Friday, November 28, 2008

24 Still Seeks Redemption

After the mess that was 24's 6th Season, it's clear the producers wanted to shake things up. But in the 2-hour TV-movie Redemption, the only reminders that you're watching 24 are from the clock, the split-screen, and the presence of Kiefer Sutherland. After various scenes about child soldiers, we find Jack has left LA for the fictional African country of Sengala. It seems he's been traveling around the world, avoiding a subpoena for a Congressional hearing and everything from the past 6 seasons. He's now helping his Special Forces buddy, Carl Benton (The Full Monty's Robert Carlyle) run a school for annoyingly cute kids. When General Juma (Candyman Tony Todd) and Colonel Dubaku (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) try to take the kids as soldiers, Jack Bauer wakes up and fights back.

Raising awareness about the horrors of child soldiers is all well and good (though having them shout cock-a-roach just brings up Tony Montana), but it doesn't really have any place on 24. Gone for a year and a half, 24 needed to remind us of what it does and who Jack Bauer is. Jack may have been steadily losing his humanity, but a warmer, gooeier Jack Bauer doesn't bring it back. Not until around 45 minutes in when he kills a guy with his feet do we remember this is Jack Bauer, terrorist-killing superhero. In that respect, Carlyle seems particularly ill-used as the nice, quiet, forgettable character, when he could have been Jack's equally badass partner.

Much like the beginning of season 4, the movie chose to keep Jack pretty much the only returning character (Daniels and Tom Lennox don't count). But since 24 has a spotty record on introducing new characters, few of them made an impression. The exception is the Washington DC subplot, in which new president Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) is sworn in. Outgoing President Daniels made Bush's approach to the transition look really good with his creepy, scotch-swilling advice for Taylor. Can't say I'm sad to see him go. And while the storyline about her son Roger (Eric Lively, brother of Gossip Girl's Blake) is basically how every season of 24 starts, I'm still intrigued. I'm sure Taylor will butt heads with Jack for awhile, but she seems like a promising new addition. Unlike Jon Voight's head baddie, who so far is just like any number of forgettable 24 villains.

At its best, the special reminded me why I should be excited for a new season of 24. The split-screens, the clock, Kiefer Sutherland's real time announcement, it all brought back good memories. And in some ways, the attempt to do something different made me miss regular 24 all the more. Of course, more than any other piece of entertainment, 24 really was the defining show of the Bush era, premiering directly after September 11th. 24's world is one in which the terrorist threat is extreme enough that no measures are too strong to stop it. While I think the idea that people only want happy things in an Obama presidency is ridiculous, it will be interesting to see how 24 reacts to a post-Bush America. Regardless of quality, Redemption left me ready to see what comes next.

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