24- 1×23: 10:00pm-11:00pm

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Written by Robert Cochran & Howard Gordon
Directed by Paul Shapiro
Original Air Date: 14th May, 2002

This being the penultimate hour of 24 means there is a considerate level of tension in the air just from what episode number it is. There is a lot going on here that will leave you chomping at the bit for the finale, but until we get there, let’s unpack the moment that had everyone talking back in 2002.

Nina Myers is the CTU mole. Yes, the series played the ‘who’s the mole?’ card for the first third of the season, but it wouldn’t be fun without a second one to carry the series to the end and while it was another example of the series repeating itself because it had to do more episodes in order to bring the series to twenty-four hours, it’s a revelation that cannot help but leave the audience reeling.

An audience favourite all season, Sarah Clarke did too good a job to make us love the character, even feeling sympathy for her when she found herself being left by Jack who had returned to the family home to be with his wife and daughter.

Instead of the series opting to go for the ‘homewrecker’ route, there was something more refreshing in that there was an air of criticism of Jack that he had somewhat discarded her to go back to his family and left her to pick up the pieces.

The motivations of her character, actions and behaviour are now open to a new level of scrutiny and would fuel much of the conversation for the long seven day wait that greeted audiences until the finale.

Whether or not the reveal makes sense is a matter of some debate. As 24 would continue, some of its plot twists were just things we’d have to go along with even if they didn’t quite match up to other elements of the story (there is one particular twist in Day Three that is brilliant on the surface but which falls apart the more you think about it).

It’s a fantastic end to the hour, a virtual guarantee that you’ll be back for the final episode, and thankfully it comes at the end of another crackingly entertaining and increasingly suspenseful hour of television.

Right from its opening atmospheric establishing shot, sweeping over another key part of the California skyline and all backed by charismatically brilliant Sean Callery music, you get the sense of 24 building and building to something. Teri finally finds out that Kim has been kidnapped again, Palmer it turns out has been on to Patty and Sherry’s plot and confronts his wife accordingly on it (and with it another great Haysbert/Jerald scene) and Andre and Drazen strike in an attempt take out Palmer and Jack in one fell swoop.

It’s clear by this stage that the writers didn’t really have a contingency plan in place for the Drazen’s. For all Andre’s proclamations to Gaines earlier in the season about having one, it’s only by sheer luck that they ended up having Jack discover the detention facility that allowed them to use him in the way that they eventually do to try and kill Palmer with a bomb riddled cell phone.

It doesn’t really make sense, but it’s still tremendously exciting stuff, but amazingly the best scene of the episode belongs to Elisha Cuthbert and Zeljko Ivanek.

The offsprings of the series’ chief villain and hero, Kim’s question over why Andre and his father are terrorizing her family could have easily led to a typical bad guy speech, but instead Cochran and Gordon’s teleplay has Andre open himself up somewhat emotionally with his sadness over not being able to look at his sister’s photos anymore and giving Kim a somewhat harsh, but true, lesson over the work her father does.

Nobody knows better the dirtiness of his work than Jack, and certainly events from season two onwards will throw that character through no end of moral and political ambiguity that will invite much debate, from the audience to television critics to the actual US military itself in later seasons. This is perhaps the first time the series and a character within it would acknowledge that its hero has a line in a business that involves getting his hands dirty and just typing that makes me realise that he will say words to those effect in the season two premiere.

The scene itself is a brilliant moment and portrayed to perfection by Cuthbert and Ivanek. It’s maybe easy to make fun of Cuthbert, or at the very least Kim, but truthfully she has done the best with the material she has been given all season and if we didn’t care at this stage then it would mean that her escape from the Drazen’s that takes us into the final act of the episode wouldn’t be as suspenseful as it is.

It was a long week waiting for that finale, and honestly it sometimes felt like the series would never end, but the final chapter is next and with it quite possibly one of the greatest hours of television ever produced.

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