Monday, November 24, 2008

Wanton, unapologetic Spoiler Alert.

At the beginning of 24: Redemption, which I watched last night, the screen says: "The following takes place in real time," and it says it completely without irony, given that after this episode, the show takes a two month break, no doubt well-deserved after the two-year CTU-free intermission we've recently enjoyed out in tv wasteland.

Jack Bauer is in Africa (!) in that famously war-ravaged country of Senegala or Sri Kanya or Mozamboku or something, and there is about to be a military coup. Will Jack stop the coup? No -he's busy saving the children of Africa and, no, he doesn't save all of the children of Africa, though you might expect he'd try if given enough time, which is that elusive little thing that he never has. Twenty minutes or so into the television "event", our hero is strung up in a jungle shed and being tortured until it looks like he's going to break, sobbing and blithering until he reveals everything he knows; everything from where the children are hiding to the Pentagon secrets to Season 7 plot points and the color of Tony Almeda's gym shorts, but he escapes with the old break-the-torturer's-neck-with-the-legs routine. Genius! I guess the writers had to rough him up early on to get him good and mad for the next twenty-three and a half hours, for which they are also saving their own creative powers.

Mrs. Ditchman noted how hot he was, at about this point. She couldn't put her finger on what it was, exactly. She mentioned something about his masculine physique. If I had pointed out that a stoic hero of Jack Bauer's magnitude would probably be no less helpful around the house than yours truly, I'm sure I would have gotten the line, You're no Jack Bauer, honey. Uh, no. I'm not.

Because if I were, you'd be dead by now, honey. All of Jack's friends and family are dead, or mostly dead. (It's their most defining trait!) Early on in Redemption we meet a guy who's a friend of Jack's -old special forces buddy- and this guy seems like a real winner; really looking out for Jack, wants the best for him, wants the torture within to be easier than the torture without, etc. But an hour later they're all escaping with the African children and the guy steps on that heretofore unnoticed dramatic plot device, the land mine. After an emotional exchange, ("Go on without me! There's no time!") Jack turns tearfully and leaves his sorrowful buddy behind, standing there immobilized in the jungle. Minutes later in the distance: Boom. The sound of closure in a Jack Bauer relationship.

A bad guy came on screen. I recognized him from the red beret. Then another bad guy came on screen. Mrs. Ditchman recognized him from General Hospital. She said "he was bad on that show, too" so the poor bastard was typecast, but hey there's a paycheck in it. (Or perhaps she was referring to his theatric abilities.) And then there's the new president, who may be bad or good -we don't know. She (yes, she) is about to be sworn in at the inauguration, so any political maneuvering can't be dramatically instituted until she takes the oath later on in the show. Meanwhile, Lame Duck President is having his last oval office whiskey while plotting the opposite of whatever it was she was plotting (there's a coup brewing in some African nation, remember?) They meet. They talk. They admit nothing. They smile menacingly. And then he gives her the notebook with all the presidential secrets. Seriously folks, it's all in a notebook. With a metal cover. (But not the codes, he says. Evidently, that's a different notebook.) Anyway, I was glad to see they got a new president. This show has had ten American presidents in the past seven years and I, nor evidently anyone else in the writer's guild, don't see any reason to stop electing new ones now.

So Jack escapes Africa with the children but in order to cover the cost of the iconic evacuate-the-embassy helicopter ride, he must give in to the bureaucrats and agree to suffer the torturous fulfillment of a congressional subpoena on torture. Earlier in the show he took a white hot machete to the ear and moments later he was on the phone, but he fought bravely against giving in to that subpoena. It was for the kids' freedom that he relented -for the kids! He didn't have a choice. In the end, they all escaped on the helicopter which should have just picked them up out in the jungle an hour earlier. Other refugee children were left at the gates, arms outstretched between the bars. Jack looked down as the chopper lifted off. He couldn't save them all, dammit, but he did what he could. Our forlorn hero.

Great show! The Season 7 promo alone looked better than all of Season 6, but a world with a nuked Valencia is probably an easier venue for a good thriller. I'm looking forward to it! It showed Jack in DC and I fretted over the fact that the first twelve hours of the season were going to be on an airplane, but then Mrs. Ditchman explained to me that this was a 24 "event" and not officially bound to the parameters of the new season -so they have the liberty to reset the clock. Whew. (But will six hours of next season take place at a congressional hearing? Tune in for non-stop Jack Bauer action!)

If you missed it, the DVD for 24: Redemption comes out tomorrow because, hey, Christmas is coming.

(Incidentally, Season 7 begins on Sunday, January 11th -the week before the real inauguration. Coincidence? I think not. Coinkeydink? Yes.)