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Most are not actors that take up 75% of a movie poster. They're the actors who are paid to show up, excel yet not be seen. However, this isn't always the case, as JK Simmons proved when he won the recent Oscar for "Whiplash."
But we cinephilies like them. And here are the friendly faces I always welcome the sight of seeing.
Lastly, for convenience sake, I've buried names of actors whose faces, by my own definition, have taken up a large chunk of movie posters deeper in this list. You should recognize their faces and names.
It doesn't make them less important or great, it's a simple courtesy to the actors and actresses who have not been as lucky.
But, the show is a throwback to an era where weekly stakes were as simple as catching the perp every show. So it has the excuse of not having the scope of Game of Thrones or even the moral ambiguity of Breaking Bad. It is a refreshingly retro and simple show.
Despite going through multiple showrunners and actors, the casting and chemistry of its main cast is still its biggest draw and writing compliments them when the show still periodically knocks one out of the park.
This list is NCIS at it's most witty, personal, but most of all at its very best...
An unofficial milestone episode that marks a maturer NCIS
By design, crime procedurals are durable products. If they're made right, they can last forever and the original CSI & NCIS seem to be well on their way to perpetuity.
A downside to airing forever dulls a sense of quality and any inkling of an endgame, which is why you very rarely hear about the greatest series running near equal that time. "Check," the 269th(!) episode of the original NCIS, is a fine hour of television, possibly even great because of its history.
It's not one of the show's milestone episodes, yet it might as well be. The episode references a lot of the iconography built up over twelve current seasons.
The episode, does it at the expense of Diane Sterling (Melinda McGraw), the ex-wife of Gibbs. With apologizes to Melinda McGraw, whom I've long considered a fine actress since her phenomenal work as Scott Bakula's romantic interest on Men of a Certain Age (Seriously, go watch it. Now.), Diane Sterling is and was a shrill caricature, who only showed up to be grating to the other main characters. She often brought the action to a grinding halt.
She met her end at the halfway point in a trap left by the at-large terrorist, Sergei, who we last saw wounded by Gibbs in this season premiere. Sergei takes her out with a sniper shot to the head, much how Ari killed Caitlin Todd (Sasha Alexander) in Twilight, the season two finale. It's a moment meant to shock the audience, yet it's obvious with the reveal of Rebecca (Jeri Ryan), Gibb's sweeter second ex-wife, whose clearly meant to be a red herring, that her number was up.
Yet, it successfully rattles Gibbs, who after finding crime scenes that reference the murders of Jenny Shepherd (Lauren Holly) and Mike Franks (Muse Watson), finally corners Sergei at an apartment and gives him limited tunnel vision to righteously pummel the crap out of him, which gives him the advantage to escape, for now.
Shows like NCIS don't often look back at the past often, yet the series is an outlier because it maintained a fairly consistent cast lineup throughout the years, and it should have been obvious that an episode of this nature was in the pipeline eventually.
They've reflected on those character's deaths when they respectively occurred, but the episodes credited writer Steven D. Binder, surprises just on who does the reacting, namely the crew in pathology, Ducky (David McCallum) & his assistant Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen), which the show is prone to forget.
They receive a thoughtful scene when Diane's body arrives in autopsy; Ducky goes about his job, business as usual, yet Palmer can't bring himself to work on another friend who ends up on their table. "I can't do this," Jimmy says. "I can't bring myself to do this to another friend." Palmer sits morosely at the lab desk in the background, which leads Ducky to remark to Gibbs that everyone reaches that point, yet can't remember when he reached his limit in the past. NCIS doesn't usually feature scenes with that level of maturity or reflection, and it's even more special when they do.
NCIS looks like things return to normal next week, yet with that last freeze frame of Gibbs preparing to answer Fornell's call about Diane's, also his ex-wife, demise, they soon won't forget Sergei's brief moment of unleashed anarchy.
And that maturity other procedurals could stand to learn.
Person of Interest: Pilot (2011)
A "procedural" for the post-9/11 society
One of the first scenes from "The Conversation" features a handful of directional microphones pointed down in a nearby park, trying to record a particular conversation between two acquaintances. There's a similar scene halfway into the pilot for "Person of Interest," where reclusive billionaire Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) reveals to John Reese (Jim Caviezel) about the omnipotent machine, which he created for the government, that has the power to predict terrorist attacks but at the cost of disregarding average crime.
