Alright, then: I’ll admit: I actually liked episode 13.
Stuff happened, y’know? Chloe saved CTU, Renee saved Jack and heck, Jack got yet another chance at a Suicide Mission and then managed to cheat death by the skin of the teeth (or by the Bullet of Renee). Though I doubt that anyone watching truly believed that Jack would be offed by terrorists, I suppose it was nice to be reminded again of Jack’s willingness to Die For Something. Some might call it The Death Wish: one of Bauer’s character traits that have been following him since Day Two.
Ironically, it was in Day Two (episode 15, wasn’t it?), when George Mason took over the Cessna and Jack parachuted out of the Death Plane, that some of us stopped believing that Jack would ever die on screen, except, maybe, possibly when the clock tick-tocked for the very last time. And that, despite Kiefer Sutherland’s constant statements about how no one was safe on 24, that even Jack could die. But seriously: the moment the writers made Jack such a central figure that 24 couldn’t go on without him was the moment they decided they could never really kill him. And the fact that Bauer couldn’t die was part of the reason that tension and suspense have declined for me over the years. It’s not because I’m a blood-thirsty Bauer-hater or something equally annoying. No, it’s because the show’s suspense hinges on keeping you guessing, on putting people in peril and getting them out – or not. And the suspense lies in you actually believing that they might not get out.
With Bauer, it’s become increasingly clear that he’ll live to see the end of the show with all limbs and organs intact and his heart beating. So, at least for me, it’s come to the point where a Jack In Danger storyline just couldn’t get me to the edge of my seat anymore. What’s the point? I know that Jack will live. It’s everyone else around him that dies.
And so, as Jack offered Cole to draw fire so that Cole could get a chance to make his way to the landline and call CTU, I appreciated the gesture, but wasn’t really worried. Cole, on the other hand, might have bitten the bullet. Because, remember, this was episode 13 after all. The episode number that has cost us Tony Almeida (season 5), Bill Buchanan (season 7) and rung in Paul Raines’ death (Season 4) on the good guys’ side, and killed one of the show’s best villains, Ira Gaines (Season 1), got rid of that annoying chap, Alan Milliken (season 3) and at least for now, done away with Charles Logan (Season 6). I’m saying “at least for now” because we have not really seen Logan die, the last I remember is him being rushed off to an ER, and so, technically, he could still be alive (not that I wouldn’t love to see him rot in hell!) Yeah, one could assume that he’s dead, but hey, stranger things have happened. For example, Christopher Henderson purposely missing Tony Almeida’s artery in the heat of the struggle ;). And if 24 has taught us anything, it’s not to assume anything. Right?
Anyhow, back to the ep. In many ways, it was a classic 24 episode.
We remember: In the 12th hour, the terrorists took out CTU with an ingenious, non-lethal, all-electronic-equipment-frying electromagnetic device called the EMP. (Allow me to mention that we saw the first use of the ElectroMagnetic Pulse Bomb in the 12th episode of Season 4. Coincidence?) Jack, having been-there-done-that, instantly understands what’s going on, and evokes a classic 24 element: the takeover of CTU by another agency. Since poor Ryan Chappelle is dead (and that bahstid Brad Hammond probably still in L.A.), CTU New York is subjected to a hostile takeover by the NSA.
As usual, the Other Agency boys come in with the often-seen attitude of “We’re here to clean up your mess, so get out of the way, shut up and let us work.” Are we to be surprised that everyone’s favorite techie, Chloe O’Brien, has a quicker way of restoring CTU? In ten minutes? Of course not. But the NSA won’t listen. Why would they? They don’t have agents in the field and the nuclear rods on their way into Downtown New York really aren’t all that pressing a matter.
However, Renee, on her way to find and save Jack from the real hostiles, disagrees. “Do what you have to do,” she tells Chloe and boom: Chloe’s got a gun! Although she “doesn’t even like guns”, she ushers the NSA dudes out at gunpoint, and starts to work her magic in the server room. More classic 24 follows as the CTU director finally puts his trust in the Magic Techie and Chloe restores CTU all by herself.
Another gal has got a gun, too: Renee. And lucky for Jack that she does. Cause if it hadn’t been for her, that evil sniper dude would have put a slug right into the defenceless Jack’s forehead. Saved by the gun. Thanks, Renee. Aww, that romance that’s building up between those two! The fear as she runs to Jack’s body on the ground, the relief as wakes up, as she sees that the armored vest had held, the gentle image of her cradling him while he struggles to breathe… (*sighs as memories return from ep 5×13… Tony… Jack… Brothers*). And let’s not forget that Jack had promised to be there for Renee “when this is all over.” That’s love, people! Jack has found a soul mate. We’ve known that since Season 7, haven’t we?
But how long will it last? Relationships with Bauer tend to be deadly to those who dare enter. “Everything you touch, one way or another, ends up dead.” Has Jack forgot James Heller’s words? Watch your back, Renee.
Finally, another classic 24 element: WE HAVE A MOLE! I don’t think I want to count how many there have been over the years, but Jennie a.k.a. Dana being in bed with the terrorists is one of the least surprising twists. The writers have basically done the same thing with her as with Sean Hillinger last year. From the start, Sean and Dana both had something to hide, and tried to make us believe it was just something personal, when in fact they were The Inside (Wo)Man, working with the bad guys. But at least now her story can finally become interesting. We’ll see!
In fact, the season just might get better as a whole from now on. It took forever to get to a place where I actually wanted to watch the episode again right after first seeing it – this 13th episode was the first that had that effect. But from interviews I’ve read in the past 48 hours, since the announcement of 24’s cancellation, it seems like Kiefer and Howard Gordon are actually proud of the second half of the season. One of them actually said that the remaining eps are up there with the best the show has ever done.
So we’ll see. At least now I’m interested again.
If HoGo proves right, and if, once those final seconds tick away, I do end up on the edge of my seat, wanting more, it will be what I’ve always wanted for the show. To go out with a bang.