24 gets better over time. They get a great deal of dramatic mileage out of the basic real-time premise of the show. It generates great focus and tension, but that narrow frame also boxes the show in. Writing against that real-time frame is exceptionally tricky.
They're getting better and better at that now with experience, though. The show has famously had issues with pacing, setting off a nuclear bomb just halfway into the season, for example. Now though, they've figured out how to write strong pre-stories to set up the main line. Thus, at the end of the two-night four-hour season opening shotgun, we're only in the last scene getting to WMDs even being involved.
The pre-show this year started with killing off several long-running characters in the series, notably President David Palmer, our favorite Allstate salesman. This stuff also is a bonus over earlier seasons. Basically, it doesn't mean much to whack a bunch of video game looking characters whose names we don't know. They're taking the dramatic payoff now for years of writer and audience investment in these characters.
This housecleaning was a good idea. Palmer is my favorite character from the series, but he was done. He'd been candidate, then president, then ex-president being drug back in. His time was come, and we get strong drama out of it. Likewise, Tony Alameda and Michelle Dessler were about played out.
It has clearly emerged that Chloe is the hottest babe ever on 24. They really filled this character out considerably last season, and she is Miss Thing. She may be socially awkward, but the girl's got a lot of heart. Admittedly, though, she probably shouldn't have been correcting her director that she had committed more than two dozen protocol violations when he was guessing six.
Also, so far this is considerably more reasonable and plausible than some of the historic plot lines of the series. That cheesy prison break from a couple seasons ago leaps to mind as particularly ludicrous. A handful of terrorists grabbing a piece of airport terminal seems considerably more believable.
Also, they appear to be working with some kind of nerve gas this year, rather than nuclear weapons. That's easier to believe, easier to work with. It's more likely- and thus perhaps scarier. Plus, it would probably in practice be just as deadly.
Only thing bad so far in Day 5, we haven't had any really good villains. They've been pretty perfunctory. Particularly, we could really use a hot crazy psycho chick. Those gals have really made the show, particularly Dina Araz as the crazy killer mom last season, and of course the wicked Nina Myers.
One particularly nice little twist is the addition of this new Lynn character from division, sent to ride herd over local director Buchanan. He's just showing up, so it remains to be seen how he plays out as a full blooded character.
But he made a really strong first move that plays directly against the usual type. He's presented out of the box as a polite but rigid bureaucrat who is explicitly described as routinely slowing things down. This kind of character is the frequent butt of jokes, and a point of opposition for the good guys to overcome. Indeed, these clueless higher ups moving in and taking over operations from the knowing guys on the ground gets people killed. Think back, for example, to the FBI agents in Die Hard.
However, it is exactly Lynn's meticulous bureaucratic thinking that absolutely saved the first part of the day. The office is all chomping at the bit to rush this airport, except that he has put a hold on it to read the background rather than trusting the local boss. It was precisely his bureaucratic mindset that prevented a huge massacre in that airport.
So far then, we've gotten a strong setup for Day 5. We've cleaned house of some good characters, brought Jack back into play, and gotten just a decent hint of what we're working with. It appears that the main schmucks are Russian separatists getting ready to strike the US.
Now, exactly why would Russian separatists want to whack the US? Good thing Jack's here to figure it out.
And in this corner, Jack Bauer's angel...
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