It's amazing how 24, working within the framework of its ticking-clock structure, still manages to find ways to deepen its characters and relationships through action. And Kiefer Sutherland, having lived with the character of Jack Bauer for almost 15 years, has yet to phone it in. He’s still discovering new colors within the character.
I went back and looked at last week’s episode and noticed an obvious sign that should’ve told me Heller was still alive that I can’t believe I missed. The clock, when ticking down the final seconds of the hour, wasn’t silent. Granted, the “Next Week On …” trailer pretty much lied to us by having the narrator intone something to the effect of “… on the worst day in this nation’s history.” No matter. Jack got Chloe to hack into Margot’s computer feed and trace where her location was. (Anyone else think of Speed at the moment Margot’s son figured what had happened?) I wasn’t entirely sure how exactly Chloe did what she did, but it didn’t matter. This hour of 24 was so brazenly confident in its storytelling that you just had to strap in and enjoy the ride. Even Heller was a little confused at what was going on. When he tried to take charge again, Jack wasn’t having it. Jack said, “Let me do what I know how to do.” And with that, we were off.
Margot was fooled long enough by Jack and Chloe’s ruse to dump five of the six drones she had under her control. Enraged by Heller’s deception, she ordered the remaining drone to head straight for London, specifically, Waterloo Station. This put Jack on the clock with the full cooperation of the CIA, the RAF, Boudreau, and anyone else who could offer assistance.
The led to the centerpiece action sequence of the episode. Unlike the car chase from a couple episodes ago, the shootout and cat-and-mouse hunt for Margot’s precise location was a terrifically sustained piece of action moviemaking. Director Milan Cheylov does some nice close-quarter handheld camerawork, especially when Jack is working his way up several flights of stairs to get to Margot’s hideout. The score by Sean Callery during this sequence had a thrumming, Tangerine Dream–like intensity. Jack managed to stop the drone from destroying Waterloo Station in a classic bit of 24 keyboard precision. Margot looked particularly pathetic as she continued to taunt Jack even when she was in custody. She sneered, “Hundreds of people died because of you and Heller … Their deaths are on your head!” Then, in a shocking moment that had echoes of Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables, Jack pulled an Eliot Ness and threw Margot out the window. “The only death tonight on my head is yours!” he snarled. We can debate the murky morality of the moment, but there’s no denying the immediacy of it. Jack Bauer had done our dirty work. Again.
Seeing as the Margot Al-Harazi story line was resolved at the 30-minute mark, we knew there was going to be a new development. In a full season, this kind of restarting of the show would take place at the halfway point of the season, but this truncated season has forced the writers to have the secondary story waiting in the wings. Benjamin Bratt’s Navarro finally entered center stage as a villain, and I think we can agree that he’s probably more hateful than Margot, if only because he’s more of a nuisance. His spineless bureaucratic maneuverings are in a long tradition of 24 upper-management weasels. We still don’t know why he set up Morgan’s husband by trading secrets to the Chinese, and I guess it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that both Morgan and Jack are stating to suspect him.
Just as Jack’s personal story comes to a close with the swift dispatch of Margot, Morgan’s is starting to ramp up. Her discovering of Reed’s death led to Yvonne Strahovski doing some nice, subtle acting as she tries to maintain her composure while investigating her friend’s death. Navarro, realizing that it’s only a matter of time before they figure out the cleaner he sent to kill Reed was working for him, reaches out to Adrian Cross and asks for an immediate exit strategy. Cross tells him the price will be the override device that Jack has just delivered from Margot’s hideout. And as the hour came to a close, we got one of those trademark evasive foot chases as Navarro operated in plain sight of his colleagues. Will Morgan get some Jack-style revenge for what Navarro did to her, her husband, and her friend? Is Chloe being set up to die for Jack’s sins? (Seeing her with Cross can’t be a good sign.) I don’t know, but at the moment 24 is easily the best thing to watch on Monday nights.