24 – 2×10: ‘5:00pm-6:00pm’

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Written by David Ehrman
Directed by Rodney Charters
Original Air Date: 14th January, 2003

While this episode brings Nina’s story in the season to an end and with it the enjoyable hate-filled chemistry between herself and Jack that Sarah Clarke and Kiefer Sutherland have superb at portraying (although that deathly cliffhanger from the end of the previous episode is perhaps resolved a little too quickly), the series is thankfully showing no signs of slowing down or losing momentum as it shifts storytelling gears.

The revelation that some sort of rogue element within the US government has a degree of involvement in the plot to set off a nuclear weapon in Los Angeles shows a further muddying off the waters in terms of 24’s approach to American politics. As 24 aired, it did so at the same time as Aaron Sorkin’s equally wonderful The West Wing, arguably one of the very finest television series ever made.

Sorkin’s approach was more fanciful, lighter (although it could have its dramatic moments of moral uncertainty, especially in the last third of season three, which interestingly was the first season of the show to air post-9/11), and truly brilliant, but where it was the light over the hill when it came to the potential brilliance that politics could aspire to, 24 increasingly showed Washington politics to be one that can just as easily fall into murky waters.

After discovering lies and subterfuge within his own family last season and with it the breakdown of his marriage, it’s the return of Sherry that has now opened the possibilities that his own administration has its own layers of conspiracy and corruption, possibly stemming from the NSA and Roger Stanton (Harris Yullin) who is running the search for the bomb.

Palmer has been brilliantly portrayed by Dennis Haysbert and very much the show’s equal lead with Sutherland at this stage, but there is something poignantly tragic that this dreamy, strong, liberal leader is increasingly finding himself having to make darker decisions to ensure the right thing is done.

This could be seen as a capitulation to the politics of show’s very own creators (particularly the openly Conservative Joel Surnow) as we’ve already seen Palmer arrest a reporter threatening to reveal the truth about the nuclear weapon to ensure public safety and who will make an even darker decision when it comes to how to deal with Stanton in the next episode.

All this comes with the reveal that Jack and Nina were attacked by a rogue unit within the ranks of the US military itself, another cog in an increasingly paranoid chain that the series is running with at full pelt.

There is barely time to catch your breath before we have Jack in the field and both he and Kate Warner find themselves coming into the other’s orbit.  Initially considered something of a filler plot line, the Warner family and the possibility of a terrorist in their ranks became increasingly watchable when Tony showed up at their house to interrogate Reza, itself an enjoyably subversive storyline as the show wanted the audience and characters to think a Muslim character was a terrorist but who we now discover isn’t.

The reveal that Marie is the dark centre of the family conspiring to kill millions on her wedding day is simultaneously obvious and yet incredibly smart and that Reza discovers this and is then killed gives the moment a brilliant soap opera like charge that borders on ridiculous, but which also reminds the audience that this is still a deadly series unafraid to rack up the body count regardless of if you’re innocent or not.

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