Tuesday, 20 January 2009

24: season 7= batshit crazy (spoilers within!!)

So 24's back for season 7... spoilers within...

1) So Tony Almeida is alive again, and terrorising the US. Or is he? Mysteries abound. But first of all, hold on, didn’t he die tragically and lovingly in Jack’s arms at the end of Season 5? How is he alive again? I thought only Jack Bauer: Super Soldier had the facility and suitable training needed to cheat death. Now he’s back, complete with a shaved head and scars to show that he’s now (or is he) and cold, but secretly conflicted. He and Jack still converse in that gravelly voice that Spaced and Duane Benzy mocked so much.
2) Jack is on trial for breaching those pesky liberal human rights laws. His country has turned against him and his methods of extracting information. Yet, suddenly, he cares about saving a country that doesn’t want him to employ his risible methods of torture and man-alone-maverickery. He is happy to jump back into the action for no other reason than someone asked him, 'For queen and country...' Should he care? It doesn’t matter. Jack’s back and he’s saving the free world.
3) Janeane Garofalo, that bastion of snarky sarcy geeky comedy and liberal aesthetic: what are you doing in this neo-conservative muddle of a programme? Admittedly, you admitted that you were unemployed and thought ‘screw it’ but it’s weird seeing you in this situation. From USA Today: "[I was] initially very reticent to do it, because I heard about the rightwing nature of [the creator's] politics and the torture-heavy scripts. And then I thought, 'I'm unemployed!'"
4) For that matter, now Garofalo is in it, they’ve introduced a new element of comedy into the proceedings, usually a role filled by Chloe and her pissy child-like asides. Now Garofalo, complete with plinky-plonky comedy plucked strings, gets her own comedy moments where she acts nervous and silly and doesn’t really get what’s going on. Which is completely consistent with the aesthetics of 24.
5) Speaking of out-of-place actors, Rhys Coiro is in. He was the inimitable Billy Walsh in Entourage, a spiky unpredictable vicious precious and nasty artisan. Now, complete with his Brooklyn curtness, he's playing a computer tech whose worried wife is caught up in the middle of the terrorist attacks. I keep expecting him to flip out and say ‘go f*** yourself, suit’ to his square FBI boss before telling Janeane Garofalo 'nerds in f***ing glasses turn me on b****.'
6) We all know the politics behind the programme and the suspect views of its creators so, with that as a given and with the focus (in the first four episodes) shifted away from middle-Eastern brown men, there’s still a lot of dodgy politics on display. What’s especially grating is the nationalistic national anthem-esque music played everytime someone celebrates the idea of what democracy truly is and how great America is at practising said perfect democracy.
7) 24 predicted a black president, and he was good and kind too. Now we have a female president, one prone to having domestic issues with her husband. She should stick to the kitchen...
8) Speaking of which, why do all the presidents marry batsh** crazy spouses. In previous seasons, they have either been insane or depressed or both. Now, our presidential spouse is on the edge and depressed and investigating the suspect suicide of his son.
9) The vice president is always one to watch. They’re usually the dodgy one or the cack-handed militant one. In this case, our vice president is played by Bob Gunton, who has made a career out of playing creeps, bad guys and militant by-the bookers. He was the evil warden in The Shawshank Redemption for lord’s sake... don’t trust him. It’s those cold grey eyes. He’s one to watch. He’ll be challenging the president’s abilities shortly.
10) ‘A superpower has to act in its own best interests’ – said by the vice president. Thus the manifesto of 24’s political agenda is laid out wide open.
11) Time means nothing anymore. Obviously initially it was only a device, a contrivance in early seasons. But now, it means nothing. Entire weeks are played out in an hour. Thusfar, in four hours, Jack has attended a senate hearing, brought down a terrorist cell, broken someone out of FBI headquarters, met up with old colleagues and gone into deep cover, raiding a diplomatic building with big guns, before tearing a wall apart to discover a reinforced concrete panic room. That’s a lot of stuff to do. The contrivance of the hourly clock doesn’t work anymore. To the point where you don’t even notice it.
