24: Day 6 Review

Yes, this is my way of saying this season bombed
Chloe: "I just have a really bad feeling about everything."

(This review includes massive spoilers!)

Day Six started well, but then it took a sharp left turn and jumped the shark. Yes, 24 is usually wall-to-wall thriller craziness, but keeping the audience with you is a balancing act and this season, 24 couldn't do it. Was it the nuke going off in Valencia? Yet another presidential assassination attempt? Neither helped, but I think it was the introduction of Jack's utterly insane family that stretched 24 to the breaking point.

At least Kiefer Sutherland got to stretch his acting muscles early in the season. After his release from imprisonment in China, Jack knew why he had been freed and was ready for death. When circumstances demanded that he continue the good fight instead, he said more than once, "I don't know how to do this anymore" and I totally believed him.

Jack usually wears dark clothes when he's running around saving the world; this time, he wore faded jeans, a light gray tee, and a confused expression. On the outside, he looked clean and unmarked; all of his psychological problems and terrible scars were physically hidden while Sutherland did a terrific job showing how emotionally lost Jack was. Later, Jack seemed more like his old self after he disarmed a live nuke and tried to kill his own brother.

The political

While the nukes versus CTU plot again took place in Los Angeles, the presidential part of the story moved for the first time in Washington, DC.

It has been nearly two years since Day 5. Wayne Palmer has just taken office as president, and he negotiated the release of Jack Bauer in order to trade Jack's life for information on the whereabouts of one particular terrorist who was behind numerous bombings of civilians in the U.S. It was nice to see my guy DB Woodside as president, but it was way too Jack and Bobby Kennedy right down to the youth, idealism and assassination.

The chief political conflict was that Palmer believed that American Muslims should be treated as allies in the fight against the current wave of terrorist attacks, while his opponents were allied behind a plan to put all Muslims in internment camps. No resemblance whatever to today's political conflicts, huh?


Every season of 24 has a most valuable player or two. This time, it was Peter MacNicol as Tom Lennox, Palmer's Chief of Staff. Tom started out villainous with his internment camp plan, but then tried spontaneously to go undercover to root out the plan to assassinate Wayne Palmer. Later, he carefully manipulated Vice President Noah Daniels (Powers Boothe) through the same political minefield by holding an incriminating tape over Daniels' head. I particularly loved MacNicol's facial expressions throughout the season as he reacted to each new development. Especially when Daniels' aide Lisa Miller (Kari Matchett) was literally undercover having sex with her traitorous boyfriend Mark Bishop (Michael Shanks).

Unfortunately, Tom Lennox seemed to go through the exact same character journey as Vice President Daniels, who began as a bloodthirsty tyrant slavering to nuke the Middle East until Wayne Palmer arose from his deathbed to stop him. After that, Daniels somehow turned into a statesman and a sympathetic character by the end of the season. A good thing for the U.S., but a bit hard to believe.


However, it was an excellent writing choice for National Security Advisor Karen Hayes (Jayne Atkinson) and CTU Director Bill Buchanan (James Morrison) to now be married and constantly on the phone with each other. It connected the two locations and plot threads. Plus, shades of Tony and Michelle. I miss Tony and Michelle.

The personal

Jumping feet first into the dysfunctional Bauer family was this season's biggest misstep. And what a waste of the brilliant James Cromwell; you'd think a season of 24 where Cromwell was the lead villain would be amazing. Plus Paul McCrane felt totally miscast as Jack's evil brother Graem, and Jack torturing Graem with suffocation practically the moment they saw each other for the first time in years was too difficult to swallow, pun intended. Plus, Graem ordered the deaths of David Palmer, Michelle Dessler and Tony Almeida, and then framed Jack for it? Graem was the one who arranged Jack's imprisonment in China? Yes, Graem was calling the shots with Logan last season, but come on.

