4AM – 5AM

Don’t be confused by the title, this is a review of episode 20,21 & 22. I’m reviewing them together to avoid some of the contraints on my time recently. The still problem with doing reviews this way is that the first two episodes aren’t as fresh in your mind as they would otherwise be.

On balance these are probably three of the best episodes of the series, certainly the three best consecutive episodes. There was less padding to annoy me, and what there was I’m getting quite good at blocking out (which isn’t neccesaryily a good thing but anyway), stuff like 5 minutes journeys across town, shoehorned dialogue which does nothing for the development of the plot but talk about how great America is (I’m not saying that I hate America, it’s just that you don’t half go on about yourself alot, you might try some modest every now and then), and some outrageous product placement so bad that you could see the writers wincing offscreen (self defending cisco system anyone?).

But yeah, these episodes had other talking points besides lead ballon dialogue, Jack going all ‘stealth’ as Seth Cohen would say was incredible fun to watch, as he sneaked into the Chinese consulate, although I can’t help but think that they missed some of the potential of that scene, it felt they needed to get it over and done with quickly in order to get back to CTU for the Paul Ranies stuff. It would have made for more drama to have played the consulate stuff out a little more and have it’s climax as the end of the episode, and having the Paul dying stuff in the next episode. Having said all that, the Paul Raines stuff was probably the best ending to an episode this series, including the missle launch at the end of episode 21, because it was the first emotional stuff that actually hit home this series. It was a great scene which entirely justified Paul and Audrey’s rather useless presence at CTU for the last few hours, although it should have been the final nail in the coffin that is Jack and Audrey’s relationship, but remarkably in just over an hour or so Audrey seems to be able to cover it up.

That brings me nicely on to Tony and Michelle, despite the writers best efforts to completely bury them under work, they have had some time to appreciate there feelings fo each other. As far as the writing and planning of these scenes goes, it’s been awful, at times they don’t seem to know where there going with it, or even how much time they will have to deal with it in future episodes (the two hour finale next week), a prime example of this is having almost identical scenes between them in episodes 21 and 22 in an upstairs office where they at first talk about Jack and Audrey then in the first of the scenes try to talk about there relationship or possible relationship but get cut off by a phone call if memory serves and then in the second of the scenes do start to talk about there relationship but again get cut off. And yet the scenes between them have worked and been some of the most affecting and believeable of all the personal gubbins we’ve had thrown at us this year, that is part testament to how crap the personal stuff has been this year, and part testament to what good actors they have playing Tony and Michelle.

The Chinese consulate storyline coming back to try and bite CTU on the arse was nicely played out, although it’s relevance to the overall story seemed a little undermined when they made absolutely no reference to it in episode 22, and seen it that light makes it seem to be more of a time filler than anything else, it would be nice to see it come back in the final episode(s) in some way to tie it in more with the overall story. I can only hope, please writers prove to me you’ve planned something ahead of time.

There is lots more to potentially talk about from these episodes, but there are a couple of things in particular that I want to fit in. The first is the return of Mandy (anyone going ‘who?’, stop reading and don’t come back until you’ve seen this and this), she’s got a remarkable following considering she’s only ever been in three episodes before her reappearance in episode 22, but there’s a reason for that, she has a way of causing devastating damage and getting away – infact CTU have no idea who she is or that she was ever involved in the the blowing up of the 747 in the first episode or the attempt on Palmer’s life at the end of the second series, so it will be interesting to see what she gets up to and if she gets away.

Finally, the later episodes of this series have been much better than the first 6 or so, and so I’m looking to the final two hours to be better than anything else this series, and given the longer finale I would hope they’ll have more time to actually develop the plot and not stop to ensure the dumber viewers don’t switch off.

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