Tuesday, April 03, 2007

It's Just A Question Of How Much You Want It To Hurt

24 Season 5

I'm not entirely sure why I keep watching this show. In a lot of ways it's pretty stupid. There are only so many times in twenty four episodes you can think of new and exciting scenarios in which Jack Bauer has twenty minutes to save the president's dog from terrorists. Yet somehow it manages to deliver some good action and enough interesting plot twists for the better part of every episode, so it's worth sitting through the occasional scene where Keifer Sutherland emerges from the flames of a burning building while bombastic, patriotic music swells in the background to get to the good parts.

This has been one of the better seasons, with plenty of good twists and turns in the plot and a surprising ending. Not only does it end in a cliffhanger for the first time, it also doesn't reveal the true identities of the terrorist masterminds, who remain at large for more shenanigans next year.

The frustrating thing about the series is how although it deals with real political issues, namely terrorism and how to deal with it, it never actually offers any kind of insight to or commentary on these topics. This would be fine if they were merely offering a nonpartisan presentation of the imagined possibilities, but the writers actually seem to have little more in mind than smugly attempting to push the buttons of both liberals and conservatives.

I'd imagine the conservatives would have more to be offended by in this season. While the show seems to display a strong authoritarian bias (not an episode goes by without a terrorist suspect being tortured while being gleefully informed by Bauer that his civil rights are currently meaningless), it's hard to look past this year's mid season revelation that defined the story arc; that the terrorists are being directed by no less than the president of the USA as part of a plan to secure oil supplies.

As amusing as this was, and for all the schadenfreude gained from Gregory Itzen's performance as the president (sure he looks just like Nixon, but surely any resemblance between this gormless weakling suddenly thrust out of his depth and into a position of responsibility he is in no way suited for and any current US president you may think of is purely coincidental), the writing is just a bit too snide and it grates, even when it's reinforcing your own prejudices.

The character of Jack Bauer is similarly problematic. It's hard to empathise with his plight in being forced to torture his girlfriend when his fanatical willingness to do whatever it takes for the past four years incline the viewer to believe that he's secretly rather enjoying it.

But hey, you know I'll end up watching the next season all the same.

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