[This article is part of a three-part series. Go here for part 2 on The Sopranos]
[Again, much inspiration, as well as some of the videos, were drawn from this Progressive Boink article]
SPOILERS AHEAD FOR 24 SEASON SIX
In the season finale of 24, Karen Hayes, Bill Buchanan, and Jack Bauer risked everything to save…Jack’s supposed nephew. There was no nuke, no biological weapon, no assassination attempt; just a blond whiny kid with a rice bowl haircut. After they were done with this ridiculous and unsatisfying storyline, Jack headed over to Heller’s house (conveniently just a few minutes away) to chew him out about his insouciance from earlier. In the show’s final scene, Jack looks out at the waves, reflecting on the sociopath he’s become and his own mess of a personal life. The audience wept, but not out of sadness for Jack; rather, for the 24 hours we knew we would never get back.
This was the worst season of 24 ever, often painful to watch. Even the President of Fox thought so. I’ve already written at length about why this season was awful and I stand by my points. But rather than rail endlessly about how bad it’s become (although that will happen during this post), I thought I’d channel my energy into thinking about five things that can make the show better next season. In no particular order, they are:
1) Don’t Set It In Los Angeles – In Season 1, the possibility that presidential candidate David Palmer might be in LA for the day was extremely plausible. In Season 2, the possibility that terrorists might try to nuke LA was vaguely believable. By Season 3, the idea that LA would be the place where terrorists would want to launch a biological attack began to make LA seem like one of the unluckiest places on Earth. And by Season 4-6, the idea of using LA again just made our eyes glaze over in disbelief.
As this article by Cracked can attest to, it’s no real mystery why they set the series in LA. But it’s killing the series, taxing our suspension of disbelief to the breaking point, and basically disrespecting the audience to an astonishing degree.
2) No More Office Romance – The last compelling office romance in 24 was in Season 2, between Tony and Michelle (do we even want to remember Kim and Chase’s baby adventures in Season 3?). Since then, office romances have been a waste of time, reaching their nadir this season with the insufferable Milo and the witless Nadia (and to a lesser degree, with Morris and Chloe). When Tony and Michelle worked at CTU, you rooted for them because they were really good at their jobs and they fought for the right thing (i.e. Jack Bauer).
Nobody cared about what happened to the characters this season because more often than not, they were shown to be incompetent, bickering, and petty, to an extent never before seen even for 24. There was no reason to care why they got together or not because most of the time, they pissed you off more than they endeared themselves to you.
Witness the painful awkwardness of this scene:
3) No more CTU – Every year it's a target for hostile takeover by Division or Homeland Security. Also, it's full of moles.
Every single season of 24 has involved the same premise; either Jack is the head of CTU, leading a team from CTU, or is made to lead a team from CTU after he proves his competence.
I understand the need for Jack to use CTU; it allows him access to government-grade weapons and gives him the opportunity to continually bark “I need that information NOW” over the phone. But it’s become clear that CTU, plot-wise, has become an encumbrance to the series, with its bureaucratic redtape, its murky and sketchy superiors from “Division,” and its tedious personnel disputes.
Get rid of CTU next season (from the plotline, at least). Please.
4) Stop Killing Characters…Or Do It Better – This season saw the loss of President Logan and Curtis (not to mention Kumar from “Harold and Kumar”!). It seems as though just as we’re beginning to care about someone, 24’s writers take great pleasure in killing them off for us. As I’ve written before, when you do this respectfully, it pays great dividends; when you do it like 24 does it, it makes the deaths seem senseless and wasteful.
For example, what was the point of this:
And from this season, what, for the love of god, was the point of this?:
Although it gave him a nice story arc, Curtis was basically black Jack Bauer. By killing off Curtis, unceremoniously, the writers of the show killed off a lot of fans' good will. And by having Jack recover from it almost instantly (despite a 2-minute cry) is another example of the writers' continuing disdain for the emotional intelligence of its audience.
Look to Season 3 for a character's death done right:
(And Chappelle wasn't even a character we cared that much about!)
5) Bring Back Jack – Jack Bauer is the reason we watch this show. Season 6 introduced a bunch of new characters, including a potential Jack Bauer replacement (Doyle), then asked us to be emotionally invested in them without telling us why. But really, the only one person we care about on the show is Jack Bauer and he was getting crowded out (screentime-wise) by all of these nobodies.
Whether Jack is being a detective, doing some plain old killing, or physically and mentally torturing suspects, Kiefer’s performance is a joy to watch:
Proof positive - One of this season's most intense, amazing scenes was this climactic fight between Bauer and Fayed:
Even when Kiefer is showing his weaker side, Bauer remains an extremely compelling character. See the end of Season 3, when Bauer breaks down (something we should have seen slightly more of this season):
The problem was, Season Six didn't give us nearly enough of any of this.
Please give us more of Jack doing what he does best. As intense as ex-Scrubs nurse Doyle is, he can’t hold a candle to Bauer.
I’ve recently finished re-watching Season 2 of 24 on DVD and the difference was palpable. Despite Kim’s antics, Season 2 was one taut, nerve-jangling season (and as much as I hate to admit it, even the various situations Kim found herself in were directed with skill and intensity). There were suspenseful situations in which the split screen and real-time conceit were used to great effect. There were fantastically evil and chilling villains. And there were touching moments like this one:
NONE OF THESE ELEMENTS WERE PRESENT IN SEASON 6. [For any fan, I’d urge you to go back and watch Season 2 again; it will remind you why you fell in love with this show.]
The series needs a reboot in the way “Casino Royale” kicked the 007 series back into high gear. Hopefully they’ll surprise us with something completely new. Otherwise, I’m really going to have to stop watching, which makes me sad because the Jack Bauer Power Hour used to be one of my favorite weekly events back in the day. It looks like Executive Producer Howard Gordon has already gotten the message; let's hope he brings it home for Season Seven.
[Edit: Changed some of the language/videos in the "Bring Back Jack" section]