So, you’ve watched the first four episodes of the new season and you’re still shaking with excitement? I promise you, you’re not the only one! Everywhere I look, the general opinion seems to be “WOW! I can’t believe they’ve pulled this off!”
As someone who has been hurt in her heart by Almeida’s disgraceful exit in 5×13, who hasn’t cared about Season 6 at all, and certainly didn’t expect 24 to pull her back in at any point in the future, I am admitting it right now: I am an addict again. I didn’t think it was possible for the show to return from the abyss that was season 6 and climb to a greatness that I haven’t seen since Season 3, but it has. It’s back, it’s strong and it’s alive.
And I’m loving it.
Let me get this out of the way first: these first four episodes have given us EVERYTHING we wanted, everything we screamed for – in forums, chats, on websites, and I bet on conferences, meets and greets and in the streets, when bumping into anyone involved with the show. I am convinced that the writers have been reading and listening to us this time around, and this is their way of apologizing, trying to make amends – quite clearly, they’re seeking redemption. And boy, have they done a great job!
From an Almeidaist point of view, this is pretty much Paradise. Tony is back in play and getting as much screen time as Jack, and each and every scene between them is picture perfect! Not only that – the Brotherhood between them is spelled with a capital B this season as the show lives and thrives on it. Their chemistry is what is carrying the story, with tension so strong it’s palpable, dialogue that makes my blood run hot and then freeze, and an energy like we haven’t seen it in years. The writers have done a very good job of keeping both Jack and Tony in character and I am grateful for that.
I must discuss the How of Tony’s return, because the information delivered finally puts an end to all of our speculations. We remember: episode 5×13. Henderson sticks a syringe full of some kind of mystery torture chemical into Almeida’s chest, and Tony dies in Jack’s arms. Audrey comes for Jack, says she’s sorry and Jack then walks away and goes about business as usual, and is eventually abducted by the Chinese. Now it is suggested that a private contractor named David Emerson (damn, that name makes me cringe – it is too close to ‘Henderson’) had been “keeping tabs” on Tony since Tony left CTU (which sounds like a post-Season 3 happening, when Tony was sent to prison for treason by the Federal Government). Emerson is an independent contractor who “enlists ex-military and intelligence operatives with grievances against the Federal Government”. So, then, Emerson had an inside source at CTU who “injected [Tony’s] body with a hypothermic compound” and was able to revive him. This person would have had to fake Tony’s medical record and all the necessary paperwork, and make sure that someone else’s body was buried in Tony’s grave. My guess is that Tony was administered the compound at CTU and then transported to Emerson before he actually woke up and realised what had happened. They couldn’t waste any time. We know for a fact that he was clinically dead for almost ten minutes. Now, Kasia over at almeidaisgod.com actually looked into hypothermic compounds, and apparently there is research happening on this topic as we speak. Mice have been resuscitated after 15 to 20 minutes if I remember correctly, so although the explanation sounds far-fetched at first, it is actually as plausible as it gets. One could also add that 24 is now happening in the future, when we add up all the months in-between seasons, so that angle makes it even more conceivable.
I loved it how the writers have let us discover Tony’s history between then and now slowly, and how they’ve taken the time (screen time) to do everything right. They’ve incorporated everything that we as fans were prepared to believe, while not touching the elements that would have been unjustifiable. I can see the angry, sad and grieving post-season 5 Almeida working with Emerson after everything that had been done to him, the treason charge, the prison, and ultimately, the loss of Michelle. I can see him hating the Federal Government for what they’d done to him. He had nothing to lose, no reason to live, and Emerson apparently “treated him like a brother when he thought he had nobody else”.
So, Tony ran Emerson’s crew for more than three years, and did some “pretty bad things” in the process. We don’t know just yet what he’d done, but I’m guessing we’ll find out more in episode 5 and beyond. I am happy that they didn’t try to make him into the next Stephen Saunders because that would not have been true to Almeida. In fact, the very moment the ominous CIP device came into the picture, and Tony understood that the consequence of this would be the loss of innocent lives, he turned against Emerson and brought Bill and Chloe in – now working against the man who saved his life in order to stop the operation. Since then, he has been “undercover” in an operation involving only the three of them, and trying to expose a conspiracy within the Government, to find those who support the Juma regime. So, it is like we’d hoped and assumed – Tony isn’t really the bad guy, and he isn’t evil as such. Remember again that he didn’t bring in Latham’s daughter in the middle of things, and he didn’t crash those planes.
From the moment Jack is told about Tony’s involvement in the plot, his feelings come through vividly and draw us in. Everything he says or does is right on the spot. It is a joy to watch him go from disbelief through confusion, disappointment and rage at Tony’s apparent being rogue and then finally find himself believing again, and working alongside Tony.
