Tuesday, February 20, 2007

24 Season 5

Did another marathon session of 24, though this time even more interrupted by other things and spread out over a slightly longer period of time. (Spoilers follow for Season 5.)

I noticed something amusing: we spent Super Bowl weekend watching a season where a big chunk of plot centered around attempts to get and hold the nuclear football, then we waited for the President's Day weekend to watch a season that revolved around the contrast between two presidents, one of which was assassinated. Maybe we should watch a season over Valentine's Day so Jack can finally get some lovin'.

Season 5 is very bleak compared to earlier seasons. It starts off with a "holy " moment and then throws a few more at you for good measure. But it's not just how many people die, or even how many named characters die. We also see a lot of Jack's wild behavior in the past catching up with him, long-deferred consequences hitting him hard, both in his personal life and his work. We see even fewer people we can trust, as the most cherished institutions fall one by one to treason, forcing Jack to actions even farther beyond the pale than usual.

But most of all, we go a long long time with no victories, even small ones. Season 4's plot was a string of separate crises that were actually tightly knitted together into an overall arc of threat, which meant we kept having minor victories mixed with our new threats. But a huge section of season 5 went by without a single victory to ease the tension, and when one finally came (Jack finally got the recording), it was taken away again almost immediately, and this time irrevocably.

Speaking of the recording, I kept being annoyed that no one would just make a copy. Jack could have played it through his cell phone the first time he had it. Maybe that copy wouldn't constitute absolute proof, but it would certainly ease some of the pressure of CTU not believing or backing him, and it would have been an unlosable backup. And who could believe that Chloe's first action wouldn't be to make a digital copy and then store encrypted copies of it in a thousand different sites on the Internet? But I can't really complain, because if you allow that, then you have to ask why Henderson didn't just step on the recorder, or put a bullet in it. So I guess the McGuffin absurdities cancel each other out.

I'd say I enjoyed season 4 more than season 5 on the whole. I'm not averse to bleakness or to seeing cared-for characters dying or to having to wait for my payoff. I don't think those are why it wasn't quite as engaging. I'm not saying 5 was bad, just not quite as good.

Incidentally, is this the first season without an appearance of Naked Mandy?

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