Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Day 5

The following took place between 16 March and 19 March...

Had a DVD blitz with season 5 boxset of TV series 24. Much less action and more drama than previous seasons. As ex-federal agent Jack Bauer, Keifer Sutherland still does his renegade action-man routine, but now the focus has changed noticeably, to examine the various professional motivations, personal struggles, and behind-the-scenes scheming of corrupt politicos, seemingly crazy 'patriots', ambitious or paranoid security guys, and the moral dilemmas faced by conscience-stricken heroes in the Counter-Terrorist Unit (so conveniently situated in Los Angeles, as is the US president's retreat).

It's often been said that 24 works exactly like a comic-book series, and that description applies perfectly to this season's fast-moving plots to release deadly nerve gas in crowded public areas (including a mall and a hospital). Having faked his own death last time around, Jack doesn't care much about breaking rules or laws, nowadays. On this fifth 'worst day' of his life, he even hijacks a plane. Of course, one of the signature facets of 24 is its keen satire of action-thriller cliches, and here there's a violent scene enacted in the seemingly-vulnerable presence of the president himself, and yet it's Jack who turns nasty when he threatens to torture and maim a suspected conspirator from the unidentified league of bad guys (ULoBaG).

This is the key to 24's comicbook narrative style. Criminal masterminds never make their presence known or felt until their sudden appearance or influence on the ongoing investigative storyline brings with it the delicious frisson of peeling away yet another layer of the onion. As a TV serial concept, the impact of ULoBaG on mystery-thriller plots works superbly every time in 24. There's always vital info withheld from viewers, and from our blindsided heroes, of course. We can rarely guess what will happen next, though we might suspect there's more going on, typically concealed in the background details, than is clear at first.

In the sinister drool of season 5, there's a lot of poisonous red herrings, barbed-narrative trapdoors, and auteur misdirection. And what's more, 24 is totally addictive television. How could fans of this show possibly tolerate any weeklong delays between episodes? I felt compelled to put another disc into the DVD player even after watching four episodes in a row. The utterly engrossing plotline, and its array of fascinating characters (even the patently absurd ones!), makes 24 one of the most compulsive viewing experiences yet.

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