Whereas the couple in the former were recorded surreptitiously, Mr. Finch knows well that surveillance cameras (and "The Machine") are watching, listening and determining nefarious intent of others.
All that works well about the pilot involves this supercomputer and window dressings. The first "client" of these two men is a prosecutor, whose either unwittingly been the target of corrupt cops or is the perpetrator. They're able to obtain a clearer picture of which possibility she belongs to through a combination of breaking into her home, collecting information, and using the microphone on her smartphone as it's own directional microphone.
Created by Jonathan Nolan, brother to Christopher Nolan, "Person of Interest" could have only been made in a post-9/11 privacy-free society and likely only been the product of the Nolans. It also antiquates "The Conversation," but that's a conversation for another day.
Anyone whose watched the following three and a half seasons of the show will know that the creative team likes to weave in and out between the line between the need privacy and security, both national and personal. Within the pilot itself, there's only an inkling of this, in the implications of the machine.
Nolan and his team do an admirable job providing the furnishings and the characters, only giving brief glimpses of their motivations and backstories, providing opportunity to fill in the canvas further along in their story. All that doesn't quite gel is whenever the show veers dangerously close into the crime-procedural arena, with the corrupt cops, that only work because what surrounds it.
Yet, it's a shadowy, dangerous and delicate world that Reese and Finch operate within, one where either of these two men could be killed at a moment, which Finch casually mention at episode's end. However, both, who've been declared legally dead by the surrounding world, seem aware of that knowledge and perfectly accepting of it.
All in the name of being a stranger's guardian angel who doesn't even know they're being saved. Kinda like the machine they're taking their intel from.
House of Cards: Chapter 8 (2013)
Who is Francis Underwood and what does he want?
I ask these above questions to myself whenever I watch an episode of House of Cards. Before this episode, I thought I had the answers to both. The easy answer to both these questions is to say Frank Underwood craves power, craves control, craves being the gatekeeper to all solutions and whatever secrets that it takes to reach that point.
Like any good anti-hero from this past 10 decade, 'Chapter 9' clarifies that Underwood belongs to an exclusive group of lead characters with a crippling, if buried, sense of inferiority that they wish to fix by being the absolutely best in their fields. Frank is out of his element a lot here, back in his hometown, honored by his alma mater with a library named after him and old academy chums by his side.
Even after they crash the ball the night before, he accepts them with welcome arms, singing old marching tunes, drinking and reminiscing about times past and breaking into the old library, as if nothing's has changed.
This doesn't sounds like Frank Underwood at all, doesn't it? "He doesn't have friends, hobbies, anything that defines you or I," likely says many HOC viewers. When his friends were introduced, I kept waiting for that expected moment where Spacey breaks the fourth wall and showboats about how pathetic these people are and how his friendship was nothing but a centrifuge. Yet it never came. In fact, this is one of the few episodes where we're OUTSIDE of Frank's head and perspective.
You see, I did picture Frank Underwood as the devil incarnate, with a psychopathic-like childhood, with not a lot of friends and the ones he did keep were ones that held to keep up appearances and/or for leverage.
Nothing shown in the previous seven has swerved me from that mental image: Claire and Frank have work associates but not friends. It's also, we learn in this episode, why they've never had children: A child is it's own entity with its own agency, something that can't be taken or controlled.
Like the last significant episode "Chapter 3," it further clarifies and defines Frank Underwood as a character, both inferring that his Machiavellian streak developed in Gaffney. This is easily the best episode of the series thus far because it frames Frank as someone who just wants recognition. Sound familiar? I have a tad more sympathy to him as a character because of this episode.
And a renovated library that's just getting a new name, his name, and paint job, something that'll happen again in 50 years is uninteresting to him. Being able to confident reject the President of the United States, as he did in "Chapter 6," is more his thing. It's not so much that he passed a strong education bill completely intact, but he thrives on being able to say to labor leaders that they're not the guy in the chair. That's Frank Underwood. Critic Todd VanDerWerff called it in AV Club feature the "receding white man," and Frank is that guy.
Running parallel to this, Peter Russo (Corey Stoll) finally is coming into his own as a character. He's ascending in power, even if it's as a pawn of Frank. In his hometown, he tries to appeal to the citizens of his town at a town hall and tries to get them on board to Claire's job plan that will bring new jobs to the population, which goes as expected for someone who just rubber-stamped the act that kills this town's sole sense of economic security. Russo's a down and dirty player, at his core, and finally talks to them off-the-cuff later in a bar, calling himself their only chance, with a few more profanities thrown in for good measure. It's a startling piece of honesty on a show that loves to avoid political-manuevering, with moves that are clearly as such.
With this, Peter is the frontrunner as a formidable opponent to Frank. He couldn't determine if Peter would slit his wrists in his bathroom or that he would stay on the wagon long enough to enter the governor's race. Frank loves control and being five moves ahead, and when he doesn't, it presents a challenge to his authority.
For someone as conniving as Frank Underwood, that's a very dangerous position to him and his opponent to be in.
The Thick of It: Episode #4.7 (2012)
Final political manuevers, along with business as usual
The series finale of "The Thick of It" ends mostly as how you'd think it would, with a few exceptions.
At the DoSAC offices, Mannion and his staff shuffle to solve another problem in meltdown in this case, cutbacks in police forces cause a backlog in paperwork, including arrest paperwork, which Malcolm will coincidentally surrender, having been prosecuted for illegally obtaining Mr. Tickel's medical paperwork in between episodes.
On the Opposition side, Dan Miller, and Malcolm's heir apparent, Olly (Chris Addison), visit local police stations on a fact-finding mission as a smokescreen to divert media attention from Malcolm. This is how it ends, with every in varying degrees of damage control. It's all funny, of course, yet it's viewed more through of a cynical lenses than usual.
Convinced that the Goolding Inquiry will eventually discover that he leaked the email chain that embarrassed DoSAC, which he lied about, Glenn decides to quit in the most dramatic fashion imaginable and turn himself in to the authorities. Everyone receives a nice roast before he shreds his identification and exits.
The ultimate joke of his exit comes during the end credits when he arrives at a local police and after momentary hesitation, decides to "sod it" and decides against turning himself in. It's a throwaway gag, yet it's the show in a nutshell everyone puts themselves in a position to do the right thing and doesn't follow through.
This isn't to say that Glenn is a bad person. Unlike a lot so many other characters on this show, the performances of James Smith and Peter Capaldi, playing Glenn and Malcolm, respectively, hint at good, if flawed, men gradually spoiled by their scheming environment.
In the most surprising (and unexpected heartfelt speech) of the whole series, Malcolm admits that he wasn't always a perpetually cross political spin-doctor we know him as. Sometime ago, the nature of the job and politics changed him for the worst, eroding him from within until there was nothing left of him (profanity removed, obviously):
"You know all about me! I am totally beyond the realms of your tousle-haired dim-witted comprehension. ... 'Malcolm!', it's gone, you can't know Malcolm because Malcolm is not here! Malcolm left the building years ago! ... I am a host for this job. Do you want this job? Yes? You do want this job? Then you're gonna have to swallow this whole life and let it grow inside you like a parasite, getting bigger and bigger and bigger until it eats your insides alive and it stares out of your eyes and tells you what to do."
The early moment with Olly forced me to reconsider my overall thoughts on Malcolm Tucker as a whole. Whose a bigger problem, Malcolm Tucker or the system he developed under? From Hugh Abbott to Nicola Murray (whose final scenes in the series are fittingly giving an interview behind a pork chop costume that's been following her around all season), he's a troubled public servant trying to craft presentable politicians from perpetually spineless, mediocre ones for a ferocious electorate.
I think it's obvious series developer Armando Iannucci has more of a begrudging respect for the Malcolm Tuckers of the world than the Stewart Pearsons (Vincent Franklin), who are solely concerned with image and not with good governing. Remember that hilarious moment from the specials when Stewart forced Mannion (Roger Allam) to untuck a gawdy dress shirt he was forced to try on? That's basically who Stewart Pearson is as a character. It also lead to my one of my favorite moments in the finale where he's relieved of his duty:
"There's no need to clear your desk, because you're a walking thought-pod!"
And as those following scenes at DoSAC and Opposition HQ shows, it's business as usual and no one seems to have learned anything.
24: Day 7: 10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. (2009)
A fun, twisty installment that recalls 24's glory days
The third episode of this season features one stupid scene in the midst of several other excellent scenes. The scene in question is a moment when Larry Moss interrogates Tony Almeida, without force I should mention, and attempts to play on his sympathies and sense of moral outrage by throwing pictures of the victims of the genocide in Sangala.
It's a dumb scene because it frames Tony's anger toward the government as something no understands, besides probably Jack. It also undercuts any sympathy and basic common sense Larry has been building as a leader. His alienation to the government is clear, even to a simpleton. I don't like this scene because it also implicitly presents a clear cut line of how impotent the show views the FBI compared to the "more macho" CTU.
Larry and Tony's scene run parallel to greater overarching plot of Tony's capture following the end of the last episode. The FBI transports Tony back to HQ and Larry allows Jack to interrogate him because of their history. While Jack has him pinned against the wall, he gives an old CTU call sign which he calls and reveals the person on the other end of the phone to be...Bill Buchanan (James Morrison), with Chloe O'Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) for tech support.
Buchanan reveals that Tony is undercover with Benjamin Juma's mercenaries, lead by David Emerson (Peter Wingfield), whom Tony works under. Jack needs to break Tony out to reestablish his cover with Emerson, Bill tells him.
He also states that they'll need to work alone because there's corruption leading up the rungs of government and President Taylor's administration. This poses the question, "Just how reliable is Taylor as a president if her government is THIS corrupt?"
The show utilizes the rest of the hour to their escape. Producing engrossing action scenes have always been second nature to the series, however; Jack and Tony's exodus from FBI custody features many fun twisted turns before they can get away.
Janis and Sean (Rhys Coiro) finally prove themselves by uncovering Chloe cloning the surveillance footage to aid the escape from the interrogation room and subsequently lock her out. Once their escape route is compromised, they break out a stairwell window leading out to a parking garage.
Before they can fully flee the perimeter with the help of a Bill in a nearby van, an FBI SWAT team pins them down in the parking garage. This leads Jack to hot wire a parked car and drive it off a second story to escape the barrage of arms fire. Bill drives away with Tony and Jack in the back, and before he can elaborate to Jack what is going, the clock runs out for the episode.
It between beats, Tony and Jack, together and separately exchange some nice staccato exchanges that only this show can pull off. "Jack, sorry what I said back there." "Just be glad I didn't break your neck." "Yeah..." (followed by a slight smile from Tony.)
In short, this was fun and it broke the tedium of what's been on the show in the last handful of episodes from this season and some of the last. The hour complicates itself repeatedly and it forces our good guys to improvise every chink in the chain: basically part of what makes "24" and the real-time format fun when the show operates at full capacity.
Long term fans will remember the time in Season One when the show spent a hour getting Jack to carjack a waitress and spent the rest of the hour staked out from police, occasionally threatening and talking to her. The episode is a bigger version of that earlier one. During the last few seasons, the writers have done numerous variations of "Jack goes undercover to facilitate...," which lost its luster quickly. And it's fresh when they (re)break the mold as in here.
24 doesn't often complicate itself as the result of Jack Bauer's actions, yet when it does, the show produces excellent episodes like this. If the show wants to relive its glory days and improve their plotting, episodes like these are good to draw from.
24: Day 7: 8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. (2009)
"Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore..."
The seventh season premiere of "24" is an odd little anecdote and artifact during the later years of the series. The creative team produced the premiere about six months following the broadcast of the previous season's finale (they had several unprecedented false starts in their planning prior to this season that caused this delay), yet "Redemption," they produced almost a year later, while they were only about halfway through shooting the seventh season.
I'll give you a moment to wrap your head around that.
With "Redemption" being made so long after that abysmal proceeding season, it allowed a year's worth of hindsight to inform its production, as well as the handful of episodes made before the 2007 Writers Strike to guide them. Admittedly, "Day 7: 8 a.m. to 9 a.m." isn't the best produced hour that the show had made. It's full of clunky plotting that cursed much of the sixth season and a writing staff gaining their confidence back after a disastrous run of episodes.
Picking up a few months after the prequel, the show gets back on the right track merely by the end of the first act. Everything is presented there without the benefit of breathing room, which is good for jaded fans, and even better for newbies.
The show needs to establish where Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) was in the interim four years since the previous season, and what's happening to him when he's answering for his torture of terrorism suspects. It needs to shut down CTU and establish that the vastly different (and more bureaucratic) FBI that will be taking point in the thwarting of terrorists this season. We've switched locations (for the better) from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C, even if it's just CGI and blue tints. ...and oh yeah, Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) faked his death for non-wholesome reasons...
Yet...it works. Any show that introduces meta-commetary as a way of answering critics, by principle stands upon shakier ground than when they started. Just look at the "Trial of a Time Lord" arc of the original Doctor Who run for proof. In this particular case, it benefits the show that they're raising the issue that our main hero might be a "thug with a badge," to quote Paul Raines (James Frain) from season four, without really making such bold statements yet.
At this early juncture, it's better they tease this premise than simply diving right in, to give them room to add and subtract elements as they go. Even if FBI Director Larry Moss (Jeffrey Nordling) leers dangerously close to being the stereotypical spineless pencil- pushing bureaucrat loves to portray, he's far from being a boring obstructionist. The same goes for Renee Walker (Annie Wersching), who clearly has boundaries regarding torture, yet knows when to help and not hinder when Jack's questioning a opulent hacker (Tommy Flanagan).
Season six hit a wall early for laying it's cards out to early. "Unlawful detention and racism aren't really good, even if we're being continually attacked." "Jack Bauer is psychologically scarred from torture." "The leader of the terrorism cell that's attacking us wants to call a ceasefire." It helps the premiere immensely that credited writers Howard Gordon, Joel Surnow and Michael Loceff write with such a feverous pace as to not linger upon them for long. Within the universe, it's been four years since the end of the last season, and no one seems bothered how much has changed, so why should we?
Also, Tony Almeida is our big villain now, directing his gang into kidnapping a government engineer (John Billingsley) at the start of the hour to press him to manufacture an override devise that can hack air traffic control and other public utilities. By the end of the hour, him and his crew, with the aid of Billingsley's device, hijack the communications between a commercial airliner and air traffic control.
Bernard brings back his familiar cadence and body language to Tony Almeida, but other than that they might as well be two different people. That compassionate, yet easily reactive personality he found before in the character he replaces with a cold, blank hostile stare. Originally, the writers meant Jack Bauer to be in Tony's position, yet the idea stretched credulity for the amount of time we've known the character.
As silly as they envisioned his inexplicable survival of taking a needle to the chest, his adverse transformation likely seemed irresistible to the writers after that initial spark came. "What would have happened to Tony after he said his dying words, 'She's gone, Jack,' hypothetically if he survived?" was probably something similar to what was said in the writers room.
At the moment, all this works better on paper than what's on screen, Tony's plot line notwithstanding. When they created President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) and the First Husband (Colm Feore), they were still fine-tuning what makes her president unique from the five proceeding fictional Commander-In-Chiefs, beside a reticent National Security Council and a dead First Son. Likewise, all the personal squabbling at the FBI feels perfunctory at its most benign and banal at worst. Even if the creative did themselves a solid and hired Janeane Garofalo, someone with a Honest-To-God earthshaking personality.
Everyone is doing an admirable job here, even if it's not very memorable, they're far from a lost cause. Then again, that's roughly where the last season started too... Either way, a promising start...
A simple, soulful reminder of everything we love about Jack Bauer and 24
"24" loves themselves some prequels. Including Redemption, the creative team made five of them in the latter years of the series existence. Even the aborted feature-film got itself one!
However nice they are for the fans, the prequels made especially for the show were usually mixed bags of half-realized ideas in hindsight, shameless product placements or simply redundant little vignettes. Among those charges, "Redemption" is only guilty of one or two of charges, depending on who you talk to. Either way, it's a soulful reminder of the lead character we started watching about 13 years ago, who he is now and where he's going.
As much as 24 made great action set pieces, it didn't stop the show from losing sight of the human doing the shooting. What doomed the season that Redemption proceeded is that mostly everything about Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) felt too routine, given the circumstances. He returned from two years of torture by the hands of the Chinese government with barely a scratch on him it seemed after awhile.
Early on when African embassy worker Frank Trammell (Gil Bellows) corners Bauer with the subpoena meant to jail him for the numerous instances of torture he's perpetrated in seasons past, his natural reaction is to run.
He's sacrificed almost all of his livelihood for saving the millions of hypothetical Americans he's sworn to protect, yet the last thing he rations that he wants to surrender is his freedom. This early moment plants his feet firmly onto the ground. Jack Bauer is a dedicated hero, sure, yet he's not stupid, even if self-preservation rarely occurs to the character. When does the services of a grateful nation become greedy exploitation?
Of course, it's not as simple as that. Redemption's writer Howard Gordon, moves his troubles to the background of the more pertinent problem of a growing coup by an genocidal African warlord (Tony Todd).
Yet, the rapidly unfolding coup in Sangala somehow works in what it says about Jack Bauer without really commenting on it. The series format of CTU and Jack regularly chasing down shady terrorist collaborators precluded the threats from being the vague, "Stop this or innocent people will die and/or get hurt."
And Jack shepherding Benton's (Robert Carlyle) orphans who are also running to avoid being child soldiers to the American Embassy for asylum gives a great sense urgency that the series, frankly, hasn't had at least since season four. It also distills the character down to his essential elements: His conscience won't allow him to run away from conflict, as much as Jack wants to. Even it costs him his freedom, which he's forced to surrender by episode's end.
As result of having only two hours of screen time, the plots feels more tightly focused than usual. The script by Howard Gordon throws around a lot of talk about America acting as moral authority, especially by President-Elect Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones), to prevent reprehensible acts by monstrous people. That line of logic doesn't work in reality, yet within the shows context, it fits right in its mission statement.
Jonas Hodges (Jon Voight), the shady businessman funding the African uprising for-now unknown reasons, is real monster of the film. By the end, the democratic state of Sangala has fallen, leaving thousands left behind to become cannon fodder, as in the case of the child soldiers, or victims of genocide, as with everyone else.
Of course, this being "24," it features things that DO NOT work under any circumstances. The writers never properly determined how to provide actor's with definition to play weak- willed people, which befalls actor Kris Lemche who plays an unfortunate former addict and broker (See what I mean?) that uncovers Hodges plot.
At it's best, this show finds meaning in the chaos whenever it allows our heroes to lose a few rounds to the terrorists they're combating. With Redemption, the good guys lose a round to Hodges, whose not only kills Lemche, but also plots to eliminate the soon-to-be First Son.
Things don't look good for everyone as the film wraps up, yet with people like Jack Bauer and President Allison Taylor in the world, "hope has a fighting chance," to quote the tagline.
24: Day 6: 5:00 a.m.-6:00 a.m. (2007)
A thoughtful season finale that stands harsh contrast with the preceeding abysmal season
...and so it ends. The sixth season finale of "24" stands in stark contrast with a majority of the season that came before it. In a good way.
With so many mediocre-to-terrible hours that made up this season, the finale is an odd little artifact that neatly bookends the premiere that it preceded it. Somehow the finale causes temporary amnesia to the general abysmal qualities of season six.
Of course, they need to resolve the Philip Bauer/Cheng/FB Circuit Board plot lines and introduce Chloe O'Brian pregnant with child (but, of course) as we've come to expect from this season. Yet thankfully, writers Robert Cochran, Manny Coto and David Fury tamed the stupidity of these plots down to a minimum. All this comes too little, too late.
If this season were a different beast, I can easily picture Buchanan and Jack swallowing their pride and collective sense of outrage and watching from afar as Philip Bauer's oil platform, along with Cheng and Josh Bauer (Evan Ellingson), are taken out with missiles by the military.
Yet, that'd require a season of training the audience not to expect the usual from the show, which it did the polar opposite.
Crazy as it sounds, I actively rooted for the two in this scene. A Bill/Jack tag team plot seems so obvious that it's surprising that the writers didn't exploit it sooner. They've always played well with each other and Bill Buchanan's calm determination in the face of Jack Bauer's perpetual intensity is naturally fascinating.
The fact that they have Jack and Bill staging a rescue mission seems to serve as a mea culpa to the audience for putting them through so many disappointing hours. (It helps that it's one of the few things in the back half of this season that makes sense.)
Bad news: We have to suffer through one last episode of Josh Bauer being pissing and pouting and his repeated outbursts of, "Uncle Jack!" Good news: We won't have to see this character and his family ever again. Yay!
