Compared to the emotional rollercoaster of last week’s hour of 24, the latest installment was more transitional. It wasn’t filler, but you could feel we were being set up for things that’ll pay off later. It was the quieter character moments that kept things moving. We’re at the show’s halfway mark, and it’s turning out to be a consistently good day.
The fallout of Margot’s drone strike is felt immediately. Stephen Fry’s Prime Minister Davies is understandably upset at another major miscalculation by President Heller and his staff. With support from the British PM growing very thin, Heller is forced to put Jack in the field. (The first smart thing he’s done all day.) The scene where Jack lays out his demands is a beaut. On a conference call with Morgan and Navarro (who miraculously survived the drone strike), Jack says, “I’m gonna need a car, unmarked, civilian. A clean phone with a scrambled caller, field interrogation kit, and a small weapons package.” (I love the “field interrogation kit.” I wonder if it includes a first-aid kit.) When Jack requests Morgan to be assigned to him and is informed that she’s been taken out of the field by Navarro, Heller barks, “Jack wants her, Jack needs her, Jack gets her.” And that’s what’s best for everyone: Whatever Jack wants, Jack should get.
The pairing of Jack and Morgan is quite exciting. Jack senses she’s capable of handling herself if things go south and improvisation is required. His only play is a Hail Mary as he plans to reach out to arms dealer Karl Rask (Aksel Hennie) to get a fix on Margot’s location. Jack informs Morgan that Rask can’t be bought or broken. When she asks how he knows this, he says, “For the last two years I’ve been working for him.” This startles both Morgan and us as we realize Jack is pretty much at the end of the line. This really does feel like his final mission. Jack’s plan is to drug Morgan and pass her off as the handler of one of Rask’s other cohorts in the hopes that Rask won’t think Jack is a traitor. He tells her there is a possibility they could wind up dead. Right before he drugs her, she says, “Just make it count.”
But just when Jack and Morgan are finally paired up and the president gets with the program, bureaucratic miscommunications and second-guessing creates conflict. PM Davies’s version of Mark Boudreau, a woman we’ll simply refer to as Female Mark from here on out, informs Davies about Heller’s medical condition. Later, Female Mark informs Davies that Heller has put Jack back in the field. So, instead of confronting Heller with this development, Davies decides to put a team of MI-5 agents on Jack and Morgan. It’s this kind of depiction of backroom maneuvering and ego that drives 24 fans crazy.
Rask is not happy to see Jack. He decides he’ll check out his story by waking Morgan and having his men do their own interrogation on her. This leads to this season’s first bona fide torture scene. In the hierarchy of 24 torture scenes, this one was surprisingly mild. Maybe that’s because Yvonne Strahovski has really stepped up at portraying Morgan as a tough-as-nails field agent, so there really wasn’t much suspense in whether she’ll break. Indeed, the scene had a masochistic feel, as if she were being punished for not knowing that her husband was a traitor.
Morgan’s resolve was contrasted quite effectively with Simone’s growing doubt about her mother’s mission. The discovery of a message from Naveed’s sister about his urging her to get out of the city caused Margot to send her to see what Naveed’s sister knew. Simone’s meeting with Naveed’s sister is given a cruel touch by having her little niece show up. Despite her (rightfully) feeling that Naveed’s sister doesn’t know anything, Margot orders Simone to kill her and the little girl. Emily Berrington has done a fine job of letting us see Simone’s slow awakening to just how far gone her mother has become. Her mounting sense of dread carries us pass some of the weaker moments, like her final scene chasing after the little girl. We’ve seen this kind of awakening consciousness in flawed characters before on 24, but the truncated season has given it a palpable charge of desperation
The best scene was the brief conversation between Mark and Jack. Preparing to go back into the field, Jack is surprised when Mark comes in to let him know everything is ready for him. We think the scene is going to be a dick-measuring contest between the two, but it wisely avoids that. Mark is curious about what Jack and Audrey discussed, and tells Jack he’s worried about what his presence will do to her emotionally. Jack, still shaken up from seeing Audrey after so many years, puts his fears to rest by saying, “Mr. Boudreau, if I live through this — which, by the way, is highly unlikely — I’m going straight to prison.” Tate Donovan’s reaction shot to this statement is wonderfully understated. Before walking out, Jack says, “I asked her if she was happy. She said she was. She said you were good.” And with that, we get another fine example of Jack’s selflessness, as 24 is the chronicle of a flawed man trying to do the right thing and the world continually knocking him down for it.
Odds & Ends
- The conversation Mark had with the Russian authorities following his encounter with Jack did a nice job of setting up his dilemma of protecting Jack or covering his ass. That’s a classic Tate Donovan dilemma.
- The shout-out between the MI-5 agents and Rask’s goons was rather routine. What saved it was the slapstick business of needing to push the “Enter” button on the keyboard in order for Chloe to trace his bank records. (Am I the only one who had a flashback to Whoopi Goldberg in Jumping Jack Flash?)
- The final scene revealing Navarro as some kind of mole or double agent was both predictable and the WTF moment of the season so far. Maybe Benjamin Bratt will finally be allowed to cut loose and play the asshole he seems itching to portray.