Written by Larry Hertzog
Directed by Davis Guggenheim
Original Air Date: February 5th, 2002
The credit sequence to 24’s tenth episode is a brilliantly edited split screen montage of morning rush hour over Los Angeles and with it an indication that the series has a new set of visuals to play with.
Of course, the sun has been up for a few episodes now, but it’s at this point that Jack Bauer’s day now has a new of dramas and storytelling elements at its disposal; the empty darkened streets that had their own sets of horrors have now given way to a large population making their way to work and beginning of their own days, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the episode’s very first shot of freeways filled with cars while helicopters buzz around reporting on the rush hour traffic over the radio.
It could almost be a different show if it were not for the fact that we’re still watching the same characters that have sucked the audience into their orbits over the previous nine episodes. There was something genuinely frightening and foreboding about those streets that Jack, Kim and Teri were finding themselves in and while there is still a substantial level of threat directed at the characters, it feels different now that that the series has to be lit differently.
There was almost something grainy and dark about the series when it began, now it’s tinted with yellow, the feeling of that blistering LA sun almost bursting out of the screen, the dark and dank world that everyone was running around in when the series started now coming to life along with the sun.
Even more brilliantly, it gives the series and Jack a whole new set of challenges with which to make his day that much harder. There are no darkened streets to hide in and with cops on patrol everywhere, our lead character is more prone to be spotted, and even manages to get embroiled in a mini-car chase during one of the episode’s most tense moments (once again backed by brilliant Sean Callery music that really gets the pulse going through many parts of the episode).
The episode amounts to 24 being in very rare, pure real time mode this hour. Later seasons will show characters getting from one end of LA and California to the other in the space of a commercial break, something that borders on impossible if you’ve ever driven through LA traffic, but for its first season, the series showed a willingness to utilise that sense of real time in a genuine, nerve shredding way.
The first half of the episode has Jack on the run, followed by a second half of him being stuck in traffic for a large portion of the running time, perhaps the single most realistic depiction of driving through LA traffic ever put to screen, and something the series will pretty much ignore in future seasons.
It’s an episode that manages to have a lot going on while also being somewhat static. Characters are moving forward, but they are also remaining strangely stagnate while they are doing so. With Teri managing to steal Eli’s phone and getting in contact with Nina and CTU, there’s a lot of phone tracing going on here that really shouldn’t make for great television, but it strangely does, and this being 24, you know it’s not going to be as easy as tracing the call without any drama.
Once again, it’s a reminder of just how much 24 was always dependant on technology to make so much of it work. Computers and phones all get a workout here, and while that very technology is seen as being a large part in the fight against terrorism, it’s also something that can be used against the characters.
What starts of as possible salvation for Teri and Kim soon turns against them as the battery dies out and they find themselves once again at the mercy of Eli’s temper. There’s nothing here as horrible as the events of the previous episode, and it’s gratifying to see the characters get the upper hand if only for a short while, but even the very technology that drives so much of the show can fall short when the need arises.
Running for nearly half the episode’s length, the telephone conversation between Jack, Teri and Nina is the longest phone conversation on the series, which might seem like a strange record to set but given just how much of 24 is set to and fuelled by telephone conversations, that really says something. For a sequence that is all about talking, it’s the things unsaid that really strike home, not least when Jack tells Teri how much he loves her, but with the episode choosing to plays the moment against Nina’s heartbroken reaction, and a wonderful piece of acting by Sarah Clarke.
For a series very much famous for its thriller aspects, and later more expansive use of action and ticking time bomb scenarios, there is something gratifying in seeing the earlier stages of the series focusing more on character as brilliantly as it does here. Everyone is doing such a great job in front of the camera, and the writing is less expositional as well, something that would drag the series down in many episodes post-season one.
The darker edges are still there this hour; Jamey becomes the latest casualty after her suicide attempt in the previous episode, although some of the darkness is shorn a little by the fun in watching Bauer managing to track down investment banker Ted Cofell (Currie Graham) and the next link in the conspiracy chain.
The next hour will also be about communication, but of a darker, more violent variety, but it will also hint at something that 24 would come to be more famous for in its later years, and that is the subject of torture.