24: Season 8, Episodes 15 and 16
6:00 a.m.-8:00 a.m.
Its truly sad to watch one of the most innovative shows of the last decade reduced to a bland, formulaic shadow of its former self. Yet that is seemingly how 24 will meet its end; not with a bang, but a whimper. Two-hour events used to be something to celebrate on this show, but now they just put all of this season's flaws in even starker contrast. The characters are mostly flat and boring, the plotline contrived and rehashed (when it even bothers to make sense), and at this point there is little to no chance that Season 8 will redeem itself. This show deserved to go out strong, as a testament to the often poignant thrill-ride it was during its first few seasons, and it is a minor tragedy to see it end like this.

The episode opened with a bunh of melodramatic montages, from Hassan seeing the people his sacrifice would save to all of the major characters looking gravely at their screens and awaiting a detonation. Niether of these worked particularly well because they were both heavy handed and laid their meanings on entirely too thickly. Any audience member with half a brain knew why Hassan was giving himself up, and showing innocent people walking by made it a little too obvious to effectively underscore his intentions. What followed was 24 contrivance after 24 contrivance as Dana "the mole" Walsh helps Tarin avoid the ambush, Tarin careens off the roof of a parking garage (I'm pretty sure Jack has done that before and been fine, but ok...), Hassan is magically transported to another car, and ends up in the hands of Samir, who wants to broadcast his execution over the internet. You know, like they have in the last several seasons.

The one portion about that development that should have worked (that Samir actually managed to kill Hassan) failed simply because there was no other story alternative. There was no possible way even the desperately out of touch writers of this show could have thought the audience cared enough about Hassan to drive even the next few hours worth of tension, so there was not much suspense over what would happen. Also, it wouldn't have made any sense for the terrorists to keep him alive for any period at all if their ultimate goal was stopping the peace process, so barring a contrivance so awful its below even where this show has sunk, Hassan couldn't last. With the bomb threat neutralized, the terrorists seemingly surrounded, and eight hours left on the clock, there was no way Hassan wouldn't get killed, which made his death far less effective, if no less poignant (and bringing back the silent clock that has always signified a major death on 24 was a very nice touch that worked to make the death hit home with more emotion).

At the same time though, this is the sort of gamut that I expect the show to pull around hour 22, leading nicely into a finale where at vengeful Jack tracks down and kills off Samir, while draped in an American flag and flanked by machine-gun toting bald eagles. As is, the show doesn't really have anywhere to go from here, and the last thing this season needs is to get more aimless than it already is at this point.

That being said, there were some things that worked about these episodes, and more of those than we've seen in a few weeks. The car chase with Tarin worked very well as a setpiece, and even though the magic disappearing Hassan didn't really make sense that sort of plothole is vintage 24 and I was immediately willing to accept it. The parking garage shoot out was pretty exciting as well (weird that the major action setpieces were both in parking garages, but then again its unrealistic to expect any sort of originality from the show at this point), though it was partially ruined by the continued hamminess of Katie Sackhoff, whose Dana Walsh has quickly become a charicature of Nina Meyers, the classic mole from Season One. Her 180 into evil psychopath is just bad writing, as is Cole's reactive 180 which has him leaping immediately from incredulity ("my fiance couldn't possibly...") to vengeful ire ("You lying bitch I'll kill you!") in the span of about two seconds.

But pause for a second to realize there's pretty much no place for the show to go from here. The bomb is out of play, the mole has been caught, the hostage is dead, and Samir has maybe one minion left based on Dana's estimates. Sure, the Russian guy who was clumsily introduced tonight is clearly behind everything (a. Because all TV Russians are evil, and b. Because President Taylor made it way too clear that the treaty was against his interests) and apparently Charles Logan is back again next week for some reason, but what is there really left to care about? I'll be here next week to find out, but I'm honestly mostly dreading what's coming.

Grade: C


-Throw away lines that were evidence of lazy writing tonight: "The only reason I'm still here is because I gave President Taylor my word that I would protect President hassan." Sure, Jack. That and because there are 8 hours left. My other favorite was Hastings' claim that Dana's cover up was "not an easy task." Please. A trained monkey could infiltrate CTU, which actually might happen as a wacky filler subplot in these last 8 hours.

-Actually, I think an untrained monkey could infiltrate CTU. Training it would be a waste of resources.

-I may have said it before, but drink every time someone on this show gets immunity. President Taylor has probably signed more immunity agreements than bills into law...
Tags: 24
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