I mentioned recently that as wild and wacky as 24 has been this season, I don’t think it has quite jumped the shark. Not yet. But there is little doubt that the show’s efforts to up the ante and to dazzle us with plot twists has led to an overall loss of quality and credibility. The writer’s manipulations of us, the viewers, are more bald faced and obvious than ever.
That’s unfortunate because some aspects of the show are still quite good. But I’m having trouble getting past a few things. Although the show has always stretched the boundaries of believability, it has almost always been done it in a way that leaves us with just enough to cling to so that we don’t just simply shrug and say “no way.” After all, truth really can be stranger than fiction, and if you accept that premise then you can accept just about anything that 24 throws at you.
But there was something in last week’s episode that was just plain wrong. It made no sense at all, even when accounting for the possibility that there is something going on that we don’t know about (and with 24, we need to account for that possibility at all times).
– – – SPOILER ALERT – – –
Here it is, but first the setup: any seasoned 24 watcher would not be very surprised when the plot turns on Dad Bauer. Sure enough, his hired guns are actually working for Graem, who then takes charge of the situation and has the heavies march Dad and Jack out to a construction site for execution. Oh, that Graem’s a nasty one!
As you know, Jack pulls a “Jack” and kicks his would-be executioners’ asses. Dad pops one of them in the heart with a nine, which seems unnecessary. Jack yells “I needed to question him!” and Dad replies “he was going to kill us!”
Doubt creeps in. Did Dad pop the heavy so he wouldn’t talk? That’s so 24. Doubt everywhere. Always with the doubt. By the end of the episode we realize that yes, Dad is in fact the mastermind and he was never under threat of execution – although the intention was indeed to kill Jack.
So here’s where it goes wrong. Think about it: four men on a construction site, two heavies with guns and two intended victims. One of the victims is in fact in on the game and is directing the heavies. That begs the question, “why bother with the game?” Who are they faking for? Jack is the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on, and he’ll be dead in a minute. There are no witnesses, no one looking on. So why bother pretending that Dad is on the line too?
Then, when Jack fights back and gains the upper hand, why would Dad shoot the heavy instead of just shooting Jack and getting it over with? (We find out later that he is perfectly capable of offing his own offspring.)
It makes no sense at all. But making no sense is “business as usual” on 24. In this case, however, it doesn’t even offer a bit of doubt as to why it unfolded that way. There isn’t even a wildly speculative reason why it went down like that. It was clearly nothing more than the screenwriter’s manipulation of the viewer for the sake of a plot twist. And that is bad writing.