January 17, 2007

24: The Return of the Jack Bauer Power Hour

I cannot recall where I first saw 24 described like that, "The Jack Bauer Power Hour," it had to have been some forum or talk back. It is a great, easy to remember, and completely accurate description of the weekly adrenaline rush that has been this thrilling series for five seasons. This past Sunday marked the return of Big Bad Jack and the rest of the 24 crew as Day 6 dawns on our television sets, once again making Monday night a night to look forward to. It couldn't have come a moment too soon. The holidays have ended, and we are still thirsting for all of our favorites to come out of hiding and return to airing new episodes. 24 is the right show to truly reinvigorate the 2007 viewing year, and should be seen as marking the official start of the new year in television.

The end of Day 5 saw Jack evading the bad guys in the White House to save the country again, and attempt to avoid the Chinese who have been pursuing him since Day 4. Well, he wasn't so lucky this time around, and while he did succeed in saving the day, he was nabbed by the Chinese and hauled away to endure heaven knows what at the hands of the masters of torture.

Day 6 starts 20 months later, and new president, Wayne Palmer, yes David's brother and fellow Jack fan, has negotiated for Jack's release from the Chinese. The price was great, but the end result is still the demise of Jack. You see, Jack is being brought back to the States in order to be handed over to a terrorist in exchange for the location of the man behind a current string of suicide bombings. It is not an easy decision, and Palmer, as well as Bill Buchanan of CTU are definitely going to lose a lot of sleep over the decision.

Anyway, the handoff goes down, and here is where the bad guy makes his fatal mistake. It is a mistake that is a standard of action films, its the talking villain. The bad guy reveals that he is the one behind the bombings, and he is going to send the good guys after a man who is renouncing his terrorist ways and is seeking a cease fire with the West. This leads to a dramatic, and bloody, escape by our hero as he has a flashback to his Lost Boys days and rips out the throat of a terrorist with his teeth. Got to love a guy who is willing to take a bite out of crime!

His escape leads him on a race against time to stop the President from commencing with an airstrike on the wrong guy. In true 24 fashion, the strike cannot be stopped and it is up to Jack to beat the soldiers to the guys house and save him, despite his strong desire to put a slug between his eyes. Not only does he have to save him, but he also has to convince CTU that he is know a trustworthy ally and the best hope they have of finding the real baddie.

I am sure that by now, you have read as many recaps of the show that you can stomach, and in some cases, probably more than. There are also a number of you who have been scouring the web for as much Jack stuff as you can lay your eyes on. Beyond all of that, you are probably asking yourself why you should continue reading my meanderings. The answer is simple, it's because you like me, and you value my opinion. OK, maybe not, but I am sure at least part of you is curious. So, I guess I will dispense with the recap and continue on my merry way. Let me also warn of potential spoilers for those who have not yet seen the four hours that aired this week.

The past five seasons of our beloved series have just been a rush of pure television excitement. The show has never failed to entertain and raise our energy level. Even at its worst it was still first rate television, even as it would occasionally meander, Kiefer was able to keep us focused on what was good about the series. We never lost focus of the one man that kept use from clicking away. But, and there is always a but, I had a feeling that something was missing. A something that I couldn't quite put my finger on, at least until I saw the first four hours of Day 6.

The first five seasons portrayed a Jack Bauer who was unstoppable. There were times were Jack was up against a wall, faced with imminent demise, but he would always manage to get out of it. There were other times where Jack would be forced to make some decision that no one should have to make, but he would manage to make the right one, or at least the one that was necessary. However, there have been precious few times where we would see chinks in the armor of the one man terrorist death squad. The main one that I remember is the murder of his wife at the end of Day 1. That put the hurt on Jack, but most of his hurt was worked out between seasons, and the dawn of Day 2 put Jack back into the thick of things relatively quick.

Day 6 already stands out as different. So far, through these four hours, we have a distinctly different Jack. This Jack has scars, not only the phsyical scars that he has across his back and his burned hand, but emotional scars. These scars have left him uncertain of anything in the world, questioning what he has done in the past, and questioning what the future will bring. His world has collapsed. Whatever the Chinese did to him, they may not have been able to get him to talk, but they did get to his spirit.

From the moment he stepped with great uncertainty off of that plane with his stringy hair and unkempt beard, he had a look in his eye that told us that this was not the Jack of old. This was a Jack that was unsure of his place, of his relevance, of his abilities. Another clue came later, when he was with Al-Assad, the reformed terrorist, and one of his men who had betrayed him. Jack was doing his information extraction schtick, but he gave up rather easily, saying that the man would not talk. Al-Assad stepped in and quickly got the needed intelligence. Jack said he didn't know how to do this, there was a sadness in his eyes as he said it. During the same sequence, he changed his shirt, exposing his scars to Al-Assad, who was quietly taken aback by what he saw, while Jack stepped out of view, almost embarassed to be seen in that manner.

The straw that broke the camels back was the end of the fourth hour. Jack had uncovered a connection between Curtis and Al-Assad that made it a necessity that the two men not be left alone together. Jack got there just in time, as Curtis was about to send Al-Assad to the next life. He had no choice but to shoot his friend and colleague. Following the shooting, Jack was physically sick as he collapsed and fell to tears. The man broke down, the man that had always been firm and strong in his convictions fell apart. He could not go on, he was finally broken, however temporarily.

It was striking to see this turn of events. I cannot wait to see how the unseen events from between the seasons, and the events of this early season affect Jack the further into the day we go. I am sure that Jack will find the strength to get back up and battle forth, especially after the suitcase nuke that went off at the end. This is going to be one hell of a ride.

Also, does anyone else want to strangle Morris?


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