How did the Bauers get to be so behind-the-scenes powerful when we never even knew they existed before? It is never explained. Plus it's on the far side of unbelievable that Phillip could kill one of his sons and attempt to kill the other, just like that. Not to mention that neither actor looks anything like Kiefer Sutherland, who is an unusual looking man. Cromwell is awesome, but he's eight feet tall. Maybe I just wanted Jack's father to be played by Donald Sutherland, whom I'll admit is also eight feet tall. (They tried to do that, by the way, but Sutherland had a conflict.)


Graem's wife Marilyn (Rena Sofer) and son Josh (Evan Ellingson) were characters that didn't work, either. They were basically pawns for the other characters to use in a terrorist chess game that was actually more like checkers. Plus, Marilyn was so interested in reuniting with her old boyfriend Jack that you'd never know her husband actually freaking died that very day. Making Marilyn into Jack's love interest was such a soap opera move that I kept expecting her to reveal that Jack was Josh's secret father. Fortunately, they didn't go that far.

In the premiere, the bearded, unkempt and nearly voiceless Jack's first words were "Audrey" and "My daughter." Marilyn threw herself at Jack and he tossed her back because he still loved Audrey, who… died in a car accident while searching for Jack in China. Except that she didn't. Audrey showed up as Cheng Zhi's hostage in episode 17 as the plot shifted from the suitcase nukes to the Russian circuitboard. We could all tell Audrey had lost her mind because she had stringy hair and a blank expression.

Meanwhile, at CTU

This was a good season for Bill Buchanan. He seemed a lot more mellow about Jack breaking the law this season than before. Maybe it was his marriage to Karen Hayes.

The other highlight was Marisol Nichols as Nadia Yassir, a victim of racial profiling at CTU. When Karen had to fire Bill, Nadia was left in charge and got some nice character progression, starting out as aggressively by the book but learning by the end that sometimes, you just gotta go rogue.


Eric Balfour returned as Milo Pressman and had a totally heroic throughline. Although he wasn't a field agent, he got shot protecting Marilyn Bauer and was, shockingly, executed point blank when he protected Nadia by pretending to be acting director of CTU.

And then there were the battling O'Brians.

Honestly, I'm not certain if the marital ping pong between Chloe O'Brian and her ex-husband Morris worked, or if it didn't. I really do like Carlo Rota, and he absolutely made his character's kidnapping and terrible torture believable. But the thing is, I kept thinking that Morris should have been relieved of duty and sent home with a ton of painkillers. It simply wasn't believable that a man who'd gotten a drill through his shoulder would have been able to hang around CTU doing his job again for hours while bantering with his ex-wife. And the final episode that Chloe missed because she passed out, because she was pregnant, went way too far into cliché.


Big bads and casting goodness

Dmitri Gredenko (Rade Serbedzija) and Abu Fayed (Adoni Maropis) held up the bad guy roles for much of the season, trading the suitcase nukes back and forth. But John Noble, in a much briefer role as villainous Russian consul Anatoly Markov, upstaged them both, when Jack attacked the Russian consulate without approval (because that worked so well with the Chinese).

I love this photo.
The first few episodes of the season featured the wonderful Alexander Siddig from Deep Space Nine as a reformed terrorist; I wish we'd gotten more of him. William Devane returned as Heller, who mostly told Jack to leave his daughter alone. Tzi Ma also returned as the frightening Cheng Zhi so that Jack could have closure. Kal Penn was around briefly as a friendly neighborhood terrorist who got his not-bigoted neighbors in trouble, and the wonderful Harry Lennix played a good guy Muslim friend of Sandra Palmer's who wound up as an inadvertent spy. The gorgeous Ian Anthony Dale had a couple of episodes as the Chinese bad guy who led the attack on CTU. Bob Gunton turned up as Ethan Kanin, the new Secretary of Defense, and Chad Lowe creeped around as the despicable White House aide, Reed Pollock.


