Sunday, January 11, 2009

24 Season 7: Hours 1 and 2, One of the Best Premieres Ever

One of the best 24 premieres in years - maybe the best - with Jack pulled out of a Senate hearing, looking into charges that he tortured suspects when he was working for CTU. And, in fact, CTU has been disbanded.

Renee Walker, FBI, and one of the best women ever on 24, is the agent who takes Jack away from the Senate. (I was half looking for Roland Burris standing outside, the scene was so good.) The bad guys have kidnapped a government computer whiz - in a smashing first scene - and he's been forced to put the finishing touches on a device that will allow the bad guys to break into traffic control, the power and water grids of the country, all of the things that could kill millions and bring the country to its knees. And - Tony Almeida is one of the bad guys in charge (and good to see Carlos Bernard back, even as a bad guy).

This had been well announced, and came as no surprise, but it was still very well played. And the question remains: Is Tony really bad? In tonight's two hours, he stops short of causing any death to innocent people - he does order the killing of a bad guy who was about to talk - and this leaves open the possibility that either Tony is not completely bad, or maybe he's working under some deep cover.

If so, Jack certainly doesn't know about this. There are some great scenes between Jack and Renee (Annie Wersching looks and sounds great in this role - she and Kiefer Sutherland are fine and powerful together), as Renee first makes Jack promise he won't resort to his usual tactics with suspects, but then encourages him, sort of, because she realizes that in life-and-death situations, you may need to do more, or, at least threaten to do more, than FBI rules allow.

The torture-issue thread was very carefully developed in the first two hours, as follows: (1) Renee makes it clear that she wants Jack to come to the interrogation because the target knows what Jack was capable of, so Jack's being there would convey the implicit threat of torture. (2) When the target refuses to talk, Jack asks Renee if he has permission to go further, saying it's her call, and she agrees - all of this in front of the target. (3) Jack puts a pen to the target's eye, and he agrees to talk. (4) Later, Renee asks Jack how far we he would proceeded with the pen, and Jack says you gave me permission. (5) But Renee says she was only play-acting, to jolt the subject into talking...

This will clearly be a continuing theme in the show, and a rejoinder to Keith Olbermann and others who are sure, with their eyes closed, that 24 glorifies torture. (Olbermann was wrong, in any case, to say 24 got its marching orders from the Bush administration. Torture on 24 was only used when terrorists were about to blow up a big city, and not for routine questioning of prisoners as per Bush.)

Larry Moss, Renee's boss, speaks for the FBI. He may have some feelings for Renee, and he certainly doesn't like Jack. I don't trust him. And I couldn't help noticing that he said "three" people had been killed by the sniper when Jack and Renee were questioning a suspect - when, in fact, only two were killed.

There's definitely a double agent at the FBI. We see at least one. And I wouldn't be shocked if Larry is another.

Meanwhile, in presumably other matters, the President's son - whom we saw in Redemption - has apparently committed suicide. But the President's husband - the "first gentlemen" - doesn't believe it, and there's almost no way he can't be right. It's not clear what President Allison Taylor thinks about this. She has her hands more than full with an imminent U.S. intervention in Sangala, where we saw Jack in Redemption.

This was a powerhouse premiere, with lots of nice of touches. When Jack leaves the Senate hearing, the Chair says he'll be due back at the hearing "tomorrow morning." My wife and I immediately noticed this. "Tomorrow" in 24 time, but next year in television season time. And, if tonight's two-hour pace is any indication, it will seem like just a handful of heart-pounding minutes.

See also: review of Redemption

And ... Season 7, Hours 3 and 4 ... Hour 5

6-min podcast review of 24 7 Hrs 1-2

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