24 – 2×13: ‘8:00pm-9:00pm’

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Written by Maurice Hurley
Directed by Jon Cassar
Original Air Date: 18th February 2003

There is a great pace to this episode. It doesn’t quite hit the stomach-churning levels of intensity that made the previous hour a highlight of the season, but there are no signs of the story slowing down yet.

There is a lot of running around with guns pointing within darkened corridors throughout Norton Airfield and grisly discoveries to be made, not to mention an enjoyable moment of CTU protocol where we see Jack give a briefing to a SWAT team that involves the use of passcards and the like. It’s an episode where a lot seems to happen, but perhaps very little does, but it is an entertaining enough chapter because it gets to run with some of the core ideas running throughout this part of the season.

What has quietly become one of the most entertaining elements of 24’s second day has undoubtedly been Marie Warner. While the season has positioned itself very much in the middle of a story dominated by the threat of Islamic Terrorism, the series has grasped with both hands the idea that part of that threat is coming from within America itself.

There was some lovely suspense doing the rounds when the possibility of Reza being a terrorist was raised earlier in the season, but the series quietly subverted the audience and the characters’ expectations when in fact Reza was revealed to be innocent. That showed a willingness of the series to maybe play around with the form of this type of thriller, making Kate Warner someone that what would easily be dubbed nowadays as a ‘Karen’ when her fears over someone from the Middle East being a terrorist were truly unfounded and the real threat was from within her own home.

For all the talk of CTU and Jack trying to find Mahmood Faheen and Syed Ali throughout the first half of the season, it says something that while Faheen and Ali have either been killed or caught, Marie is still out there putting the finishing touches to Ali’s plan, radicalised to believe in the cause, much to the confusion of her family.

Amongst the torture and drama of last week’s episode, it was perhaps easy to miss the most subtle scene amongst the brutality; a low-key conversation between George and Marie’s father, Bob. George outlining how one becomes radicalised to a stunned Bob who tries to get his head around the idea of his daughter having handlers was superbly played by John Terry and Xander Berkley, while Kate herself also had to contend with how terrorism and acts of violence never come down to ethnicity and evil can sometimes begin at home.

In the middle of it all is a superlative performance from Laura Harris, perhaps one of the more underrated of 24’s roster of villains. On top of a more expansive storyline, 24 has also taken a less structured approach to its use of villains on the series with its second day. Unlike season one which was split into the Ira Gaines hours in the first half and the Drazen family for the second, the plot that this season’s antagonists are perpetrating comes down to layers and sections, even if the storyline of the season itself is cleanly divided in half as we’ll soon see.

The character of Marie literally goes through a semi-sense of transformation, donning a black wig and darker clothes to replace her blonde hair and lighter colours that she wore in the first half of Day Two. Whether or not this was a plot twist that the writers planned is hard to say, but it’s one that has worked wonders. Harris plays the role in an intensely fun way- coldly brutal and methodical in her approach, but also unafraid to use her sexuality to attain her goals. You cannot help but be reminded a little of Mandy from the earlier episodes of Day One; there is a playfulness to some of her performance, but also an unabashed devotion to chaos if it means attaining her goals. However, like Nina’s role a few episodes back, you get the sense that maybe there is only a certain point they can take Marie before the series needs to switch gears again.

Those gears include the Coral Snake Unit hinted at a few weeks ago and who make an appearance here. Unfortunately for everyone concerned, they are very much dead and with no means of securing the bomb a guarantee at all.

There are a lot of moving parts here, and yet when US soldiers, and even elements of the government, are part of a plot that involves threatening innocent lives on a mass scale, it once again reiterates just how dark and complex the world of 24 is.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Sherry Palmer is involved somehow.

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