Monday, August 14, 2006

Now Playing: 24 Season 2

I haven't written about my slavish devotion to The Jack Bauer Power Hour because I frankly haven't experienced it. The fanaticism among 24 fans would normally turn me off to a show, but the first season had two things front and center that fascinated me. The first being Kiefer Sutherland and any chlid of the '80's wants certain actors to nail it every time they step up to the plate. I've been a fan of his father's since birth, and I've been a fan of his since cutting my teeth on Stand By Me and The Lost Boys, two films benefitted more by nostalgia than anything else. Kiefer Sutherland somehow always managed to wind up in films that were probably a few million budget dollars away from the Blockbuster direct-to-video bin, and that frustrated me as a fan. I wanted him to succeed, and badly. Then he found the role of Jack Bauer and Kiefer Sutherland will forever be enshrined as a god among men.

The second thing that intrigued me was the format of 24 episodes each representing one hour of a single day. The concept was sound, but since the amount of absurdities the show packs into each hour grows episode by episode you eventually have to look past the concept and just go with it.

Since fans of the show grew rapid around season four then became full-blown fanatics after season five, I figured I would go back and start catching up. I'd say roughly 80 percent of the show's surprises haven't been ruined for me yet, though I am aware of certain places the show had ended up. For the most part though, I went into Season 2 with a clean slate and since I watch Season 1 right before Season 3 started it's been a while since I was last hanging with Bauer. I may discuss some spoilers below if you haven't seen it yet, but I'll try and stay away from the big ones.

Season 2 starts up a year after Season 1 ended. Jack went through hell that first year and came out of it bruised and ruined both personally and professionally. He starts out Season 2 an empty shell of a man, and watching him come back to life over the span of 24 episodes was fantastically entertaining. Sutherland is unbelievably good playing Bauer as the uber-patriot the politicians in Washington would love. He's faced with the ultimate crisis: A nuclear bomb is in the hands of terrorists somewhere in Los Angeles and he has to find them and diffuse the bomb within 24 hours. Of course, he also has to navigate a hellish labryinth of political intrigue, government interferance, rogue agents, a ruined wedding, and his daughter's penchant for being the biggest dumbass ever on television. This last point is one I'd like to take a second to single out and laugh at. Kim Bauer, gamely played by Elisha Cuthbert, is easily the worst character on television in the last decade.

Yes, I'm taking the entire cast of Passions into account here.

Once the season gets going a few episodes in the pace is relentless... except when it cuts back to Kim Bauer. At those points, the show's entire momentum comes to a crashing halt and just lays there whimpering. The upshot to watching it on DVD was fast forwarding through every single Kim scene in the entire season with about four exceptions. Not only did this cut roughly three hours worth of viewing time right off the top, but I survived with my IQ in tact. I laughed the hardest near the end of the season when she's holding a gun on her nemesis while on the phone with her dad. When Jack calmly tells her to do exactly what he says I fell down laughing, but absolutely roared later on when she was suddenly "tougher" because of the experience. In short, Kim Bauer is useless.

On the other hand, literally every second not devoted to Kim Bauer is vastly entertaining. The political backstabbing surrounding now-President David Palmer builds to several emotionally wrenching crescendos with the fates of a few major players ending on surprising terms. Jack Bauer, meanwhile, ends his first day by executing a child pornographer then sawing the guy's head off all to re-infiltrate a gang that may or may not know where the bomb is. Jack Bauer kills more bad guys by noon than most Marines kill in their entire careers. It's gloriously fun stuff watching the bad guys go about their evil ways because you know how seriously screwed they are the second Bauer finds them.

I have to give credit to the show runners because the bad guys are absolute in their convictions, beliefs, and abilities. The threat never veers into silly terrain, and there is no monologuing from any of the villains. The villains have a job to do, and Jack Bauer's job is to stop them regardless of who gets caught in between. Another thing I like about the show is how the mastermind villain doesn't appear until late in the series. However many red herrings there are in the previous 15 or 16 episodes, the arch-nemesis won't show up until the final stretch. Personally, I dig the heck out of that slow build. I wish the uber-villain was a little more substantial this time out, but it works in terms of laying groundwork for the future.

There are more than a few implausibilities throughout the show but I absolutely fell in love with 24 after this season ended. What I loved even more was how ballsy the final episode closed since it ended on a major cliffhanger with a few minor ones thrown in for good measure. This was the season where things were clearly setup for the future and the ending didn't back away from that promise at all. I'm now curious to throw on Season 3 so I'll be moving it up in my Netflix queue soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment