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24: Season 7 - 6pm to 8pm (Review)

24, Day 7

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from current television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we take a look at the Season 7 episode of 24 entitled 6pm – 8pm (as aired on Sky1 on Monday, March 9, 2009).

What’s the story? 6pm to 7pm: Jack and Tony hatch a plan to interrogate Burnett inside the White House, but it is interrupted when Senator Mayer and the President discover his activities. Chloe is under suspicion from Janis when she helps buy Jack some time by deleting Burnett’s name from Dubaku’s list. Renee traces Juma’s team to the docks where she makes a split-second decision that puts her life in jeopardy.

7pm – 8pm: Juma and his men take the White House by storm, killing most of the Secret Service and trapping Taylor and Jack in the saferoom. His efforts to extract her are thwarted until he is informed that the President’s daughter is in the White House as well. Renee and Larry try to convince Vice President Hayworth to let them rescue the President, but Hayworth will not budge until the FBI can produce proof that she is not in imminent danger.

Was it any good? When will America start paying attention to Jack Bauer? Throughout countless seasons of 24 viewers have had to watch and wait while America catches up to what everyone’s favourite CTU agent already knows… that you can’t play nice with terrorists and their sympathisers.

As Day 7 rattled along from one crisis to the next between the hours of 6pm and 8pm, the age-old “listen to Jack or else…” formula was tried and tested over and over again.

The result was both brilliant and frustrating; clever and stupid, and evidence of a show that is once again finding its very best form.

24 has always thrived on its ability to balance plausible “what if?” scenarios with suspensions of disbelief and/or downright silliness. In Season two, for example, viewers held their breath while Jack attempted to prevent a nuclear attack, while his daughter attempted to fend off a cougar.

During day five, meanwhile, we were put through the emotional wringer as Jack lost most of his friends and attempted to topple the US president behind it all. Daft, yes. Exciting, absolutely.

Day 7 finds us in new but oddly familiar territory. At roughly the half-way stage, terrorists led by ruthless African dictator have seized control of the White House. Daft, yes. Exciting, you bet.

Their entry may have been implausible (or at least Barrack Obama probably hopes it is!), but once inside the usual moral and ethical dilemmas were posed…. as they were in the run-up to the hostage situation.

Jack knews… he always does. But in order to even attempt to thwart Juma’s attack forces, he needed to extract information from White House aide, Burnett – who just happened to serve as adviser to Jack’s sworn enemy, Senator Mayer.

Regardless of his own career, Jack set about torturing Burnett to the very best of his ability… inside the White House. He was stopped at the moment of delivery, however, by President Taylor and her armed troops, who deplored the practice and placed Jack under arrest.

Convinced that Jack was right about the impending attack, however, she proceeded to offer Burnett a plea bargain in exchange for the truth. He refused, in favour of legal advice. Quite correctly, a flustered Taylor was left to ask herself what was wrong with the picture.

The answer, of course, was staring right in front of her. Let Jack loose. Do what’s necessary. But instead, she delayed and White House security was breached, culminating in a tense stand-off as Juma’s men attempted to extract Jack and Taylor from a lockdown zone by using Taylor’s daughter as bait.

Again, we were faced with another dilemma. Should Jack allow Taylor to hand herself over to Juma? As a mother, Taylor pleaded to Jack’s sensibilities as a father. Then, as President of the United States, she ordered him to follow her command.

By the final, pivotal seconds, Taylor was in Juma’s hands and being readied to issue her final ever orders. Taylor’s daughter, meanwhile had survived for now…

Throughout these tense two hours, though, we were gripped as much as we were frustrated. 24‘s excellence in keeping us on the edge of the sofa was evident throughout the various gunfights, stand-offs and moral arguments put forward throughout. It was expertly written and tightly wound.

But there are those niggles that persist. FBI agents Renee and Larry continue to be pale imitations of Jack Bauer, despite having been exposed on numerous occasions to the necessity for employing Jack’s methods during field situations. Renee, in particular, bungled her attempts to alert the White House in time. She’s feisty and a good foil for Jack, but she’s a slow learner.

Janis, meanwhile, continues to skulk about FBI HQ and contributed to Chloe’s arrest for file tampering. Again, the Feds showed a complete disregard for Jack’s past history… and the fact that he always gets it right, no matter how inconceivable his plans.

All in all, however, Day 7 remains a hugely enjoyable return to form. It’s breathtaking in its pacing, and utterly audacious in its twists. The moral complexity feels like a two-fingered riposte to the many people who criticised its over-use of torture during season six.

Somewhat cleverly, perhaps, we’re almost invited to cheer along as Jack gets unleashed time and again to prove the doubters wrong about his technique. And his methods are frequently exhilarating!

So, as evening approaches and the plot thickens it’s time to cast aside the rule book and LISTEN TO JACK AGAIN! Jack knows… and deserves a fair opportunity to save the day.

What did you think?

Read our review of 4pm to 5pm