It is simply brilliant that Tony hasn’t been made all good. Things aren’t black and white – if anything, they are grey. In the past, both he and Jack have been involved in things that hurt the other in the very core of his being. Though Jack hadn’t personally planted the bomb that killed Michelle, he was in the middle of the plot. On the other hand, Tony had – at least for a while – turned against the country Jack holds dearest in his patriot heart. This simple twist, that Tony was really working in the underground for years before turning back onto the right path adds so much depth to Tony’s character and at the same time opens up a myriad of possibilities. There is everywhere to go with him now, and with Jack.
Their relationship, their undying brotherly love and mutual respect is clearly going to be tested this season. And I do not believe that things will easy. They have both changed while they were apart, and I am not so sure whether Tony, who used to be unable to even think about harming a friend, even if it was to protect himself or a mission, is still the same man. Between Jack and Emerson, where does his loyalty lie these days? That this question will be addressed has already been introduced when Jack asked Tony whether his history with Emerson was going to be a problem. Tony said no, but he didn’t sound all too convinced.
“I know he is on the wrong side of this. I’ll do what needs to be done,” he said, but it was his head speaking, not his heart. So, when Emerson asked Tony to prove his loyalty by killing Jack… I was relieved that Jack solved the situation before Tony was actually put to the test. Because I believe that at this point, Tony would have pulled the trigger.
I am expecting the relationship between Jack and Tony to continue to be an important element in the season. I’m expecting it will meet with a series of bumps in the road, and ride the rollercoaster for a while but if the season ends with anything other than their trust being fully restored and the Brotherhood intact, it will simply be wrong.
I’ll admit I was afraid that Tony’s day off in season 6 would have made it hard for Carlos to step back into character – but there is no trace of that. Carlos plays him with a freshness and conviction rivalling, even surpassing that of Season 3 (which, in my eyes, was the best Tony season overall – and Carlos’s favourite season, judging from the interviews I’ve read in the past). Maybe the break did do him good, because I think that his acting is much better now than it was when we last saw him in Season 5, where I thought that he was losing touch with his character a little – possibly also because he knew he was going to go. In fact, the dark, Evil Tony is so convincing that even Jack temporarily loses his trust in his one true brother.
But Jack comes around – as he should – and in the process gives us some of the best Tony / Jack moments to date. The whole FBI sequence was simply bloody brilliant. From Jack staring at Tony through the window, not knowing what the hell happened to Tony or why, through the most intense interrogation we’ve ever seen, to the action-packed breakout – everything was perfect, each line, each scene, everything.
Even the people who work at the FBI are credible, and not annoying and superfluous. As Dan mentioned to me in chat the other day, so far there is no-one the writers are making us hate, which is an accomplishment in itself. Larry Moss (whom I believe I might have called Morris in my earlier article – I apologise) is a by-the-book guy, but somehow I’m thinking he’ll come around, especially since his ex-lover (Renée Walker) seems to be learning from Jack. Though she’s on a hunt for Jack and Tony right now, and is determined to fix her “mistake” of trusting Jack and bringing him into the whole thing, I’m betting she’ll be working with them and off the books before long.
Speaking of the FBI – let’s think about Sean Hillinger for a minute. If you’ve read my earlier article, which I wrote after seeing the trailers and the first 17 minutes, I said that he was obviously being set up as a mole. I noted the camera on him in the trailers at a give-away moment but also mentioned the possibility of this being a red herring. Well, now, we have learned the following: the reason Sean has been acting suspiciously and hacked into the FAA database was that his wife was on a plane during all this chaos that was going on – the CIP firewall having been brought down, thousands of planes in danger, the grounding of the planes having been ordered but not entirely executed… And now after opening himself up to Janice he is officially in the clear. He was a red herring, then? Well, people, I am not buying it. First of all, he has been acting suspiciously even before the FBI actually knew what the end game of “Tony’s crew” was – before grounding was ever an issue! And secondly, if you are looking to divert suspicion from yourself, is there a better way than to let yourself get caught doing something that looks suspicious but that you can explain away plausibly? After you’ve been cleared, you can proceed with whatever other activities you’ve been doing without people looking over your shoulder – no-one will accuse you again! Especially not the viewers. That is the essence of being a deep cover mole. Just remember Nina and the key card in Season 1… She got accused, cleared… And we never knew she was really rogue until the final shot of episode 23…
Finally, we have the Presidential storyline. This consists of two main elements: Madam President on the brink of war in Sengala to stop a genocide, and the First Gentleman on a mission to find out who murdered their son because he cannot and won’t believe that it was a suicide.
