These were two ambitious episodes, in many ways more so than the opening four which where in safer more tried and tested ground for the show. These took a huge leap into the unknown, if they didn’t come off it would take a while before the series could get itself back to more stable territory.
Episode 5 was an episode which could so easily have been split into two. The first half was dealing in large part with the immediate aftermath of the nuke. One thing that the show has learnt (sometimes the hard way) over the years is that you can’t brush off huge events like that without sacrificing some believability. And so we get an extended scene of “mass panic” – mainly of people fleeing – where we’re not sure. It’s a chance for Jack to have some breathing space, before he has to make the decision we all know is coming, he isn’t out after all. Although I can’t help but feel that the writers were rushing that part of the episode almost scared people would not believe Jack’s ‘re-entry’, no matter how they wrote it. I guess they also hoped the big impressive explosion a minute before it would distract us.
Either way, Jack’s back, he locks his feelings up in a box and is back to work, following a rather personal lead. The biggest ‘surprise’ of this week is that Jack’s family are involved in the larger plot, and that his Father (Unfortunately Donald was busy, but James Cromwell makes an able stand-in) and Brother (Graem ‘Blue Tooth Group Leader’ Bauer) are both potentially to blame for the nukes being available to Fayed in the first place. All the connections are made pretty quickly in the usual logic defying way (why someone didn’t link all this up before today?) but we get the point and as long time viewers we’re willing to let it go if it takes us to somewhere more interesting.
And it does, although Graem’s wife looks like she’s just stepped off the set of ‘Days Of Our Lives’ which helps some of these scenes skate uncomfortably close to soap opera, and so personally I would have left Graem’s family out of it, it’s hard to see just what purpose they could serve in future episodes without it become a complete farce. The scenes between Jack, Graem and Philip have a lot more promise – eventually when it comes to a “personal journey for Jack” – I might be way off the mark but I can see the best scenes acting wise of the season being between these three – although it all depends on the writers giving them the lines and creating situations for Jack to open up and express which don’t simply feel like stalls inbetween plot details. What the first episodes did so well was finding the right moments for Jack to really come out, and while they we’re many, they were timed perfectly. If this whole storyline is going to work, they’ll have to keep that up.
On to other things. President Palmer is now in a bunker which looks like a set from Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica. Anyway, he’s leading the country best he can, but he still doesn’t have that Presidential air about him, and scenes like his public address to the nation and his reaction to Karen Hayes resigning (see Series 2: Episode 4 for how David Palmer handled the same situation), if he was stronger he’d know that his Chief of Staff was a sleaze ball and should be managing a shoe shop somewhere.
Either way, Karen Hayes’ resignation brings up an interesting question of just what and how they will do with the character now. From her discussion with the President it sounds as if she’s heading L.A. way – but that’s 6 hours she’s out of the picture. I can’t help put feel that she’s got more to do in D.C., would make the overall story more diverse if they had a substantial role for her to play out in D.C.
At the detention centre a lot of effort reveals that you can find anything on the internet if you know where to look, and recent anti terror efforts has tipped a portion of the population into supporting the terrorists. It’s a brave move to shut off a plot device like that in order to make a wider point.
Looking ahead, this leaves Jack’s family as the only active lead. expect a lot of “frustrated talk” at CTU at the beginning of episode 7 shortly before they pull a rabbit out the hat.
For transition episodes, these weren’t bad. There have been a lot worse in the show’s history for this type of episode, it’s a difficult thing to get right. Clearly these wouldn’t be the most widely praised episodes, but it’s the episodes up ahead which the series will be based on. If they build upon these two episodes then they could repeat the success of Series 5.