There’s no point in holding back. Monday's episode of 24 was the best one so far this season.
It had a bit of everything: Jack doing Jack things. Romantic betrayal, redemption, then more betrayal—by a ripped terrorist who looks like he's been hitting the monkey bars pretty hard at the Al Qaeda training camp. The clock ticking on a webcast execution. Compromised nuclear security. Another direct attack on CTU. And maybe even a tiny bit of redemption for the Dana Walsh storyline, thanks to Stephen Root.
The episode came at just the right time in the season: We’ve hit the halfway mark, and while 24 was guaranteed to pass its midterms, Day 8 has been slow to take form. Jack has seen less action than usual, and has lacked a good sidekick because poor Cole Ortiz was caught up in fiancée Dana’s travails. The first wave of bad guys got taken out quickly, and central characters like President Taylor and Renee have gone MIA for long stretches—just like they did last night. The drones haven’t factored in much, nor has New York City; with most of the action taking place at night, the location has thus far proven inconsequential. So even though there have been some memorable moments (I’ll never again pick up a circular saw without thinking of Annie Wersching), the season has been hit-or-miss. Maybe that's finally changed.
For now, I’m going to give 24 a B- at the midterm. I could have rounded it up to a B, but let’s keep the show motivated. The second half of the semester always counts for more, anyway. What's your grade for 24?
Individual midterm grades:
Jack Bauer, A-
Let me be a fan and just say that Jack is always great, but he just hasn’t had enough to do. His highlights, though memorable, have been scattered, most notably his cold threats to Marcos the suicide bomber and his escape and battle with Bazhaev. And who can ever forget Ernst Meier?
It's too bad Renee offed Vladimir so quickly. He had a nice, twisted romantic sensibility. Bazhaev also had his moments, and a wonderful disconnect between his self-image and his actions. Samir Mehran offers a world-class scowl and a serious goatee, but one suspects that another really bad criminal mastermind will emerge soon.
Political Intrigue, B
President Taylor has spent most of her screen time cooing over President Hassan in an attempt to keep the treaty alive. Like Jack, she hasn’t had much to do—though the discovery of File 33 and information that could neutralize U.S. nuclear defenses should kickstart things. Big hair and all, the personally and historically vain Omar Hassan could be a worthy adversary for Taylor, and the echo of the situation in Iran has added an element of contemporary international politics to the season.
Dana Walsh, D-
There are people out there who think we Dana Deniers spend too much time dissecting this plotline. My response? The show spends too much time on the Dana plotline. It has sucked a lot of energy from 24 and effectively neutralized Cole. All I can figure is that Dana’s story was created so Katee Sackhoff would have something to do other than sit behind a computer. Or maybe, in the biggest twist in the history of 24, the writers have been testing our patience and will somehow pull it all together in the end.
Because when I first saw Stephen Root comin’ round the mountain as the Arkansas parole officer, I thought, 'What is this, The Night of the Living Clampetts?' But with his persistence and weird little mentions of his NYPD friend and IDRANs, he has at least added some curiosity to Dana’s situation. That said, how does she leave him in a holding room at CTU? And then how does he just go wandering around without anyone stopping him? After all, it wasn’t Bring Your Hillbilly To Work Day. Dana said it best: “We are in the middle of a national security crisis. I have to go back to my desk.”
Right. Get to work already. Your nation is counting on you.
Follow TV.com writer Matthew Jaffe on Twitter: @MattAtTVDotCom