24 – 2×23 : ‘6:00am-7:00am

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Written by Gil Grant & Evan Katz
Directed by Jon Cassar
Original Air Date: May 13th 2003

There is a lot to love here. It’s clear at this stage just how much of a different playing field 24’s writers have opted to play in as the second season heads to its conclusion. There is nothing here as game-changing as the Nina twist which led us into the finale at the end of season one, but the considerable stakes of the story here are driving so much of the plot in a deliriously entertaining fashion.

What’s so remarkable about everything here is how the fate of the world is at stake, and everything boils down to three people in a dingy apartment. The scenes with Jack, Sherry and Hewitt were palpable with their character-driven suspense last week, but now with everything against the wall, and two episodes left, that suspense erupts to pounding levels.

Everyone is at the tail end of defeat here; Hewitt dying in Jack’s arms, Tony and Michelle being arrested, Palmer detained and out of office, with only characters we hate like Chappelle, Carrie, Mike, and Prescott coming out on top. It gives events a brilliant feeling of frustration that is none more than 24 and feels different to the similar sense of never-ending defeat that was carrying events at the equivalent point last season.

It was always going to be hard for anyone to step into Stephen Hopkins’ shoes on this show given just how much he defined and created the visual style of the series. It was his idea to add split-screen and film everything in handheld cameras. All season Jon Cassar has shown himself to be a worthy successor, but here he really comes into his own in a near grandiose way.

You might have missed the time on the clock, but the sun has risen again, and with that Cassar blasts the sunlight back into the series during what must be the darkest lit foot chase in film and television history.

It’s a superb moment, bookended with the show’s first use of sliding split screens in its final moments, alongside a superlative use for foreshadowing for anyone that knows their history when it comes to the image of David Palmer.

What’s more remarkable here is that the series isn’t trying to top what it did last season in terms of revelation and plot twists. There are twists and turns here of a sort, but what there is also in a very different way is a sense of unbeatable odds.

Where the first season zeroed in on the personal and gave an epic sense to a character-driven thriller, these final batch of episodes, including this one, have been another example of just how much the series has changed in the space of the first season into the second.

There are still unbeatable odds here, but the scale of everything is even more elaborate than assassination and kidnapping. It isn’t just Jack trying to save his family, he’s got an entire country and now a political system to save. If there is any visual in the episode that sums up everything, it’s perhaps the moment when Hewitt lies dying and Jack buries his head into his head in an exhausted gesture that sums up everything perfectly.

Add to that Jack’s increasing heart troubles and there is a virtual guarantee that you’ll be back for the finale.

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