The last ten minutes are a bittersweet reminder of the season that could have been. After the airstrike, Buchanan drops Jack off at Heller's beachside property (which is only five minutes away from the oil platform), where Jack plans to take Audrey into his care from Heller. The two then confront each other.
The performances between Kiefer Sutherland and William Devane remind how good these two actors click together on this show. Too bad they never shared more scenes.
Because this scene between Jack and Heller contains understated character examination between the two and that Robert Cochran shares a co-writing credit, this obviously belongs solely to him. Many of his episodes were about interrogating aspects of the show, and this scene contains its own interrogation of Cochran's own past scripts on 24. What happens to Jack Bauer because of his repeated sacrifices for his country? When does he become jaded?
And Cochran, to his credit, sees that this is a good place as any for Jack to rant.
Even with good leaders within the series, like Bill Buchanan and David Palmer, they tended to use servants, like Jack, for their own patriotic purposes, even as it resulted in them being the husk of the men they were before. Remember at the end of episode 4 when Buchanan practically begged Jack to come back after killing Curtis Manning?
Heller isn't the ideal recipient of Jack's grievances because he's never sent Jack to war intentionally, yet his comments condemning Jack from episode 20 squarely put him in the crosshairs.
What gives their scenes an electric charge absent in most of the other stories this season is the valid viewpoints of both men: Heller is right for wanting to protect his daughter and Jack is correct in his indignation about why Heller didn't try "hard enough" to free him from Chinese captivity.
Too bad the series became preoccupied with telling the story of Jack Bauer's family troubles because the preexisting paternal relationship between him and James Heller was already much more rich and worthwhile. (It helps that William Devane elevated every scene he acted in.) Much of same context conveniently substitutes in as well. Heller uses power to do the right thing through policy, while Jack tries to do right when thwarting terrorist attacks.
Either way, the schism between these two men feels looks and feels utterly heartbreaking, as is that devastating final shot of Jack standing over Heller's balcony after letting Audrey go. The barrenness on Kiefer Suthlerland's face in that shot is particularly effective: just about every friend he has is dead and he still carries the scars of two years of torture from serving his country.
Jack and Heller run so parallel with each other that when Jack allows Heller to tell him he really is doomed to ruin anyone he associates with, his authority resigns Jack to this fact, leading to that concluding moment.
It's shame that the writers never realized, along with so many ideas this season, that Jack Bauer already had a father in front of him until it was too late. And like the season's ending, there's nothing left to do but retreat into your mind and wonder what went wrong.
24: Day 6: 2:00 a.m.-3:00 a.m. (2007)
CTU drops the ball YET AGAIN in one of the show's worst episodes
I'll be honest, this was the dumbest episode the series ever produced to date, which is no easy feat. There was so many patently stupefying moments in this installment that I don't know where to start as a viewer and a critic. Instead, a list seems the most concise method of breaking things down:
1)Why does CTU have the worst security protocols. EVER?
2)Why is Cheng the man who tortured Jack Bauer in China for two years because he invaded a foreign consulate on U.S. soil willing to do the same now?
3)Why does NO other government agency notice that the premier counter-terrrorism agency that is protecting one of the largest population centers in the United States has gone offline?
4)How is it possible to access this secure government from a simple sewage system? Didn't no one think to properly seal it?
5)Why doesn't CTU, shown to have the capability to detect chatter of possible attacks in the past, detect the intrusion upon their own facilities all the sudden?
6)Why is Philip Bauer able to fix the nuclear circuit board when Cheng isn't? Doesn't Cheng theoretically have the greater resources of the Chinese government?
7)Why is Cheng very willing to work with Phillip Bauer, the father of the prisoner he tortured for two years?
Yes, faithful viewer, all of this is more dumb than: bringing a baby into CTU, Kim Bauer being chased by a cougar, a CTU Director treating her bipolar daughter using the in-house medical facilities and a recording between a president and a terrorist admitting culpability in the assassination of a former president being so easily deleted. That's a high bar to vault over.
On a recent round of publicity for "24: Live Another Day," Kiefer Sutherland referred to his series as a "soap-opera on crack." The show always sprinkled these moments liberally in between whatever terrorist plots the country faced. "Chloe brought a baby into CTU and won't say who the father is? Fine, we'll deal with it after we help Jack and Chase Edmunds in the field."
