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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hit The Road, Jack -- Or, 5 Ways To Save '24'

I've been a fan of 24 since I watched the first and second seasons back-to-back in one tense, sleep-deprived weekend.

Back in the day I'd watch the show and it stirred something in me, something primal. I'd watch 24 and then go skydiving or something. It made me want to go for a run or shout German or Russian at strangers (... not that I did that).

Now I can barely be inspired watch the episodes backed up on my PVR.

Still, I've sat and watched this season and what's really bothered me is how little it seems they've learned over the years.

It's like time passes in this world and somehow that means a giant reset button must be pushed.

- Jack returns to fighting form, a little older, a little crankier...
- No one remembers or cares who he is.
- This includes the Criminal community...?! Really folks, eight 'days' in now and there's no criminal 'watch list' for Jack Bauer? No 'heads up for THIS guy -- seriously, he will mess you up'?
- Moles always slink their ways back into embarrassingly high ranks of Government Organizations. Really? The year is 2010, information is everywhere, you can't do a full and invasive background check? (especially considering the amount of leaks there's been over the years...?)

Anyways, here's my thoughts on how to bring '24' back from the brink:

1. Kill Jack Bauer. And I mean, kill him dead. Like, die in the street like a dog at the worst humanly possible time. You know that 4 hour setup every season does? Show Jack jumping in to save the day, show Jack kicking ass like the badass of old, show Jack actually THIS close to saving the day before the full-on '24 hour' mark. 'Cause, hell yeah, he's just that damn good. Jack don't need 24 hours anymore. He can do it in 4.

And then BLAM. 2 in the chest, one in the head. Leave a rudderless CTU scrambling to pick up the pieces. 20 hours left to go and the biggest possible set back. Let someone new rise to the top or watch a team of people on the ground try and do what Jack did by himself.

Also, when it's all over: Give Jack a hero's funeral as the epilogue. Thank him properly for his service to the country. Show him buried amongst all the other heroes who've died doing Jack's job and more. Then, reveal that it's all a dog and pony show. That Jack's been buried in a simple grave right next to his wife. Just like he would've wanted. Last shot of the whole shebang is Jack's headstone side-by-side with his wife, having earned his rest. Maybe some sort of poignant 'He Saved The World A Lot' quote. Maybe just 'Father and Friend'.

That said, they'll never kill Jack Bauer. So:

2. Make It Personal. I wanna see his loose ends come back to get him. Remember how the Chinese didn't forgive and forget? Remember how awesome that was? Yeah. Forget political intrigue, BLAM, Kim's dead (just to show they aren't screwing around here) and his worst enemies have taken his grand-daughter. Their ultimate goal? Simply: Revenge.

Remember the movie TAKEN? Lets see Jack losing his cool, using every damned tool in his arsenal. A man REALLY on a mission. We know Jack's got very little left to live for, let's make his last day utterly personal. I wanna see a Jack who's calling in every favour he's ever been owed, I wanna see him calling up the President of the United States and yelling 'I'm Jack-Fucking-Bauer and God-dammit you will help me'.

If neither of the above 2 are in the cards then let me submit these more minor (but heavily effective) changes:

3. Respect. This drafts off my earlier point but Jack should be the guy who people talk about in hushed tones. He walks into a room and it silences. Newbies should be going 'who's that guy' and getting slapped upside the head. Every time anyone of credible authority -- who should know who Jack Bauer is -- questions his ability or denies him for bureaucratic reasons, the show takes a hit. People should be moving mountains to help this man whenever he appears.

Jack Bauer should be able to walk into any Government building, fully armed for war and those in the know should be like 'well, I'm sure he's got a good reason'. Simply put, anyone who questions Jack's loyalty at this point needs a kick in the ass for not reading up on who this dude is.

4. Momentum. My gawd, this show has devolved to talking heads talking about talking heads with a minute of gunplay inbetween. In the most recent episode they actually had a scene -- and this was just to fill time -- where criminals invading a police evidence warehouse got lost. They were being led, they were given explicit instructions on how to get there: 'Go to locker 3101, down the hall, on your left'. They don't. They stand there at locker 3110 trying the passcode going 'Why won't this work!?'. Yep, that's 3 minutes of your 24 hours you'll never get back.

You know what was great about (most of) the first Season? I felt that the scenes were taking me somewhere. Leading up to something. This season we have entire sub-plots that not only appear arbitrary, they're downright insulting to the viewer. Why not introduce subplots when they're needed, not just to help kill time from the main plot? If your main plot is that thin then head back to the drawing board... I mean, you can only water down the gruel so much.

5. Backup. By now Jack Bauer should have the best of the best at his back every step of the way. I'm sorry but this version of CTU doesn't cut it. 'Oh no! We lost Jack Bauer, our drones can't find him'! At which point, the smart, well-trained, world-class CTU agent goes 'oh, wait, I've got him on Infared.' Or 'The tracking bug we slipped into his coffee because we knew (having read his file) that he'd never actually wear one on his own'.

Why does everyone have to wait for clues from Bauer? Why can't anyone else on the team take the initiative that leads to a break that puts them ahead of the game? Or, shocker, actually HELPS Bauer. I'm not talking race-against-the-clock things like saving a limo from exploding, I'm talking about smart, thoughtful, intelligent people who foresee, plan for and prepare for places where Jack will actually need help down the line. Aka: Weaknesses.

You know... maybe acting like a real team would. Otherwise, what's the point of having a team? Right now, every single agent in that building looks like they're all running off of one shared brain cell.

And it's gotta stop.

Anyways, that's my list... I love this show and I think it's about time that Jack got his due... and a proper send off. The show needs a breath of fresh air, and... well, this is how I think it should go.



Rich Baldwin said...

I think you're onto something with Jack getting respect. What I'd do if I wrote the show: everyone would respect Jack, too much. Everyone would go out of their way to help him, too much. They'd get in his way by being too helpful. They'd screw up his initiatives by trying too hard. By suffocating him with assistance, they'd force him to break off on his own to succeed. Instead of being held back by those who challenge his authority, Jack would trip over eager sycophants and chafe under the burden of an authority that everyone would be far too eager to drop on his shoulders. That's how the show should have evolved - same trials, for different reasons - and the fact that it didn't is part of why I no longer watch what was originally such a gripping show.

Brandon Laraby said...

Yes! That'd be a wonderful twist.

Especially if some of it was coming from people's own self-serving needs.

'I helped Jack Bauer get this guy'.

Mind you, that could devolve into pettiness and such pretty easily... not that it'd be that much worse than the cloud of incompetence that seems to hang over this show.