When 24 starts off slow, you have a right to be skeptic. Aptly named the "fastest hour on television," FOX's most popular drama found itself characterized by a pace that made you want to check your blood pressure every so often – if just to be safe. And, save for a few notable episodes here and there, 24 has not yet relinquished its title.
But, at times, it can suffer from a bad case of failure to launch. Hour ten, folks, was one of those instances. Last week gave new hope to a promising direction for the season. Rich with character development and well-executed transitory elements, it worked and kept tensions high not because of action, but because of strengthening bonds between the audience and the characters. Hour ten, on the other hand, foregoes that method, instead choosing to focus on pushing the story along and getting the season to pivotal points in the timeliest way possible. It's just taking a long and frustrating time to get there; 1:00 AM to 2:00 AM is caught in a lull for 15 minutes before anything important even starts to happen.
That's not to say that the episode's early moments are plagued by boredom, however, but they don't feature many compelling scenes either, save for maybe one; Hastings progression to finally become a competent leader. Rob Weiss, Taylor's aide, really had it coming to him, and, wonderfully enough, it was the man he commissioned to oversee Renee's blame game that showed him up. Hasting's evolution, though drastic, is an interesting one. His upholding of Jack's bargain is, in some ways quite significant, cementing Hastings as a person who Bauer may just be able to trust. While Hastings is no Bill Buchanan, his actions in hour ten were well-considered and thoughtful, and more than grants my respect for him as a character.
Unfortunately, the rest of the beginning finds itself bogged down by sequences that either don't go anywhere significant or don't go anywhere exciting. Granted, the talk President Taylor had with Hassan more than demonstrated the two's odd yet absorbing pairing and strength as actors. Taylor, under the instruction of Jack Bauer, orders Hassan to present files containing vital intelligence on terrorists in the US. Hassan, understandably, is apprehensive at first, wishing that the operation instead hands over Farhad to his party, where they will assess the situation. But Taylor, in a fashion akin to her season seven personality, will have nothing of it, threatening to attack the IRK should Hassan not give up the intel. But it's here where the scene, one that looked to unfold into an argument between the two, falls into an unsurprising rut. Hassan complies and the two are perfectly content with each other for the rest of the episode. Their disposition with each other, while understandable, breaks no new ground as far as 24's narrative goes and the storyline, at the moment, doesn't look like it'll feature any notable shock value anytime soon. Luckily, however, this plot thread is miles better than the escapades of Tarin and Kayla. Again, it stood as standard fare for the show, simply for the reason that it's predictable to a fault; Tarin gives his girlfriend the rundown of his escape before it even happens and the resulting moments unfold as if he had predicted or foreseen the whole thing. What's more, the side thread ends with the two wrapped in each other's embrace, almost happy with their predicament. Can someone pull out a knife and stab someone here?
The episode throws in some aftermath of Dana and Cole's adventures with Jenny's uninteresting past, though, shockingly enough, the episode shows the once mind-numbingly dumb side plot venturing into territory that could show at least some potential. Emphasis on the "could." As Dana stares pensively at Kevin's body as it sinks further into the muddy lake, the scene, without spoken word, develops Sackhoff's character. Almost pushing her character in a curious new direction, it may have just represented the point in season eight which evolves Dana, turning her from somewhat of a dipstick into a deeply disturbed individual. Or maybe that's how Jenny always was?
And, finally, we arrive at Jack Bauer's story, fortunately enough the main attraction here. It seems as if Farhad suffers from mild agitation, for he can sit tight for twenty minutes yet can't stay still for mere seconds before Jack and his company arrive. Yes, Hassan's brother runs out in the open and gets shot by an approaching attacker with Jack and his team right around the corner. Really, Farhad? Fine. For me, it's forgivable logic. He may have heard CTU coming and, instead of waiting for them to find him, he took his chances, hoping that the squad would see him and scare off Samir's man. No such luck for Farhad, apparently. But his poor decisions made for the most interesting development of the episode. Jack suggests they use Farhad as "dead bait," releasing false information to the media that he is still alive and luring the terrorists to a hospital. Luckily enough, Samir watches FOX news and immediately puts Marco, one of his youngest, on the trail to track down Farhad and 'kill' him once and for all. Naturally, he's also covered in explosives. The idea, clever and refreshing, works… well, for the most part, at least.
That's where Owen, the thin, nervous agent from CTU, comes in. Remember? He was the one who couldn't even buckle up his suit early on in the season. Following a short session of sweating and worriedness, Owen steps in, taking Marcos through the hospital and finally to the room where Farhad is planted as a trap. Of course, that's after he convinces the young terrorist to reveal his explosives to a security camera, giving Chloe ad Arlo a chance to find uncover the model and, ultimately, disarm it from miles away. Such is the power of the CTU tech department. While Owen is successful at his part of the mission, the rest of the squad, on the other hand, is not. They arrive to the scene where Marco, looking like a deer caught in headlights, stands. Without even a shot to the foot by Jack he is able to dive out of a window and escape to an all-to-conveniently placed pressure chamber. What are the odds Jack can manipulate that for torture?
So why, even with so many complaints, did I award hour ten with the season's second score of 8.0? Simple. The final few minutes of the episode rose tensions immensely, and, believe it or not, my heart was pumping. Suspense once again worked its way into 24, and, for that, I couldn't be happier. Now, if only all the other elements could do the same…