24- 1×14: 1:00pm-2:00pm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Written by Joel Surnow & Michael Loceff
Directed by Jon Cassar
Original Air Date: 5th March, 2002

Since it’s lunchtime, everyone is entitled to a little break, and there’s a definite vibe of recharging the batteries to this hour of 24. Jack pretty much spends the hour being interrogated, and even grabbing a bite to eat, while Teri and Kim spend the hour at the hospital.

It should be boring, but it’s surprisingly entertaining, 24 in chilled out mode while its writers figure out how to reposition the show for the second half of the season.

There’s a subtle suggestion that maybe the writers are winging it here and one of the great things about the writers on this show was how honest they were about not having a grand plan.

24 was launching itself into an era of blockbuster serials such as Lost, Heroes, and Prison Break, while the same television season that was seeing Jack Bauer getting called into action by CTU for the first time also saw the debut of Sydney Bristow on Alias as she discovered the covert CIA section she worked for was far from being one of the good guys. It was an era of television which was so dependent on shows connecting every episode to each other in a grander form of narrative storytelling that audiences frequently asked themselves how much of it was being improvised and how much of it was being worked out ahead of time.

This wasn’t necessarily anything new; audiences asked the same of The X-Files for a good chunk of its run before realising at the end of season six/start of season seven that Chris Carter’s assertion of having a plan in place was a bit of a mistruth. Ditto in the world of movies. Has anyone ever truly believed that George Lucas knew so much ahead of time what he wanted the narrative trajectory to be of Star Wars?

Even modern-day movie serials as such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe have their own moments of contradictions where minor things don’t add up to the extent that makes you realise that some form of improvisation has been taking place.

Joel Surnow, Robert Cochran and Howard Gordon would frequently be honest about how they would start the season knowing what they wanted to do before the pace and style of 24 would chew up story faster than they could come up with it. The more controlled pace of season one compared to everything that was about to happen from Day Two onwards means that it feels like that initial thirteen episode order for season one meant that whatever direction the writers wanted to steer the ship in was reached when they got to the end of the previous episode, but the renewal for another eleven hours means that they are now having to improvise a little bit more.

Certainly, there were ideas in place during the last three or four episodes that you can see the writers are now running with. It’s very clear that Andre Drazen (Zeljko Ivanek) is going to be a central antagonist now. At the time it made one wonder if he was so unsure about the possibility of Gaines’ plan then why did he see the need to have another assassin flying to LA from midnight, the point when the show began, other than for storytelling convenience, and not just go with whatever contingency plan right away as the main one.

As we’ll see (no spoilers for anyone following these reviews as they watch it for the first time), there’s more of a connection here than we’re being told, but the series throws its oar into having a pre-Supernatural Misha Collins in badass mode blowing up a shed full of Gaines’ surviving henchmen and shooting dead an unarmed Kevin Carroll just to show us that he means business.

Carroll being the last connection to the plot that drove so much of the ‘Ira Gaines Hours’ and being eliminated by the new villains is a somewhat symbolic gesture that lets us know we’re into a new part of the show, even though it’s still effectively a new chapter of the same story we’ve been watching.

It’s a moment of high action in an episode that has the most sedate pacing of any 24 episode so far, but it’s also a lovely chance to collect our breaths before more trouble is spread. With David Palmer paying CTU a visit to see Jack in the episode’s cliffhanging final scene, little did we know that we were seeing the setting up of an angry meet cute for the central stars of 24’s greatest ever bromance.

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