that he can use a weapon again, and transfer him into Season 8 like that. Have the next season take place just a short time after Season 7 and have a dying Jack fight one last war before the disease takes him. I hope they have the guts to do this. There are rumors that suggest somethign in this direction. We’ll see.

Speaking of theories, I had one of my own a couple of episodes ago, when Jack first came into contact with the prion pathogen inside the truck. The long version of it can be found in this topic on the forum, but the essence of it was:

Jack’s infected with a weaponized strain of a pathogen that can kill within hours or a couple of days. Hodges infects Tony for whatever reason (as leverage, or as a guinea pig, or just to make sure he’ll die even if he escapes). I postulated the existence of a research laboratory with an experimental cure or antidote that Jack must go after, all the while trying to stop whatever Hodges has got planned. By the end of the season, Hodges has somehow got his hands on Kim (whom I knew was returning) and after stopping the attacks, Jack still must try to free her. Since both Tony and Jack are dying from the bioagent, they both need the antidote, but when they do find the medication, there is only enough for one of them. Tony has nothing to live for, and no reason to save himself, because all that is waiting for him is a trial and disgrace. He tells Jack to take the medication, and to go save his daughter. Jack grudgingly agrees. Tony dies.

Now it could go anywhere from there, depending on how Kim reacts to Jack’s presence. She could get killed (something that a lot of viewers would be cheering for, I know!), she could survive and want to reestablish contact with her father, or she could survive but still not want anything to do with Jack.

If she continues to reject him, when Jack goes back to Tony’s dead body, guilt overcomes him to the point where it becomes almost insupportable. Based on his reaction when he saw the diagnosis, I think that Jack still heeds a deathwish, and would see death as a relief at this point. But he’s still alive, while everyone around him dies. He allowed Bill Buchanan to die, he allowed Tony to die, he opted to survive, yet he lost Kim again. So, the season could end with him holding a weapon in his hand, contemplating putting an end to it all.

Of course, there are many possible ways the season finale could play out. But the reason I’m posting this theory up now is that, after seeing two or so more episodes since the creation of the theory, I still don’t think it’s impossible. Kim might still get herself into trouble again, one that involves The Brilliant Hodges. Tony is alone at the compound, he has no one to protect him or to help him get out of there undetected. If the contact to the FBI breaks off, if he’s discovered, he’s right back where he started. Since Hodges is going to the  White House, a lot can happen to Tony during that time. He could still get infected. Of course, I don’t want Tony to die, but if they do have to kill him again, at least let it be a selfless, heroic death.

There is one major flaw with this scenario and that is the “only one antidote” element. The suggested treatment involves stem cells from a genetically compatible donor – and Tony has no one left (not that we know of anyway, although there could be some family somewhere closer than Chicago), while Jack has Kim. So, whatever the scientiests cook up for Jack won’t help Tony. But maybe it doesn’t have to be about the stem cells, because that isn’t feasible in the six hours we have left anyway. And if it were about that medication that supresses the shaking, it could work. The injections would work on an infected Tony as well as they’re working on the infected Jack. And by the end of the season, there could be only one syringe left, needed by both Jack and Tony. If Jack takes shoots up the last syringe (how convenient he’s an ex-junkie!), while Tony can’t go with him cause he’s shaking like a leaf, there are a lot of possibilities to end things. He could have a seizure and die (which would be a sad, stupid death), or he could shoot himself to avoid recapture or a more painful death (also cowardice), but one solution that might work is Jack shooting Tony for the same reasons.

So anyway, the dramatic, emotional ending that Kiefer promised us in a recent interview should certainly involve Tony, Jack and Kim, and one of them might die. If I could choose, I’d choose Kim. It’d be a bold move on their part, and would have Jack completely fall apart, putting him into a good place for the next season. But it would also be good if he saved her, she was willing to work things out and then died. But with her, his cure would die, too, so I don’t think they’ll do it. Not now, anyway. It would work much better in Season 8.

Enough hypothesizing, though.