The actors brought in to play these scenes always tempered these moments by pretending the fate of the world rested upon them, which it did, to perform their jobs exceptionally. One of my favorite instances of this was about halfway through season two when Michelle Dessler (Reiko Aylesworth) broke down behind closed doors in front of Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) due to the current nuclear bomb threat, and then went back to work.
Yet, putting Philip Bauer front and center is the straw that breaks the camels back. Intrinsically, the idea of the Chinese being a pawn in Bauer's game plays as too much mustache-twirling and histrionics. In a nutshell, that's why the whole plot line was doomed to fail.
It started as a decent idea, but bringing in Jack Bauer's family was without a doubt the worst idea the show has ever done. Initially, the writers staged it as a way of straining the main character at his worst, yet this was unassailable with the then-current writing staff.
Even at this late juncture, the show continues to produce fine action set-pieces which is this episodes only redeeming value yet it doesn't mean anything when the people and the plot tasked with keeping the show from imploding fail at that job.
24: Day 6: 12:00 a.m.-1:00 a.m. (2007)
Yet AGAIN the good guys can't seem to heed Jack Bauer's instructions
There's a famous Jack Bauer meme, where if everyone followed Jack's instructions and quit going against him, "24" would go by the more economical title of "12."
Day 6: 12:00 a.m. - 1:00 a.m. features the most egregious example of this principle, involving a bunch idiots screwing up Jack's good plan of blowing himself and Cheng up at the abandoned motel to prevent his former capture from obtaining the stolen technology. Doyle sees Audrey walking away from the exchange site and decides to give the order to swarm the site, although he has no visual inside. And, for reasons passing understanding, Cheng and his men escape from CTU's custody with a convenient rocket launcher.
The moment that this escape greatly recalls is when the Delta Force ordered to secure the virus were killed by Michael Amador in Season 3. When the series did all those years ago, the writers used it to open a can of worms of all the implications of having a virus under terrorist control in the United States, namely if they decided to release it in public places, which they did in the next few hours. The F-B circuit board just doesn't contain that same chaos, all threats by Russia of possible war aside. A superior era of the show could have seriously played with killing Jack Bauer and see where it took them. This just ain't that season.
Nadia Yassir and even Buchanan go along with Vice President Daniels decision to take Jack Bauer out of the field, despite most knowing what he intends to do once he hands over the chip. But of course, Doyle and CTU screw this plan up. At one time, this show would have muddled the water, giving Jack's superiors a somewhat good reason to take him out of play, but this late in the series, the best the show provides is that he "can't go against the White House!" Where's Paul Schulze when you need him?!
To be fair with this hour of "24," it's not the worst episode of the season, just equally frustrating as the past 18 hours for any jaded long-term fan of the series by now. There are nice disconnected character scenes that would feel more at home in alternate reality where season six of 24 was good.
Reed Pollock (Chad Lowe), the principal conspirator behind President Wayne Palmer's failed assassination attempt, reveals Bill Buchanan's complicity in allowing Abu Fayed leaving CTU custody in the months prior to the season to save himself from the the death penalty. When Pollock's interrogator reveals this to Karen Hayes (Jayne Atkinson), she realizes that Buchanan, her husband, needs to go shield the presidency from political fallout.
James Morrison always played Buchanan as a steady decision-maker and when Hayes breaks the news to him, he tries to defend himself against the charges, he knows cannot, his exemplary record not withstanding.
As much as I'd like to believe Buchanan wouldn't have been so careless, the idea that the people who are sworn to protect us that let their guard down temporary could have catastrophic consequences later is an irresistible idea, especially for this season of "24," which is misfiring so badly by this point.
Likewise, the relative silence that Kiefer Sutherland provides throughout recalls where the audience started with him in the first episode, and makes it all the more bittersweet, considering where this season didn't take Jack Bauer. The way he calls Buchanan "his friend" during his phone message feels especially hollow and morose speaks more about the status of the character than 70% of the writing ultimately provided.
Oh yeah, also it turns out that the Lisa Miller (Kari Matchett), the president's aid, has different allegiances to people other than the acting-President Daniels. Mehhhhh. On the plus side, it's an sufficiently acted...?
If there's anything that defines this season, it's good actors providing definition to parts that weren't given enough of it.