A New Day Begins

February 2nd, 2010

Below the first piece by new contributor and long-time forum member Matthew Maguire, a.k.a NeroMaguire

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So the two-night four-hour premiere has come and gone for the edge-of-you-seat, nail biting, adrenaline fuelled thrill ride of 24’s Eighth Season, leaving in its wake a body count, some new characters, some not so new plot concepts and what will undoubtedly be another very bad day for Jack Bauer.

Hailed as potentially being the last season of 24, Day Eight doesn’t begin with a bang. It does, however, get back down to the basics (aside from the super sleek looking CTU). The first two hours have been a nice and slow, character driven start. It may not have the break neck pace that some of the earlier seasons started with, but it works well as a piece of extremely cohesive and well done writing.

Part one of the premiere, 4:00PM – 6:00PM, kicks off with us meeting some new faces and having our screens graced with some old familiars. So I might do a little character exposé on some of the main players and leave plot details for another time.

As far as fresh faces go we have Cole Ortiz, the new Head of Field ops. Being dubbed as mini Jack, Cole doesn’t have an extremely Bauerish feel to him as of yet. He reminds me of an aspiring student who looks up to their teacher, only their teacher is a terrorist killing machine. He’s young but that’s not to say he’s inexperienced. He proves his expertise at field ops early on. Cole seems to see the world as very black and white, like the early Jack, except that foundation is rocked relatively early on. He meets his hero, who, refuses to help. And then an hour later sees said hero going head to head with the new CTU director. It’s at this point you can see the cog’s in his head grinding along and beginning to understand that maybe things aren’t so clear cut. It’ll be interesting to see what side his allegiances fall to throughout the day, but my money’s on Jack.

Dana Walsh, played by the exceptionally talent Katee Sackhoff, comes off as, in the first two hours, easily rattled and carrying some pretty heavy and potentially damaging (who am I kidding? this is 24! Of course it’s potentially damaging!) baggage. The role definitely shows that the Battlestar Galactica Alumni has got more talent then just the action stuff. She showcases a vast multitude of emotions from weak and vulnerable, to compassionate, to reserved. She hasn’t got a massive amount of depth at this point, but Dana is being positioned in a way such that she could emerge as a truly great character.

Brian Hastings the new CTU Director sounds a little bit like he’s trying to exist in an Aaron Sorkin script. He comes into the scene bristling with prettily dressed up insults that he uses to hastily dress down much loved characters. He’s not quirky or witty as a Sorkin character, but he’s definitely got parts of the vocabulary down. Hastings comes off as a real asshole in the first two hours, trampling on our much loved old characters, and shouting down some of the newer ones. Plain and simple, he’s a Bureaucrat and is established as being quick to cover up his own mistakes with a little coercion here and there. He’s reminiscent of Brad Hammond, at least to me, and I can see him hanging some of his people out to dry as the day progresses. Though unlike Brad, the character has made a good impact on me. I have him picked as the character you’re going to love to hate for the season, or for however long his run lasts anyway.

Islamic Republic President Omar Hassan is excellent. He’s portrayed with conviction which has been a casting problem at times with some of the leads (Marwan in season 4 being the best example). He comes off as being a very strong leader, a reformist and someone who seems like he genuinely wants to bring peace and stability to a war torn region. As the first two episodes progress we also get to see him as flawed, imperfect and weak, a trait that brings his character a lot of humanity and makes him all the more three dimensional. We see snippets of his family life, and it’s clearly illustrated that all is not well on the home front. His wife is resentful of him and is displeased with his presences at certain times. He goes to touch her at one point and she gives him one of those harshly worded one liners that scorned politicians wives so often do. His daughter on the other hand has a softer, kinder feel to her. It could be 24 subterfuge though to have us think that the mother is bad and the daughter is good, when really it’s the other way around. All in all, Hassan is a well rounded addition to the show, and the casting apartment couldn’t have done better then Anil Kapoor.

As for the returning old characters we’ve got Jack of course.

This Jack is very different. He’s someone who’s at peace with everything he’s done in his life, someone who has put his life back together and is starting a fresh and rebuilding with his family. He is extremely reluctant to dive back into his old terrorist threat defusing ways, and I’m glad it wasn’t handled with Jack just going “Okay I’m back in!” straight away this season. It was well done and served to establish his character as s much changed man, actually trying to distance himself from everything as opposed to him being out for a maximum of five minutes in earlier seasons. Point blank asked by CTU he refuses, he compromises, he does whatever he can to stay out. New and old faces are shocked by his words, leading to some amazingly emotional and well written scenes, especially with Chloe.

The main highlight from the first two hours definitely drew itself from that conversation, the lines “I can’t, not me, not this time.” Echoing how changed he was as opposed to seeming hollow and meaningless. I was believing the emotions behind the words this time and actually see him as a man who wanted out.

On a side note, we get to see an awesome kill by Jack in the first episode, as we all know the man can’t go for more then an hour without killing someone!

