24 8.17: "Day 8: 8AM - 9AM"

As often mentioned, the theme for this season has been “lessons of the past”. Not just in terms of learning from past mistakes, but also knowing where the right kind of wisdom might be found. That theme has been eroding for quite some time, and with this episode, it’s fair to say that the writers have once again gone completely off the rails.

In many ways, this is beginning to feel like the fourth and fifth seasons, when the story started off with a more complex philosophical underpinning and quickly devolved as the writers were forced, due to poor production management, to make up plot points as they went along. While Hassan’s assassination is in keeping with the beginning of the season, as is the Russian involvement, almost everything else in this episode feels like a writers’ room grasping for shock tactics.

And this is deeply unfortunate, because it didn’t have to be that way. The writers were well on their way to providing Jack Bauer with a fitting and logical end to his character arc, at least in terms of the television series. This was supposed to be the end of his long recovery and restoration, after having lost everything and falling into a personal abyss. So why are the writers ripping everything out from under him again?

It’s not even clever or necessary. If it was about justifying Jack’s involvement in the final leg of the season, that had plenty of ways to do that without killing off Renee. For one thing, Chloe is now in charge of CTU, and she definitely feels like she’s in over her head. So why wouldn’t she call on Jack as the one person she knows will have her back? Especially knowing that he was once director of CTU and knows the ropes and current situation better than anyone?

For that matter, why kill Renee, when wounding her is perhaps even more effective in the long run? This will push Jack into some seriously dark territory, which makes for easy drama, but other than revenge, what is he fighting for? Most of the season, he was fighting for the promise of peace, which itself was symbolic of fighting for the right to live with his family, finally out of the game. Is that even a viable option now?

Never mind that the idea of promoting Chloe to interim director of CTU makes little to no sense. Granted, the organization was all but gutted for a few years, and most of the truly experienced agents have long since been killed, but Chloe’s skill set has been support, not leadership. It already feels like the writers are trying to convince the audience that this moment and this crisis will bring out the kind of confident leader that Chloe always had the potential to be, but it just doesn’t compute.

And that makes it feel like the writers may be trying to push the story more in the direction that the seventh season always suggested: a restored CTU with an older, wiser Jack Bauer at the helm. The problem is that it would make a lot more sense if Jack were in charge of the entire CTU operation, not just one branch, in terms of progression. Yet there is now a power vacuum in CTU and all instincts point to the notion of the writers setting up the future film franchise by putting Jack in a recognizable position of authority.

Even if Jack doesn’t end up in a position of authority within CTU, and the writers somehow justify his return to his family in some measure of peace, it still feels like they went too far in justifying Jack’s involvement at this juncture. As already mentioned, Chloe could have logically called on Jack to help, now that the peace conference is back on the table. In fact, Jack’s entire reason for leaving was the notion that the conference was canceled. One call from President Taylor, Chloe, or even Dalia Hassan, and Jack and Renee would have been right back into the mix.

Instead, the writers had to ensure that Jack had a personal reason, which meant killing Renee. And that meant having the Russian side of the conspiracy go full-out stupid. When the characters themselves point out the faulty reasoning of the plot progression, without any sign of a deeper context, it’s a bad sign. Killing Jack and Renee would have immediately forced further investigation.

Worse, having the Russian delegate back out of the peace agreement in a notably negative fashion was a sure way of getting President Taylor and just about everyone else to wonder what their true motivations might be. With clues already pointing to Russian ties to the IRK opposition and now Renee’s death, it should take Chloe and Jack about 0.003 seconds to figure out that the Russians were in on the Hassan assassination.

As if all these plot points weren’t ludicrous enough, there’s the return of Charles Logan. Logan represents everything that was ridiculously wrong with the series during its inexplicably lauded fifth season, wherein the President of the United States was the driving force behind terrorist activities and killing American counter-terrorism assets. Bringing Logan back at this juncture is completely unnecessary, and it seems rather obvious that he will turn out to be part of the conspiracy.

It really comes down to the writers’ lack of trust in their own ability to sell a subtle story. The goal was clearly to get Jack back into action for the final several episodes. Despite having already established several different ways to accomplish that goal, the writers went overboard, forcing the villains into making stupid decisions and needlessly killing a character for shock purposes. It’s not a matter of personal preference; it’s a matter of pointing out where the writers chose expediency over logic.

Overall, this episode was a quick step backwards, falling far from the heights of the previous installment. This is all very unfortunate, because with the series ending in May, the writers could have made better choices and given Jack Bauer a thrilling sendoff. There were plenty of plot elements on the table to get Jack back into the game without undermining the effectiveness of the character’s series-long journey.


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