Since the Super Bowl cancelled roleplaying and we had nothing particular to do this past weekend, we decided to do something I've always wanted to try: watching a whole season of 24 straight through. Well, not completely straight through -- we didn't do it in one sitting! I'm not strong enough for that, though I really wonder what it'd be like. But we started Friday evening and finished Sunday afternoon, without watching anything else in between.
Because of the crush of stuff to do we have fallen several seasons behind on 24, which we allowed ourselves to do because it's more fun to watch on DVD anyway. So we watched season 4. If you haven't seen that, spoilers may follow. Season 4, in case you don't recall, introduces Secretary of Defense Heller and his daughter Audrey.
I definitely enjoyed this season and I felt like watching it back to back enhances it more than the suspense of having to wait a week does. I liked it better than season 2 (which was nicely plotted, but veered too far into unbelievability at times) and season 3 (which felt scattered to me, though that might be my fault, I was a little scattered watching it; never figured out if it was unfocused and that's why my interest faded, or if my scattered attention is what made it seem unfocused).
Season 1 of course had that "first season" freshness and it didn't pull any punches or pander to its audience. On the other hand, its plot was a little uneven. For good reason: they only got a greenlight for 13 episodes with a hope to renew for the other 11, and in a decision that every science fiction fan can get behind, decided to set the story up so it would have a satisfactory ending after 13 episodes. Naturally they put hooks in for the other half, but of course the priority was on the episodes they had approved, to make sure they were good enough to get the renewal. Plus they couldn't get actor contracts through the whole season for all the incidental characters so they couldn't count on actors remaining available, and killed off some of the characters earlier than might have ultimately been ideal. So there was a bit of a lull in the middle of the season, then a few dumb plot twists (don't remind me about the amnesia bit!) before it wrapped up for a great ending. One can't help wonder how great season 1 could have been if they'd had the greenlight for all 24, but you can't blame the creators for the flaws.
Season 4 had tight plotting that knitted together a lot of stuff into a single story with a lot of twists but nothing (well, almost) that didn't follow from earlier stuff. There's hints in the early episodes about things that don't become clear until much later, and it's fun trying to figure out where it's going. It was also enjoyable to start with only a few characters from previous seasons (Jack, Chloe, Erin Driscoll, and President Keeler) and then start seeing others appear, but with each one being a plot twist of its own. And I loved the dynamic between Chloe and Edgar -- the scene near the end where they talk about Chloe's lack of emotional fallout from her activities in the field was precious.
One thing I can fault this season with, though, was a decidedly conservative slant on a few things. I should not be, and am not, really surprised that Fox would nudge the show in that direction, but it was still a bit jarring when it happened, especially given how liberal-leaning earlier seasons were (particularly in the person of Senator and then President Palmer). We saw a fair amount of it in Secretary Heller, who was definitely a conservative and who often got to depict his views in clear, strong words against others (most notably his son) who depicted their side extremely poorly. Heller also had the advantage of being put into fictional circumstances which justified all his attitudes and gave him a chance to be noble and heroic as he espoused them.
But where they got really heavy-handed was later in the season when they brought in an Amnesty Global (a very thin disguise for Amnesty International) lawyer working (unwittingly, at least) for the terrorists by demanding due process for a captive in CTU's custody. Our heroes needed to torture this suspect since he was their only lead on the terrorists (and we can set aside for the moment how torture gets good intel on TV shows like 24 but not in real life, since that's true no matter what the show's political leanings are). Eventually Jack had to go renegade just to torture the guy. The story didn't really follow what happened to him after that.
The show depicted this suspect as being able to almost but not quite get off entirely because he claimed that he had no connections to the terrorists. But CTU agents (quite a few of them) plainly saw him having cordial relations with the one he later claimed he did not know, and who attacked him and tried to steal his boat. Inexplicably, no one called him on this issue, nor on the fact that he was lying to law enforcement agencies.
Nothing in this would have forced him to tell them what they needed to know, of course. But the show depicted it as if CTU barely even had grounds to hold him. Realistically, even the Amnesty "Global" lawyer, on learning that the suspect had been seen by multiple credible witnesses doing business with a known terrorist responsible for attacks on US citizens on US soil, and then lied about it to law enforcement in his presence, would have advised his client to come clean and divulge whatever information he had in order to substantially reduce his sentence. (Brenda Lee from The Closer would have had him singing in five seconds without even looking cross at him.)
It didn't really ruin my enjoyment of the show; bigger plot holes get dodged like flying bullets in every act. But I hope that it doesn't continue to escalate in later seasons.