24 8.9: "Day 8: 12AM - 1AM"

It should be said, off the top, that this episode brought several rays of hope to the eighth season. This was obviously a moment of transition, shifting from the introductory elements of the season arc to the complication phase, and that could make all the difference. It all depends on how the writers choose to handle the situation.

It’s good to see Jack fully commit to his usual role as the agent extraordinaire, even if it is largely a matter of blackmail. In a nice bit of payoff from the seventh season, when it was clear that Renee was attracted to Jack on several levels, Jack finally indicates a bit of interest of his own. At least, that’s the way it seemed to come across, and that’s how Renee seems to have interpreted Jack’s words. If Jack wasn’t expressing something beyond platonic feelings for Renee, that could get very messy.

For now, it almost doesn’t matter. Jack is ready to defend Renee’s best interests, and that means standing up to a CTU director with his head firmly lodged in the posterior of the Chief of Staff. This episode finally addresses the resurrection of CTU, and why someone like Hastings was placed in charge. Realistically, the administration might have understood the value of extreme methods in counter-terrorism, but politically, it’s a tool to be manipulated. That kind of thinking has got to come back to haunt everyone involved.

Except, of course, Jack, who knows what it means to be a director of CTU. In fact, he’s probably the only person that understands Hastings’ position, because just about every other CTU director in the past 20 years of “24” time has ended up dead. Usually by Jack’s hand. That may be something that Hastings might want to consider.

Hopefully, despite the fact that she’s no longer in the field, Renee’s story won’t be ignored. As the current prime motivation for Jack’s involvement in the operation, her status now becomes important. Unlike Kim or Audrey, Renee’s psychological state could overcome her better judgment, and that could certainly complicate things. If the writers are going to use Renee’s struggles as a proxy for Jack’s previous self-doubt, as well as something for Jack to attempt to repair, then Renee cannot be kept off-screen without blunting the impact.

For all that, Jack and Renee’s plot thread was never the problem; it was the only thing keeping the introductory phase of the season from falling apart completely. Thankfully, there was some much-needed movement on the weaker fronts. The resolution of Dana’s current crisis was satisfying, if only in the sense that the writers now can move on and focus on something more interesting. In keeping with the season’s theme, Dana’s sins are unlikely to disappear instantly, but if the fallout is handled well, it could generate some actual interest in Dana and Cole. So far, the writers have failed to make a compelling case for the existence of either character, so this is a hopeful sign.

In a surprising twist, the writers have created a scenario that promises to be a lot more interesting than expected. Josef’s death seemed to be an early attempt to shock the audience, but he was never particularly interesting in the first place. He was a means to an end. That end was delivering the nuclear fuel rods to terrorists in the United States, willing to strike at a local target rather than stockpile the materials for Fahrad’s potential new administration in the Islamic Republic of Whateverstan. Fahrad’s change of fortunes has also changed the tone of other subplots.

Take, for example, President Hassan’s crackdown of dissidents in his country. Up to this point, it has seemed to be extreme, especially as it pertains to his own family and trusted guards. But now it serves two purposes. First, it feeds into the terrorists’ impression that they should use the nuclear rods in America, since Fahrad’s new regime is becoming less and less likely.

But there is also the potential for Hassan’s methods to be proven at least partially correct. Hassan will have to feel justified in his actions when the truth of the situation comes out; the terrorists will likely be linked to forces opposing his rule. It could become even more interesting (and complicated for President Taylor) if someone surprising gives vital information regarding the terrorists in New York.

What would truly complicate the simplicity of the season to date is a scenario in which President Taylor, based on information from CTU and Hassan, is forced to concede that reality has trumped some of the underlying basis for her peace initiative. It’s unlikely to undermine it completely, but it would be a follow-up to the seventh season’s arc, because it’s equally unlikely that such a scenario would play out in an ideal fashion. The politics at play within CTU would make that impossible.

For now, this is all just potential; the writers could easily take this in a less complicated direction. In fact, the first third of the season is a good indication that the writers will find less compelling ways to complicate matters.

Overall, this was a pivotal episode that brought to an end a few of the mind-numbing plot threads that have been dragging the season down since the premiere. While Jack’s story remains the highlight, it’s not yet clear if the writers will tap the potential that now exists. There’s still plenty of time to salvage the season, so it’s just a matter of charting a better course.


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