12) Jack, the last time you raided a diplomatic house, it didn’t end up well for you. Learn from your lessons. Want another 2 years in a Chinese prison? Want to have to fake your own death again?
13) Speaking of old colleagues, CTU, officially disbanded, is working in secret to bring down another :yawn: (stop me if you’ve heard this one) conspiracy in the government. But they’re on their own. They are working outside the law. It’s just three people. Chloe (thank god she’s back) and Bill and Tony (sorry, spoilers)- question: where do they get their money? Don’t these people need jobs? And how are three grossly unemployable ex-government agents able to access super-fast broadband?
14) Jack breaks out of an FBI building using some earplugs, a car and a fire extinguisher. Good work man.
15) Nerd faceoff: There is a hilarious split screen moment when Chloe and Janeane Garofalo have a cyber face-off as one hacks and the other blocks and they both squeal sardonic asides and insults at each other. It’s the best scene in 24 ever. Maybe it’s cos my geek-o-meter was going haywire. Ahhh, Larry Sanders... no flipping. I expect Hank Kingsley to emerge in episode 20 and say ‘Hey now, I’m a despot.’
16) The neo-conservative creators have got to realise they aren’t doing the US government any favours by constantly appointing liberal nice presidents and then filling their staff with backstabbing evil conspiring shady men who are working to their own monetary agenda ‘for the good of the country.’
17) Jack has a new mirror, Renee Walker. She isn’t appalled by his torture methods and even employs them herself. The torturing becomes an in-joke constantly referred, but never laughed at, especially by Jack. He finds nothing funny. Except foreign military ineptitude. Jack also hardly says ‘damnit’ in the first four episodes. Renee Walker does. She’ll eventually side with him.
18) Sangala... Sangala Sangala. OK, three points about this African nation with military civil war and evil general genocides. First, this new 'enemy' is just a device to show how horrible those Africans are, cos we can’t talk about Arabs anymore cos everyone complains so instead, Africa... hmmm... they can't keep their countries in check. They hate democracy. They're uncivilised. They can be bad guys for a bit.
19) Sangala is a metaphor for Sudan and Darfur, that liberal cause du jour for lefty celebrities. Essentially, 24 is saying this is how it should be dealt with. Invade and keep the peace. Sod the benefits and the heartpouring and the fundraisers for aid to Africa. They don’t work. Force is needed, you wimpy communists. Sangala is sadly resigned to the same African default stereotype reserved for all celluloid experiences with African politics.
20) But thank god for the American peace-keepers. Policing the world. This is the crux of 24’s political focus this season. This is an apologist, an excuser for America going into other countries, invading them, replacing the regime and starting their own martial law. Cos these nations need America’s intervention. The subplot of America invading Sangala to restore ‘perfect democracy’ to their streets is symbolic of their work all over the world, because, and this is mentioned a few times in snitty asides, the UN isn’t working. So, Sangala, you representative of Africa on film- prepare for the military smackdown.
21) So far, only episode 4 allows Jack to change into standard-issue black top and black trousers. No sign of a Jack-pack yet.
22) Jack’s memory for retaining old CTU codes, protocols, informants, files and passwords is uncanny.
23) Bill Buchanon is now a stone-cold silver fox.
24) It’s been four episodes (4 hours- including some 6-7 minute ad breaks I noticed) and the closest Jack has got to torturing anyone has been to ominously wave a biro close to someone’s eye as if to gouge it out. Any other torture is offscreen. The creators aren’t excusing the methods employed to extract information but are now being sensitive about presenting it, for our benefit. And anyway, the guy who Jack threatens to torture has an accent so irritatingly undefinable (Scottish or German or American or Welsh or Mongolian) that you're secretly willing Jack to slip the biro into his eyeball and eat it like an olive.

I may have become desensitised.

Four episodes in and I’m hooked, in spite of the above. Charlie Brooker wrote a better version of this article.

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