And then there was Ricky Schroder as CTU ops head Mike Doyle. Much like Tom Lennox and Vice President Daniels, Doyle started out as a bad guy before his characterization went off the rails. Was Doyle supposed to be a sadistic racist, as he was initially presented? Was he a misunderstood Jack Bauer type? Was he truly hung up on Nadia? Did the writers change course midstream? It was really hard to to look at Ricky Schroder and not think "poorly aging child star." It didn't help that Doyle and teenage Josh Bauer had the same haircut.

Notable episodes

"6:00 a.m.-7:00 a.m." and "7:00 a.m.-8:00 a.m." (episodes 6.1 and 6.2) Kiefer Sutherland carried both of these episodes, arriving filthy and unkempt and looking like a deer in the headlights, and later appearing emotionally overwhelmed, fragile and confused, an impressive acting feat considering his character's past. Jack was broken and ready to die, but first they had to torture him, and I hated that. When Fayed admitted he was behind the bombings, Jack couldn't help springing into action once again.

"9:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m." (episode 6.4) CTU attacked the terrorist stronghold in Valencia and the terrorists set off the suitcase nuke. (Around 2012, I nearly took a job in Valencia and kept thinking of this season of 24.) In a sad and highly dramatic moment, Jack was forced to kill long-time cast member Curtis (Roger Cross) in order to save reformed terrorist Assad. Jack walked off and vomited in the grass as the mushroom cloud appeared in the distance.


"6:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m." (episode 6.13) The imprisoned Charles Logan (loved the beard) tried to assist Jack by confronting the Russian consul Markov and asking his ex-wife Martha to contact President Suvarov's wife Anya. The best part of this brief return to Day 5 was seeing Martha and Aaron Pierce living together as a couple – at least, right up until Martha threw fresh fruit at Logan before stabbing him with a fruit knife.

"10:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m." (episode 6.17) Jack did the Indiana Jones thing under a truck and ended the suitcase nuke plot all by himself by killing, biting and strangling all the bad guys. His last words to Fayed were "Say hello to your brother." In his absolute best moment in the season, Doyle came in, looked at all the bodies, including Abu Fayed hanging strangled from a chain, and said, "Damn, Jack."


"2:00 a.m.-3:00 a.m." (episode 6.21) After previous seasons of being blown up and nerve-gased, this time CTU was taken over by armed Chinese soldiers directed by Cheng Zhi and at Phillip Bauer's behest to kidnap Josh Bauer. Milo protected Nadia by saying he was the acting director of CTU and was promptly shot to death.

"5:00 a.m.-6:00 a.m." (episode 6.24) It wouldn't be 24 without a shot of Jack dangling from a helicopter as the oil rig below him exploded. I also thought it was deeply satisfying to see Bill Buchanan go completely rogue and fly that chopper for Jack. Phillip Bauer was left for dead on the oil rig, so Jack lost his father and brother on the same day; he ended up standing there as the sun came up, realizing that he had also lost the catatonic Audrey and surprisingly hostile Heller.


Bits:

— The first four episodes were shown on two consecutive nights.

— A guy named Carson created the bomb that took out Assad and Palmer using different colored highlighters. I thought that was a fun detail for a not-so-fun bomb.

— The usual fake TV phone number prefix 555 wasn't used this season, but the number 310-597-3781 was used several times for conflicting reasons. This was the 24 "fan phone," which is no longer in service.

— Wayne Palmer, Doyle, and former president Logan were critically injured, and we don't learn this season what happened to them.

— At one point, Jack defeated an armed adversary using only a belt.

— In my humble opinion, James Morrison should always wear blue.

Jack killed 52 people during Day 6. It's his personal best.

— Day 6 runs 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. in May or June of 2013, the early months of the Wayne Palmer administration, and nine years after Day 1.

— There is a silent clock at the end when Jack is standing there looking at the ocean. I thought it was odd that Curtis and the nuke didn't get a silent clock at the end of episode 4. How come?

Quotes:

Jack: "Do you understand the difference between dying for something and dying for nothing? That's why I fought so hard to stay alive in China, because I didn't want to die for nothing. Today, I can die for something."
Except he didn't.