Now, one could ask why the hell President Taylor – and through her, America – feels compelled to get mixed up in yet another local conflict? Sure, a genocide is a terrible thing, but Sengala is a country that has nothing to do with the US, and this is exactly one of the arguments brought up so far. This storyline begins in 24: Redemption and I won’t discuss that here. But what is nice is that even in this storyline, the writers are taking time. Time to discuss, to build characters, depict their justifications and reservations, and even reflect.
There is a discussion between the President and her Chief of Staff, the point of which is to rationalise the pros and cons of the operation, the two arguments basically being that a Superpower has a responsibility to make the world a better place on the one end of the spectrum, and a responsibility to act in its own best interest on the other end. Politically, this is a question that an American President is likely to be confronted with during his or her term and it is nice to see President Taylor debating the issues in her head and with others involved. Of course, the principle of non-negotiation with terrorists also gets a mention – as it should. The interesting question now is, what will President Taylor do now that the CIP device is in the wrong hands, and the only lead – the “rogue” Tony Almeida – has escaped custody?
So far, all the presidents on 24 have been male. This is the first time a woman is running the country. Setting aside the possibility that Hillary Clinton’s running for Office in the real world might have had something to do with the decision, I think that it is refreshing and interesting to put a female character in the hot seat and watch her having to make the same tough calls as her male predecessors. Personally, I know I will always be comparing her to David Palmer, so she’s up against some tough competition! However, it is here that I have my only problem with the casting so far: I am not happy with Cherry Jones as President Allison Taylor. Somehow she just doesn’t strike me as very presidential, she lacks good facial expression and most of the time I’ve been wondering whether her forehead and face had fallen prey to botox and face-lifting…
On the other hand, Colm Feore as her husband Henry is very well chosen. He seems to have found the perfect balance between politics and private investigations (pun intended). As the President’s partner, he is of course to stay out of the politics – but he does a very Sherry Palmerish thing when he manages to convince a journalist to hold off his broadcast for a day.
The choice of a woman as Commander in Chief has made dynamics possible that weren’t feasible in the earlier seasons. We now have a man who has to allow his wife to make decisions that count, and himself stand back and watch. Except when he comes up against the man who is her closest associate in her professional life – her Chief of Staff, Ethan Kanin (played by Bob Gunton). This is the second interesting inter-personal storyline that will be worth following.
I would like to ask one question, though: has America not learned anything from the terrorist attacks that happened in the earlier seasons? Just how naive was it to develop a single firewall which protects “every major infrastructure in the country” and that, if breached, would instantly make such important things as telecommunication, transportation, water supplies and power grids vulnerable and endanger thousands of American lives? For the sake of the story, this will work – but in the real world, I do hope that more protection is in place and that it cannot be breached by a single engineer who designed one single firewall…
This season really seems to be about characters, about people, about relationships, and that is what has been missing in season 6. The explosions – hold on, which explosions? Not even one big blast has happened in four hours – but we got the fistfight between Jack and Tony that we didn’t get in Season 2 because Kiefer and Carlos both had real-life leg injuries. So at this point, I’d like to thank the writers for remembering they still owed us that! It worked out for the best, because episode 7×02 was the perfect place for it. And I loved them doing Krav Maga moves!
On a more philosophical note, the expectations for Season 7 were very high. But these first four episodes have met them with ease. The writing is better than it has been in years, the dialogues are strong and pointed, the characters each have a purpose, Jack, while important, isn’t the sole focal point of the show, the casting is good again, and the development of the storyline is not being rushed. Many familiar elements and references to earlier moments we loved and cherished are back, things that got us watching the show in the first place. And lo and behold, the “Events occur in real time” phrase at the beginning of each episode has made a glorious return – and I do believe this is meant as a visible and audible sign that 24 has indeed gone back to the roots, like we’d hoped it would.
Maybe the long hiatus between the seasons has really done the show some good. If this is the writers’ way of asking for redemption, for forgiveness, and of apologizing for screwing up in the past, an attempt at appeasing and reconciling those of us who had left the show when it stumbled and landed flat on its stomach, it is a very, very good effort. The focus is sharp again, and for the first time in years, it looks like the writers actually know what they’re doing.
24 is up on its feet again. It’s back – with a vengeance.
If not all 4 episodes, then at least 7×03 and 7×04 must get a clean 10 in each rating. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season, and if you have not yet given it a chance, I suggest you do. This is TV at its best. I haven’t felt this excited about 24 since Tony returned to save Season 4 from the boredom it was threatening to succumb to. Everything I’d hoped for regarding this “revamping” of the show has so far come true.
My drug is back in my veins. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.