24- 2×04: 11:00am-12:00pm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Written by Remi Aubuchon
Directed by James Whitmore, Jr
Original Air Date: November 19th, 2002

Although this slows down things a tad after the onslaught of terror that engulfed the previous hour, this is still a finely calibrated piece of suspenseful television that deals brilliantly with the fallout of last week’s events.

There’s a doomy air of death and foreboding here, with characters failing at nearly everything they’re setting out to do; Lynne finds herself at the mercy of Eric’s machinations at the OC, CTU is compromised beyond repair, and Jack’s encounter with Joseph Wald (Jon Gries) turns into a standout between the two, with both separated by the impenetrable walls of a panic room.

After the increasing build-up of suspense during the last hour, this might initially come as a disappointing follow-up, but in fact it just doubles down on 24’s handling of its core themes this year, and its increasingly more embittered and darker version of Jack Bauer.

That Lynne Kresge finds herself at the mercy of not only the manipulations of Eric Rayburn but also Palmer’s temper just adds to the fraught emotional tone of the hour as we, the audience, know that she did everything she could and that it’s Eric Rayburn who was responsible for ensuring the CTU bombing went ahead without trouble.

That Jack gets to Wald should be cause for celebration, but instead of the physical altercation you’d think we’d get, Jack has to go full Jack Torrance on the impenetrable walls of a panic room and the hopes he can talk Wald around.

On the other end of things, the wedding plot line involving Kate and Marie Warner and Marie’s marriage to Reza who is from the Middle East, does threaten to slow things down a tad and at this stage seems only to exist as sub-plot fodder. My only advice to anyone watching the series for the first time is to have faith here; this storyline does pay off and what is making for strangely enthralling viewing here isn’t merely the ‘is Reza a terrorist?’ question but more of how Kate is reacting to the situation.

Sarah Wynter is doing a fine job here even if the plot might frustrate anyone who wants to get back to the hunt-the-bomb narrative, but it does explore how questions like these can raise up accusations of xenophobia. I don’t want to get too far ahead of things here, or spoil any of the surprises coming up, but Kate’s behaviour here can come in for some criticism in retrospect.

She doesn’t say anything remotely racist, but her behaviour does feel as if it’s fuelled by fears of having someone who is Muslim in her family and the possibility and fears of ‘what if’ as opposed to what is actually going on.

Obviously 24 is a fictional series set in a fictional universe but it’s one very much impacted by real world events. Homeland Security gets mentioned in a future episode, an organisation created in the aftermath of 9/11 which then begs the question as to whether that day happened in the world of the series. If it did, then the series is going to town on a story involving a white blonde haired women being afraid of someone from a background and religion that unfortunately got equated with the events of that day and is basically acting like a ‘Karen’ now because of her own biases and dormant racism.

The series is even playing along with this, invoking a fear in the audience because of the storyline involving a nuclear threat and Middle East extremists and having the audience on edge when Reza takes Kate on a detour that riles her up but in fact involves showing his future sister-in-law the house he’s bought for Marie.

At this stage for newcomers, all of this might feel frustratingly slow but the 24 writers have clearly learned their lessons from last season not only on pacing the series so it doesn’t chew up so much story so quickly (the second season is perhaps the most enjoyably organic Day of the series in terms of its structure), but also in how to craft something that they know is potentially going to be binged after.

I don’t want to equate 24 as the series that created binge viewing, but its success on DVD in between seasons one and two, during a period when most American television series didn’t get a home release until it hit syndication at the 100 episode mark, didn’t go unnoticed and you get the sense that the writers have learned how to put together something they know won’t pay off in some respect until five episodes in and won’t reveal the real machinations behind it until the tenth. Of course, it’s still being semi-made up as it goes along and I’m not entirely sure if it the story tracks all the way completely, but that reveal is brilliantly done and in retrospect makes this part of the season more engrossing than it might have seemed at first glance and more complex even more so when looked at nineteen years after the season debuted.

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