After the previous episode, a number of fans and critics alike were floored to discover that Renee Walkerâs death was a pre-planned plot point. Apparently Howard Gordon defended this plot twist as a great move, and praised the notion of sending Jack into a tailspin at the end of the season/series. And apparently Keifer Sutherland was on board with the idea, which just goes to show that some producers should stay the hell out of the writersâ room.
Frankly, this is exactly the kind of thinking that has plagued â24â for years. It has also been a hallmark of Howard Gordonâs writing style. To be fair, this is not something that falls on Gordonâs shoulders alone; there is an entire writing staff that shares the blame for carrying forward a vision for the eighth season that undermines Jackâs heroic journey and therefore the entire point of the series. But longtime readers, going back to the âX-Filesâ days, know that Gordonâs plot and character choices have always been a subject of criticism.
Despite the grievous error of the previous episode, this installment manages to bring matters into focus. Jackâs personal response to Reneeâs death gets some well-deserved attention, but there is also a welcome depth to President Taylorâs plot thread.
Jack manages to keep himself reined in for the most part, but something has definitely come undone behind those eyes. The difference is simply his self-control. Earlier in the series, Jack would have gone on a massive rampage from the beginning. While Jack doesnât quite hold back with Dana Walsh, he does manage to keep his wits about him.
Yet during his confrontation with Bazhaev, thereâs no doubt that Jack is primed and ready for violence. And his moral compass is spinning completely out of control. Thereâs no doubt that he would kill anybody who got in the way of putting those responsible for the atrocities of the day where they belong.
And thatâs what makes President Taylorâs decision to let the Russians get away with Hassanâs assassination, the terrorist threat against New York, and so many other things such a punch to Jackâs gut. He is completely floored by the notion that President Taylor is choosing political expediency over such a clear-cut moral imperative. This isnât a debate over counter-terrorist tactics; this is real politik at its ugliest.
Of course, it all comes back to the symbol of all things ridiculous on â24â. No, not Kim Bauer; she was just poorly written and stuck in inane plot threads. Charles Logan, on the other hand, was the terrorist President of the United States. The concept itself boggles the mind. As does the notion of ever trusting someone like Logan when he comes calling with a solution to a problem that didnât exist just a few hours earlier.
Thatâs the one thing that hobbles this episode. Itâs pretty damn clear that Logan knew about the Russian collusion with the IRK dissidents because he was knee-deep in everything that happened. Heâs all but caught red-handed halfway through the episode, and yet, President Taylor just lets the matter go in favor of listening to the former Terrorist-in-Chiefâs advice.
While the advice does have a certain âends justify the meansâ logic to it, it is predicated on two erroneous assumptions. First, that Charles Logan would ever give someone such strident advice on something that wasnât of deep and abiding value to his own self-interest. And second, that any peace accord for the Middle East, particularly one forged with a progressive Islamic regime, would truly end the conflicts in the region.
The problem is that Taylor is falling into the same trap that so many other politicians and leaders encounter: the Legacy Hunt. Itâs not enough to be a strong and competent leader. There has to be something monumental that history will always remember in their section of the textbook. When presidents go tilting at the legacy windmills, they almost always leave ethics and morality behind.
In a sense, this fits the overall theme of the season, which is not a bad thing. Taylor is failing to learn from the mistakes of the past, and she will find herself on the wrong end of Jack Bauerâs resolve as a result. Of course, this is also quite unfortunate, because the series should have ended on a better note. President Taylor had grown to be the first president since David Palmer to trust Jackâs judgment. Jackâs restoration, and that of CTU, was bringing the series full circle. Itâs hard to imagine that happening now.
Overall, this episode managed to make the best of a bad situation, even if some of the logic was twisted to make certain characters make uncharacteristic choices. It was good to see a lot more of President Taylor; the writers havenât given her nearly enough to do. Though itâs hard to see how the writers are going to end this season/series well, this isnât a bad start.