24 doesn’t just require a suspension of disbelief. The show requires that you put your disbelief aboard a rocket, launch it into space, and let it settle into a permanent low-Earth orbit.
So my emerging worries about the current season of 24 are centered less on, say, how the Russian informant Ziya managed, within minutes, to use vodka to sufficiently numb the pain of his circular saw-amputated thumb and converse casually with Renee Walker as they drove over to see Vladimir. Besides, he was dead by the end of the show. Ziya, we hardly knew ya. Or yee.
Rather it’s the gaping holes in some major storylines that are currently driving the show. Consider Renee. She’s been to the dark side and emerged tough, cold, and ruthless. Let’s be fair, to dub the newly mono-thumbed Ziya “a drama queen” suggests that Renee could be crowned with a different kind of title. The Queen of Mean.
The problem is that in Monday's episode, we caught glimpses into what transpired with Renee when she had gone undercover with the Russian mob six years earlier. She endured physical brutality and possibly rape. However, last season—despite all the apparent trauma she suffered at the hands Vladimir—we saw Renee as a by-the-book, do-the-right-thing FBI agent romantically involved with the seriously unimpressive Larry Moss. She resisted Jack’s brutal methods until events finally overwhelmed her.
Maybe an explanation is forthcoming. But as things stand, I’m wondering just how Renee so completely regained her emotional equilibrium following her previous undercover escapades with the Russians that she could play the good cop to Jack’s bad cop. Last season is already a long time ago, but I don’t think we received any hints that Renee had suffered through and recovered from such a dark experience.
What would Dr. Laura or Dr. Phil say about all of the women in peril this year? There was certainly not much girl power in the air last night, and as Renee pointed out, “It’s hard to look your best with a gun in your face.” I had initially been intrigued by the revelation of Dana Walsh’s secret past. Now I can’t wrap my head around how she managed to survive even the most lenient background check by CTU, although it was hardly the first time in 24’s history that someone penetrated its security as easily as Mr. and Mrs. Salahi crashed the White House. Come on, there are movie theaters that are far more vigilant about people sneaking in their own popcorn than CTU is about its monitoring its employees with access to classified information.
Top Secret Memo to Hastings, For Your Eyes Only: Try Google.
Thus, my 24 disbelief is beginning to wobble, and I worry that, not unlike Skylab back in 1979 and the Russian Mir space station in 2001, it could fall out of orbit and crash back to Earth sometime soon.
Letting go of such matters as how Jack will navigate midtown Manhattan traffic is one thing. But major plot points demand a higher level of believability, even on a thrill-ride series like 24. Especially because the focus on Renee effectively neutralized Jack and left him a bystander throughout Monday's episode.
If I go to a Lakers game, I want to see Kobe shooting the ball, not Sasha Vujacic. When I watch 24, I want to see Jack in action and not providing a Marv Albert play-by-play: “Gunshot to Ziya’s head. Yesssss! And it counts.”