I have to say goodbye to Bill Buchanan, a character I’d always liked. Introduced as a wanna-be Michelle Dessler’s pass-time during the time of her separation from Tony, Bill has developed and grown since Season 4, and even if you didn’t like him back then, I’m pretty sure you didn’t mind him now. Bill was an integral part of Operation DEEPSKY, which worked against Dubaku, and although his input in the season proper wasn’t gigantic, I’d say he had a good enough story for it to be his last. He even got some action in the field, and got reinstated to protect the President. That he would die was very clear to me since the discussion he and Jack had down in the holding cells of the White House. It was the most emotional moment Bill had ever been given, allowing him to show his humane side in a very powerful moment. This instantly reminded me of the situation with Ryan Chappelle in Season 3, where Ryan was given a very humane moment in letting Tony have the suicide capsules taken to the people down at the Chandler Plaza Hotel. An hour or so later, Ryan Chappelle was dead. So, at the end of episode 7×12, it made sense to me that it would be Bill and not Aaron Pierce who would die soon. I am glad that he was given a meaningful death, and that he died on his own terms. Some people have argued that with an explosion, things happen too fast for the viewer to actually be able to process it, or to be prepared for it, or to actually feel sorry or feel anything but shock. Maybe that’s true. And maybe that’s why they included Jack’s mourning Bill’s sacrifice thereafter and given Jack – and us – some time to process. And in this way, a good character was given a worthy goodbye. Rest in peace, Bill. Say hi to Michelle. You know, she went in an explosion, too. What a macabre coincidence.

On the whole then, let’s say I’ve really enjoyed this season so far, despite its predictability, and despite the lack of Tony in certain episodes. But hey, he had a storyline even in his absence! He got a coffee and sandwich break! Who said the people on “24” never eat?

Seriously, though. I’d rather have Almeida off the screen – as has been done – than on screen but involved in some mellow, stupid, unnecessary, irrelevant storyline. I can live with their choice to give him some time off. Now, from what Carlos said in interviews, he simply loves the last few episodes of the season. I quote:

“If you liked the first four episodes, wait till you see the last six or eight.”

And yes, six episodes before the Grand Finale, things are cooking up and looking almost as good as Badass Aviator Sunglasses on the stairs in front of the Capitol with the sunset in the background (what an awesome return of Almeida that was!)

This season is high up on my Favorite Seasons list. They’ve taken all the experience they’ve collected since Day 1, and mixed it in, creating a piece of “24” history they can be proud of. And now, the finale is almost around the corner, and I’m approaching it with mixed feelings. I want to know how it ends, but on the other hand, I don’t want it to end. It’s been a great ride.

5 Responses to “Filling the gap – Thoughts on Season 7”

  1. Robsterson 26 Apr 2009 at 4:51 pm

    A nice read. I sense to that jack will probably not get cured it would be a cheap way out, having him partly treated for a slow death in season 8 would be good end

    also heard rumours ages and ages back before the strike that Tony would end up killing Kim some how

    this could still happen we have seen that he is still evil


  2. Natalieon 29 Apr 2009 at 5:40 pm

    A brilliant up date, after seeing last nights episode here in the UK, Tony is so going to die, he has too!!

  3. J_Aon 30 Apr 2009 at 5:50 pm

    I’m now, after seeing ep 20, less certain that Tony will die, and also I don’t think he has to die. I think he’s been planting clues along the way for Jack to find, and that he’s still working very very deep cover. He doesn’t know who the people leading this conspiracy are and the only way to find them is to stay with them. The more credibly he plays being evil, the easier it is for them to trust him. And if he fails, he knows Jack will stay on it and stop them.

  4. TeddyBon 26 May 2009 at 10:26 am

    Just caught the last two episodes last night! Fantastic.

    Its all coming out on Blu-ray on 19th October with amazing features and extras – all in hi definition.

    Should help me get through the longer winter nights ready for season 8…


  5. The Envoyon 10 Oct 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Just finished this today on DVD. Not bad….so many elements involved…from an African coup to weapons company conspiracies.

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