24: Season 8, Episode 18
9:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m.
For the first time all season tonight, 24 had me fairly riveted. And for the first time all season, I actually cared, when the final second was ticked off, what would happen next week. Last week was a piece setter in a lot of ways, an I concluded with my excitement for the way the pieces had been set up. Overall, the show has seriously botched the majority of this season, but it looks like it may turn things around in time for the final few hours. The elements that are likely to produce some compelling plot lines have finally been moved to the forefront and the more ridiculous stuff is being marginalized as much as possible.

Because I am so happy with so much of this episode, let's for once start with the few things I didn't like before turning toward what worked this week. For one thing, I have to comment on the still cheap way that Renee was shuffled off this mortal coil. I accept at this point that it was the only way to get Jack to go dark and turn against the world at a moment's notice, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a cheap story contrivance that actually works to lessen the impact of the previous sacrifices Jack has made on this show, the ones that actually mattered for more than just plot mobility. There were only two other little things that bugged me this week, and both were so minor as to seem like irritations in comparison to the glaring errors and inconsistencies I've become used to this season. Getting Ethan Kanin back on his feet just hours after he had a serious cardiac event and almost died is unrealistic, but only in real world terms. On 24's clock, that sort of development is expected and it makes story sense to bring the President's conscience back just when she is about to compromise all of her morals. In fact, it makes so much dramatic sense that I can barely call it a flaw that Ethan leap frogged his likely months-long recovery in just a few hours. The other thing I ranted about last week, but its just entirely implausible that Dahlia Hassan could be taking power, and this week stretched credulity further when they showed footage of women marching in the streets. In as radical and unstable a place as the IRK is purported to be, there is no way that women would be taking to the streets at all, regardless of the issue. But again, this is a small point, that didn't really detract from my enjoyment of the episode.

What worked best this week was President Taylor's painstaking ethical struggle and eventual moral compromise, and it was nothing short of compelling. Watching her dance around with Charles Logan was a pleasure once again, but watching her take steps toward the sort of compromise he made in his time in office created probably the best scene of the season. As Ethan begged her to show some reason, some sense of justice, she coldly realized that the best thing to do was refuse Jack, Dahlia Hassan, and the American people the truth they so richly deserved. President Taylor has never been particularly well written as a character, and tonight was no exception. Yet Cherry Jones, who is always excellent and usually underused, played the President's conflict and heartbreaking decision to the hilt, and watching her cross paths with the unhinged Jack created another excellent scene.

As for Jack, he rocketed through the episode with as much dark force as I had hoped to see based on last week's promise. After extorting a man by threatening his family, he slapped Dana Walsh around with as much abandon as Nicolas Cage in The Wicker Man before shouting down the President and stealing a helicopter. If I paused for a moment, I could point out how ridiculous all of this is, yet the episode's pacing (hearkening back to better days on 24) never let me stop for long enough to think about how easy it would have been for someone, anyone to stop Jack from stealing that helicopter and put this whole thing to rest. Instead, I was left rooting for Jack's improbable but inevitable escape. Because 24 is never better than when it pits Jack against the world, and while getting here has been an immense trial, it looks like the show might not make me regret spending this last 24 hours with it. The show is never more successful than when it leaves me wondering, "How will Jack get out of this?" and tonight's episode did just that. I mean, I'm pretty sure Jack can't just kill everyone in New York City, and President Taylor's Administration, and Russia, and maybe the IRK. Right?

Grade: B+


-As I wrote this review I sometimes had to fight to keep my enthusiasm for tonight's episode as high as it was when the credits rolled, but honestly this was the most fun I've had watching the show all year, and for that, tonight's episode earned its grade.

-"Sir, are you going to be all right?" I just imagine Jack replying, "I'm covered in the blood of my recently dead girlfriend, who really only died to feed my rage so the show wouldn't stagnate for its last few weeks. How do you think I am?"

-Gregory Itzin is still excellent as Logan, and I'm really glad they brought him back. And hey, Reed Diamond got to talk this week. Bonus Points!
Tags: 24
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