24 Retrospective: Day 8

Welcome back to my 24 Retrospective, here on The Pop Break. At this point you should have realized that 24 was on TV for a long time. Though if you ask me, it probably should have stopped after its fifth or sixth season. But Day 5’s viewership was too crazy good to convince Fox and the producers otherwise. Nevermind that we found out the show’s bag of tricks was empty the following season. The first five seasons used the best plot elements, and the writers kept reusing them afterwards to diminishing effect.

Day 8 is no exception to this problem. While the focus on protecting President Omar Hassan (Anil Kapoor) of Kamistan (a fictional country like Sangala) is a nice throwback to Day 1, the plot refuses to stay that simple and throws a dirty bomb into the mix. FYI, a dirty bomb is a type of radiological weapon. I hope you see a pattern. Every even-numbered season features a nuclear threat by Middle Eastern terrorists (technically Day 4’s are Turkish). Compared to other seasons, the idea is not even exciting anymore. The dirty bomb plot is Snoozeville. That’s shocking to say for 24. Even the weaker storylines in the past have been interesting.

This season takes place in New York City, by the way. The transition to Washington worked better, because at least some of it was shot there. This season they try to pass off LA as New York with an ugly gray color pallete. Some of the effects look cheap too. Day 3’s helicopter chase blows this one’s out of the water.

Even though Kiefer Sutherland is only in his mid-40s at this point in the series, his age definitely shows. Not in his physicality. He still kicks butt. I mean his appearance. He doesn’t look like a grandfather though, which is what Jack is. Though brief, his relationship with Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) and his granddaughter Teri (Claire Geare) is one of the bright moments on the season. Part of me would have liked to see more of it, but then again, it would have been annoying to see them in danger.

Day 8 reintroduces some big characters. Besides President Taylor (Cherry Jones), Renee Walker (Annie Wersching), formerly FBI, also returns. To say she’s different would be an understatement. She uncovered the conspiracy from last season at a huge personal cost. Now she’s essentially a female Jack Bauer, though an unstable one. The show tries to draw sympathy from us, and her abuse by the Russian mob certainly is sad, but she’s unlikable based on how far off the deep end she’s gone.

Day 8 also brings back Charles Logan. He’s much more outwardly villainous though. His quest for redemption (not to be confused with the TV movie) in Day 6 intrigued me more and his appearance in this really undercuts it. But it’s hard to not be entertained by actor Gregory Itzin. The second half of the season goes off the rails, veering into territory that’s hard to believe, even for 24, but it excites way more than the first half.

The biggest tradeoff is that characters do questionable things. Logan drags down President Taylor in their attempt to cover up the Russians’ involvement in Hassan’s assassination. The idea that she would give up her own daughter but conspire with the clearly untrustworthy Logan is hard to swallow, but I at least see how this is her effort to bring peace. But I don’t think Cherry Jones, who won an Emmy for the previous season, liked the change.

Jack also goes off the deep end even more than Renee when the Russians kill her. The idea of their relationship is that they’re both broken people, but it’s meh. We’ve already seen Jack’s love ones hurt to the point where it’s cliché.

Fortunately, Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) pulls back Jack before he starts World War III and Taylor confesses her crimes. And Jack looks at the drone in the sky before running off, now wanted by the Russians and the rest of the world.

As an ending, what we get here isn’t the most refined but I like the emotional sendoff between Chloe and Jack. The music makes it too; Sean Callery won his third Emmy for the finale. And the clock counting down to zero instead of ending on the hour is a nice touch.

So, that’s it for 24. Right?

Jack’s Onscreen Kills: 38

Jack has some brutal kills in this season, including one with an ax and his execution of Renee’s murderer. Seriously, it’s so bad that Fox threw up the “Viewer discretion is advised” slate right before it, if I’m not mistaken. As long as they move the camera and keep some of it offscreen, apparently it flies.

Silent Clock(s): “Day 8: 7:00am-8:00am” at 7:59:57am, accompanied by the cries of Hassan’s family; “Day 8: 8:00am-9:00am” at 8:59:57am, accompanied by Jack crying and music

There are Silent Clocks in consecutive episodes. Discounting the end the Day 6 finale and Redemption, that hasn’t happened until now. The first marks the death of Omar Hassan after he sacrifices himself as ransom for the dirty bomb. Hassan has a dictatorial streak in him, but it’s a noble death. He’s the only non-American to receive a Silent Clock. But don’t worry. He was reincarnated as India’s Jack Bauer in that country’s 24 remake.

The other is pretty straightforward, commemorating Renee’s death.

Kim Bauer Moment(s): Hasan has an affair with a reporter; NYPD tortures Jack; Dana Walsh (Katee Sackhoff) has a secret life

Even though Hasan dies a hero, he put us through a needless plotline where he cheats on his wife, all but ending their marriage. It’s not the worst, but it’s only there to cause conflict when his wife has to take up his mantle. As for the others, they’re complete wastes of time meant only to pad the season. Two cops show up at a crime scene and think Jack killed a fellow cop. They torture him because they’re afraid he’ll get off easy. Ugh. It’s dumb.

A figure from Dana Walsh’s past blackmailing her is painful. And the writers think that if she is actually a mole that makes it OK. Seriously, we’re doing that again?! You can’t just redo Nina Myers over and over. At least in Day 5 the mole in CTU was exposed in like two episodes and was just being used. But I guess I shouldn’t compare that clever and hilarious subversion to this. Dana Walsh meets her end at Jack’s hands, but even that somehow does not feel satisfying.

“Damn It” Count: 12, with an average DPE of 0.5

Day 8 features the fewest instances of Jack Bauer saying his go-to line.

Aaron Sarnecky is The Pop Break’s Television Editor and covers Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., among other things. He is a TV/Film grad of Rowan University and the fraternal twin of staff writer Josh Sarnecky. He probably remembers that show you forgot existed.