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24 8.15/8.16: "Day 8: 6AM - 8AM"

It’s hard to know if this was the plan all along. This has the feel of something decided late in the game, as if the writers and producers realized that the story needed to take a major leap. What can be said is that the story finally took a surprising turn. (Which shouldn’t be surprising, since Episode 16 is typically when a twist occurs, as it represents 2/3 of the way through the season arc.)


It was a smart decision to air these episodes together in one night. The first hour was mostly set-up, leading directly into the high-intensity events of the second hour. Frankly, the first hour doesn’t have all that much to speak for it. Either that, or memory is already fallible, and it just feels like the story naturally escalated in the second half.


There were many great moments. President Taylor’s resolute takedown of the traitors in her administration was a much needed reminder that she has teeth. The countdown to the potential bomb detonation was surprisingly tense. The hunt for Hassan, right up to the showdown in the parking garage, set the stage for Dana’s capture.


While Cole hasn’t been very distinct as a character this season, as much to do with the writing as the actor, this situation was very well played. His emotional roller coaster was perfectly depicted. Dana’s little game with Jack gave him the opportunity to shake the rust off some old skills, and his handling of the rescue operation with Renee did much to solidify their solid partnership.


Of course, the real impact came with the final act. Something had to be done to take this season to the next level, and the killing of President Hassan certainly serves that purpose. Even better, it fits with the general direction of the plot to this point. Hassan’s death, despite the Russian delegate’s claims to the contrary, stands as proof of his desire for peace. He may have turned himself over to his enemies with the hope of possible rescue, but he had to know that death was a likely consequence. Hassan sacrificed himself for the sake of thousands of Americans.


If the writers manage to stick to their thematic guns, they should emphasize this point as much as possible. Hassan’s self-sacrifice will do little good for his own country, but he could become a martyr to the cause of peace. That serves the theme of “learning from the sins of the past” rather well.


The seemingly sudden emergence of the Russians as the potential masterminds of the terrorist plot is not as unlikely as it might seem at first glance. After all, it was a Russian crime syndicate that brought the fuel rods to New York in the first place. The source of the rods was always vague at best, so this resolves a minor dangling thread.


The idea seems to be this: the Russians stand to profit from the ongoing instability in the Middle East, which is threatened by the peace process and the presence of President Hassan. The original plan was to eliminate Hassan and put Farhad into power in his place. In lieu of that, the IRK terrorists chose to use the threat of detonating a dirty bomb in the middle of Manhattan as a means of getting Hassan and completing the task. With Hassan out of the picture, the Russians would appear to have what they want.


So the final act of the season (and the series) would logically be the process of unearthing the Russian connection to the terrorism and countering their attempt to derail the peace process. It’s a given that this process will involve a few more twists and turns, but with the end of the season being revised to allow for a more fitting end to the series, the writers may not have too much room to maneuver. This would usually be cause for concern, but considering how lackluster the season has been overall, just delivering a solid ending would be a triumph.


One thing that the writers should keep in mind, without a doubt, is the theme for the season and, more importantly, the arc of Jack’s journey. Just in the past few episodes, Renee seems to have regained much of her old confidence. While some of that is no doubt due to Jack’s support, the writers should resist the urge to have her die in the final act.


This is especially true given Jack’s apparent feelings for her. The series began with the heart-breaking loss of Jack’s wife. That was the beginning of a long and systematic process of stripping away Jack’s family, friends, and support system, until he was left with almost nothing. The past two seasons represent Jack’s restoration. It would be counter to that process if Jack were to lose Renee, if he sees her as a potential to regain something he has lost.


The producers and writers should also resist the urge to leave the series open-ended in the hopes of resolving things in the proposed feature film. For one thing, the fans deserve a sense of closure in the show’s current format. But more than that, there’s no absolute guarantee that the film franchise will be viable. It should be successful, but stranger things have happened. Logically, it would make more sense to have “24” the television show end definitely, and then have each “24” film be a complete entity, standing on its own.


Overall, these two episodes packed a solid and unexpected punch, bringing the season arc into context and giving fans hope that the final leg of the season will rise to the occasion. The need to adjust for the end of the series could be a factor, but at this point, the goal is to go out on a high note, not achieve perfection. This is a good start!

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