Jack: "I don't know how to do this anymore."
Assad: "You'll remember."

Chloe: "Sorry, I'm feeling ambivalent. I'm gonna go."

Logan: "Never been outside these gates for over a year... I'm sorry, Jack, you don't need me to tell you what's like to be locked up."
Jack: "You're right. I don't."

Aaron: (to Logan) "I no longer have to tolerate your sarcasm."

Karen: "Did somebody push you down the stairs?"
Tom: "No, Karen, I tripped over your ineptitude. On that subject, welcome back."


Heller: "You're cursed, Jack. Everything you touch, one way or another, ends up dead."
I hate to say it because Jack is our hero, but Heller has a valid point.

Daniels: "We're about to go to war over a piece of circuitry."

Jack: (to Audrey) "I love you with all my heart. And I always will."

To conclude

The strongest parts of this season were Jack himself, Tom Lennox, Bill Buchanan and Karen Hayes, Nadia Yassir, and the capture of Cheng Zhi at the end. But most of this season didn't work for me. One out of four F.B. circuit boards,

Billie
---
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

6 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Guys, I'm going to do a brief review of 24: Redemption before I move on to season 7.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mark Greig said...

I know this season was going to be a turkey when Jack killed Curtis in the most contrived way possible. 24 was been no stranger to shocking character deaths, but that was a shocking death just for the sake of having a shocking death.

Billie Doux said...

Mark, you're so right. Losing Curtis so pointlessly was... pointless. I'm very fond of Roger Cross.

Anonymous, I had to remove your comment because you included a spoiler for a later season. Please feel free to repost your comment without it.

WZILLA13 said...

I've made it clear in comments on other season reviews that Day 6 is my least favorite season of 24, so I'll attempt to keep my thoughts brief:

- While previous seasons pulled off some pretty ridiculous things, they did so by keeping one foot (or at least a few toes) planted in reality; Day 6 flat-out leaps across the line of credibility and never looks back. Right off the bat, Jack's return to duty is too much to believe. Yes, Jack is nigh superhuman, but even he seemed too spry for someone who just endured over a year of torture and imprisonment. Yes, it was badass when he bit that guy's throat out, but then he's right back into Jack mode with few lingering (physical) aftereffects.

- While I liked that they followed up on Logan's shady advisor from Day 5, and I like Paul McCrane, and I thought it was clever that he was related to Jack, it all became too much to handle, especially when Philip got involved. 24 always had its soap opera elements, but this is the season where they were pushed to the forefront.

- The idea that Wayne Palmer was President was also cool at first, but it quickly lost its luster; again, hard to believe that he could ascend that far, that fast, especially after he was present for a murder/suicide.

- Also too hard to believe: that Jack had to shoot Curtis dead in that situation. Clearly just killing off a beloved character for shock value.

- 24 didn't make many casting mistakes over its run; Ricky Schroeder was one of the biggest.

- Oh hey, Dr. Bashir! Good to see you.

- I really liked Nadia, it's a shame she was never brought back (though they never really did return to CTU LA, so maybe she's still working there).

- It was good to see Milo back at CTU, and a real bummer when he took one to the head. Another unnecessary casualty.

- Rena Sofer's eyes are luminous.

- It's so obvious that Josh is Jack's son, he looks just like Kim!

- The brief inclusion of the Logans seemed like a blatant attempt to cash in on the Emmy recognition from Day 5.

- Of course Audrey has to return; at least she shows some effects from her Chinese imprisonment. Jack visit with her and run-in with Heller at the end of the finale were pretty poignant, and his feeling of utter despair by the cliff was powerful.


And that's that.

Billie Doux said...

Another fun comment, WZILLA13. I think I got your number 13 right this time. Josh does indeed look like Kim. That couldn't have been an accident. Maybe they realized that the family thing was going south and changed their mind about a Jack-as-Josh's-father reveal.