24- 1×04: ‘3:00am-4:00am’

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Written by Robert Cochran
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Original Air Date: 27th November 2001

A concept like the one that 24 is centred around means that the series is inevitably going to stretch credibility. This is the fourth hour of the series and the second in which Jack Bauer gets involved in a shoot-out.

Where the second episode of the series kept things intense and stealthy, all that sneaking around with a quietly pulsing Sean Callery score, Robert Cochran’s teleplay throws Jack into a never ending nightmare maze of loud gun fire, mobile phones going off at the wrong moment and a horrifying death in its final moments.

Marking the second time within four episodes that Jack has found himself in a shoot-out, the series is proving so exciting at this stage that it’s hard to complain about any stretches of credibility, and good thing too because the more 24 will go on the less credibility there will be.

The sequence itself simply compounds the nightmarish quality of the series’ story telling at this stage, and it’s not just Jack who is finding himself on the harsh end of suspense and tension this episode.

At the time of writing, the methods that American law enforcement use and the systematic racism that appears to be part and parcel of their working methods and training, which appear to be downright militaristic, are rightfully coming in for intense scrutiny and criticism.

What’s most fascinating about Cochran’s teleplay (the first of the series not to be credited to 24’s co-creator Joel Surnow) is how two of the story strands here deal with Jack and Teri Bauer’s dealings with police officers.

One of the things that 24 would grasp and sometimes run with was having members of the public and non-government agent affiliated characters help Jack Bauer in various points on his travels. A female African-American police officer patrolling in the dead of night on her own might seem unlikely, and it was something many pointed out when the episode was first broadcast, but it does allow the episode to have a semblance of intense fun for a large chunk of the episode as Officer Jessie Hampton (Yolonda Ross) joins Jack in taking down a new antagonist Penticoff (John Hawkes).

While Jack manages to win Hampton over to his side pretty quickly (and with it the series’ acknowledgment that CTU isn’t exactly public knowledge), Teri finds herself on the receiving end of a patrol officer who takes his job very, very seriously and who proves more of a hindrance than a help.

I don’t want to get into plot spoilers for anyone following these reviews as they are watching along for the first time, but as anyone who has seen beyond this episode will know, there is a lot more going on in Teri’s side of the story than meets the eye, but it still makes for an interesting piece of contrasting story telling.

Teri and Alan Yorke (Richard Burgi) find themselves at the mercy of a cop who won’t listen to them, seems to take a strange sense of glee at pointing out that one of them has a wedding ring and the other doesn’t and appears to not give a damn about their missing daughters. That the cop they are dealing with is a white man and Jack finds himself being helped by a woman who is a person of colour says a lot about race and gender. Allegedly there were scenes deleted involving Hampton talking to Jack about the impact that Palmer has had on her as a person.

It’s a shame that such scenes were cut, but 24 is a show in a perpetual rush, and while the racial politics going on here are fascinating, it’s still somewhat of a disappointment that Hampton is the show’s latest casualty. Of course, this is a television show that will become increasingly famous for its high body counts, with anyone at the mercy of the show’s prolific grim reaper, particularly those who come into Jack’s orbit.

The Los Angeles night of 24 still proves to be a captivating character, with Rodney Charters’ dark photography and Callery’s music increasingly enhancing the show’s mood. That this episode opens with Janet Yorke holding on for dear life and then later nearly dying under the wheels of Dan’s van only add to the increasingly intense style of thriller and terror that are going hand in hand here.

The noir feel even extends to CTU which finds itself under lockdown by an embittered George Mason (Xander Berkley, who the show will soon realise they need more of) bringing everyone in for interrogation, which just to enhance the mood are shot with long shadows over everyone’s faces which just add to the atmosphere here.

One is left wondering what in the hell the layout for CTU is; the maze-like structure of the building seems even more intricate than the 18166 San Fernando Road location where Jack and Hampton have their shoot-out.

The use of a mobile phone going off in that shoot-out is a wonderful reminder of the time and era that 24 was made in. While modern, younger audiences might snigger at the sight of mobile phones that were actually a little blockier and functioned simply as phones as opposed to devices that kept us connected to the world around, it is also a gentle reminder, and a humorous one at that, that 24 could never have been made before the invention of the cell phone.

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