Even though the last few weeks of 24: Live Another Day have been relatively measured (as measured as you can be when you're wrapping up episodes with drone strikes on abandoned mansions), it was really only a matter of time before the plot started to churn and the action intensified. I've been praising Live Another Day for working on its characters and all that, but at its core, 24 is a show that likes to blow things up, make us feel queasy about torture, and position its lead character at the center of multiple international incidents. "4:00 PM-5:00 PM" brought all of that stuff to the proverbial table. However, while this hour had a handful of solid individual moments (as the nuttier episodes of 24 tend to do), it was also one of the messier efforts, where some of the story beats only served to get from one place to another, logic be damned.
The sudden (and secret) tension between the Prime Minister and President Heller was probably the guiltiest culprit of them all this week. Although it makes sense that Stephen Fry's Prime Minister character would be skeptical of Heller's plan to stop the awful drone attacks with the use of a high-level criminal and murderer, "4:00 PM-5:00 PM" burned through the development of that skepticism especially fast. Suddenly, the assistant was telling the PM all about Heller's supposed medical condition, and within 25 minutes, their entire relationship had crumbled and MI5 was interrupting Jack and Kate's field operation. The show didn't fundamentally alter any of the involved parties in order to establish that tension, but it did feel as if David Fury's script really needed to get to a certain point before the hour was through, and this was the only way to do it. Weirdly, this was the first time all season where I found myself wishing that Live Another Day had more episodes, so that it could further build up the story further. Ultimately, though, it's not just the quick evolution of the tension; it's also that the tension led to the kind of silly "Oh no, Jack's been captured again!" stuff that this season had previously done a great job of avoiding directly.
While that particular turn triggered flashbacks to some of 24's lesser episodes, there were other instances where "4:00 PM-5:00 PM" almost knowingly and winkingly acknowledged its ridiculous nature. 24 isn't the kind of series to "go meta" if you will, but there was something very frustrating and yet oddly enjoyable about Kate volunteering to inject herself with the anaesthetic to prevent maximum torture damage, only for the goons to almost immediately inject her with a competing agent to make the torture as awful as possible. Furthermore, of course MI5 would bust in right at the exact moment before Rask (the mysterious dude Jack told President Heller about last week) was about to hit enter on the bank account password, a move that would've given Chloe important access and put she and Jack on their way to some semblance of success, and of course Rask would blow himself up with a grenade before giving up any real information about Margot or his relationship with her. Those are the types of things that are supposed to be intense and gut-wrenching, but here, they were mostly just silly. And yet, it kind of seemed like this episode was aware of all that, as if the writers were burning through the typical 24 playbook while breaking the story for this short season and all of a sudden realized, "Oh yeah, we haven't done THAT yet."
You could make the same argument about the two most notable moments of the episode: the extended torture sequence and the (first) mole reveal. Though the first hour of the season contained a brief sequence where Chloe was tortured in the dungeons of the CIA HQ, what Rask's henchmen did to Kate here was longer and much more uncomfortable. It was gross, as all 24 torture scenes are, but I did appreciate that this one was low on blood, stabbings, biting, etc. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing easy about seeing Kate chained up, soaked down, and shocked repeatedly. But for this show? Tame(ish). Moreover, unlike many of the torture sequences in the show's history, this one at least served a bit of character purpose, as it illustrated how far Kate was willing to go for the job—and obviously to point out that she wasn't just the weak link who couldn't identify that her husband was selling state secrets. Hey, did you guys know that happened? How bizarre that this was the first time the show had ever mentioned that. Yvonne Strahovski was good in those scenes, if it's not too weird to say that someone was good as they're being drenched with dirty bucket water while wearing a white shirt.
And of course, we're halfway through the season now, so it was only fitting that Hour 6 unmasked a mole. It's Navarro! Anytime you see a character walk down a hallway looking over his shoulder and/or digging around in their pocket for a phone, it's a good sign that they're not playing for Team Jack (or I guess in this case, Team Kate). Wouldn't you know it, the dude who won't stop talking about how Kate is trying to compensate for her inability to see her husband's crimes was actually involved in some kind of cover-up that Kate and her husband took the fall for. At this time, we don't know who was on the other end of Navarro's secret mole line, but we do know that the person loves voice modulators. Frankly, it would have been interesting for Live Another Day to avoid the mole pratfalls, and for a few weeks, it did. Does it make sense that Navarro is such an evildoer if he spent the hour before this one risking his life in a botched mission that resulted in a drone attack? Probably not. But it will at least be fun to see Benjamin Bratt gnaw through some scenery once the show tells us a bit more about what's going on here.
There were other goings-on in this episode that I didn't particularly care for, even if they weren't out-and-out awful. Simone being forced to check in on Naveed's civilian sister as some sort of cruel punishment and/or test by Margot was toothless in the ways that those kinds of stories always are on this show, but it's also tough for me to complain about a brief story that ended with Simone getting straight-up bulldozed by a bus (again, this hour sort of knew it was being ridiculous). Mark found himself in some hot water with the Russians for the forged signature from a few hours ago, which probably opens the door for him to be truly evil once this thing with Jack goes further south and the Russians take a more proactive approach to procuring Jack. But hey, at least Jack lied to Mark and told him that Audrey espoused on and on about how happy she is to be married! That falsehood will surely not bite Jack or Audrey in the bottom sometime in the near future.
This was probably my least favorite episode of the season thus far, especially considering that it followed two legitimately good ones. Nevertheless, everything that was dumb or sloppy or annoying about it was in keeping with 24 tradition, and that's worth acknowledging. As the midpoint of Live Another Day, "4:00 PM-5:00 PM" skipped ahead too quickly in some spots and diverged into cliché too easily in others, but there's still enough forward momentum here that there's absolutely no reason to get discouraged yet.
– I really enjoyed some of the location shooting in this episode. The warehouses, penthouses, and HQs are nice and all, but Live Another Day would be well-served to film more scenes like Jack and Kate's conversation outside. Just put the characters in the space, ya know?
– Rask wasn't much of a character after last week's build-up. Jack had been working with him before, he and Kate had to concoct a story to keep the cover going, etc. Again, stuff we've seen so often on this show. Even when it's not terrible, it can be terribly familiar.
– Any ideas as to what Steve is up to, or who's at the other end of that voice modulator? It's too easy to assume Margot, right? She just tried to blow him up after all.
– The DAMMIT TRACKER is still stalled, but what about the KILL TRACKER? All hell broke loose at the end there in Rask's place, and I don't think Jack killed anyone, but let me know just in case. You're doing important work out there.
What'd you think of this one? Halfway through, are you still invested in Live Another Day?
AIRED ON 5/24/2010
Season 8 : Episode 24