Thursday, July 03, 2014

"24": can things get any worse?

"24" follows a formula, but generally defies easy prediction. The current iteration of "24," "Live Another Day" (a.k.a. the truncated Season 9), is no different from its eight predecessors in that respect. What is different is that this season purportedly has only twelve episodes instead of the usual twenty-four. We're at Episode 10, very near the end, and things just got complicated: three of the main villains of the series have been neutralized at this point, and suddenly a fourth villain has appeared: Cheng Zhi from Season 6 is back—and unpredictably so, like the Spanish Inquisition in that infamous Monty Python sketch. And in the manner of Agent Smith in "The Matrix Reloaded," Cheng is unplugged: he's no longer part of the Chinese governmental apparatus, and now seems to be a renegade who still hates Jack Bauer, but who now also hates his own government. In Episode 10, Cheng fools a US submarine into blowing up a Chinese aircraft carrier, which sounds like the beginning of World War III to me.

Where can this possibly lead in two episodes? Jack has received a pardon from the US president, which means the Americans are no longer chasing him, but the Russians are still after him for the murders he committed in Season 8. With both the Russians and Cheng out for Jack's blood, I have no clue how Season 9 is supposed to wrap up. If Season 9 is anything like the previous seasons, then the final two episodes will appear as a single two-hour special. I've heard that the last episode will involve some "time jumping" to get the story all the way to its promised 24th hour, but I can't help suspecting there's going to have to be a narrative cheat somewhere—a twist, or some wildly implausible deus ex machina. Tolkien's Eagles?

Normally, it's fun to make predictions as a series draws to a close and all the loose ends get tied up. In fact, I made some predictions quite recently. But "24: Live Another Day" seems to be accelerating full-tilt toward a brick wall, with no sign of slowing down or stopping. At this point, prognostication is downright scary.


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