We’ve got Chloe, and boy has she been shaken up. Her character’s matured a bit, and she’s been downgraded this season. Nobody has confidence in her at the work place and you can see that’s hit her to the core. Chloe’s afraid for her job, she lacks the belief in her abilities that she once had, and she hasn’t got anyone at CTU that she can turn to. It’s a nice dynamic to see her character in a new position such as this. Chloe’s really been taken out of her comfort zone and thus far it’s worked a treat.

President Taylor’s back. We get a few little details dropped about what ended up happening with her daughter and husband, which was nice. She’s still a woman of integrity and strength, and actor Cherry Jones still plays her like a charm. Early on she’s put in a predicament and compromises the integirty that she has otherwise shown until now. If this gets built upon both as a character point and a plot point it could pan out to be incredibly interesting. Nothing like a flawed commander and chief paving the way throughout the season.

Kim’s back, much the same as she was in Season 7. Mature and not incredibly annoying as per usual. Along side her is her husband, who by doing simple memory mathematics from my head, gets about four minutes of screen time in two hours. There’s really not much more to say, other then she shares a very heartfelt conversation with Jack and it leads to one of those precious 24 character moments that we all know and love.

This is in no way covers all the new and old characters, having been excluded are Rob Weiss, Taylor’s new Chief of Staff, and old Chief of Staff Ethan Kanin, hopefully I’ll have a chance to go over them later. As for the moment I’ll leave it there.

All in all the first two hours were well done. They weren’t the best two hours of 24 ever, nor were they the best two hours of a premiere, but they were definitely up there. Things are being taken nice and slow, and the plot and motivations are coming into focus bit by bit, as opposed to being rushed into head long and plot being burnt through like no one’s business. Here’s hoping mistakes from earlier seasons aren’t repeated and we don’t end up with a good start and a bad middle. I’m confident however that this won’t happen since the writers are taking there time with things and focusing on characters.

So what are my predications so far for the new season?

If it’s the last season, Jack is going to give his final curtain call on this day. I see some serious elusions to this. His dialogue to Chloe in hour two when he refuses to come back in, the conversation with Kim that follows. Never before have we seen Jack so adamantly refuse to help. It’s like he knows that if he takes one last dive into the world of counter terrorism, that this forray will be his last. Also the scene on the rooftop in the first episode between him and Cole, when Jack looks at him and the helicopter, it’s like he knows that he’s not getting out. That he’s stuck.

I feel like we might also be seeing the last of Chloe. Jack’s attitude towards her seems as if he’s taken her for granted, which I think will be a nice time to off her and really show a very vulnerable angle of Jack. Though this may also not be the case, I’ve got a feeling that she’ll go, and that the prior mentioned conversation between her and Jack in hour two was foreshadowing this in some way. That being said I’m not calling for her death, I like Chloe, she’s my tech girl.

The female news anchor from the start of hour one when Jack is watching T.V with Teri coming to play some prominent or important role. I picked up on this vibe because Jack perked up at her name and did his little frown thing that is key for “all is not well in the world”. Though he could have just been interested in the news segment more so then the reporter, I think it could be an interesting angle to work if done right later on down the track.

Cole taking the Jack Bauer route, pretty much a given.

Renee coming back kicking lots and lots of ass. I am totally psyched for Renee’s return. She has quickly become my favourite character and was fleshed out exceptionally well for season 7. She had an extremely diverse and well plotted character arc last season, and I’m hoping they’ll give her another one this time round. (If she can beat nailing a terrorist in the face with a shovel in season 7 I will be immensely happy.)

What do I want most from this season of 24?

Closure.

The only reason I can see for doing another season is to give some closure, as, from a story telling perspective, season 7 was the perfect place to end it. Jack had been redeemed, Renee was left hanging in the balance of moral ambiguity (not so much hanging in the balance as jumping off a cliff), the conspiracy plot from way back in season 5 had been brought to some semblance of a close, and Tony Almeida had (at least in my eyes) been given some valid reasoning for his actions throughout the course of the day. Jack’s fate was also left up in the air.

A nice ending point.

There were enough answered and unanswered questions for the season seven finale to also serve as the series finale.

So the only reason for an additional season is to tie up some loose threads, what happened with Renee and Alan Wilson? Even though that was very explicitly implied it’d be nice to get an idea of what the repercussions were and what information he gave up about the group. Where Tony is at, if Jack has seen him? Those sorts of things would be the kind of questions you’d want to answer in an additional season.

And if it is the last, we gotta have some Tony, especially at the end of the day. One last Jack and Tony scene, something honest, heartfelt, and truly emotional. I’m not going to denounce the show for not bringing him back this season, though I am going to say that I think it’s a mistake, as a dynamic that has always work well for the show is Tony and Jack playing off one another, especially evident in seasons 3 and 7.

And if it were me, I’d spend it focusing on the group, who have now been around since season 5 to form the mother of all conspiracies. It’d be nice to explore them, their motives, who they all are, and just how deeply they’ve imbedded themselves into American society and politics.

That would be something interesting to explore, especially as it’s become a pinnacle of intrigue in the 24 world.

But we are yet to see if it will be explored in the new season, only the next 18 hours of Jack Bauer’s, potentially last, very bad day will tell.

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