24 – 3×04: ‘4:00pm-5:00pm’

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Written by Stephen Kronish
Directed by Ian Tonyton
Original Air Date: November 18th 2003

Your spouse is possibly dying, but you’re needed at the office because a deadly virus is going to be unleashed. It could only be a problem posed by 24 and it’s exactly the conundrum facing Michelle early on in this episode which sees the third season of the series quietly and subtly reformatting its story arc at this stage of the day into something else.

Except the audience doesn’t realise that yet because we’re still a few episodes away from the massive revelation lying in wait, but looking back on it, we probably should have seen it coming given the decision that Jack makes here.

This is a brilliant episode full of lovely little moments that go hand in hand with the bigger stakes at the heart of this season’s story. Reiko Aylesworth made an instantly great addition to the series in season two and it made a lot of sense to make her a regular this season. This being 24 and that its writers are enjoyable sadists, they’ve only gone and shot Tony and made the relationship between Michelle and Tony one now under the watchful eye of 24’s brand of the grim reaper.

Tony being shot is another reminder of the ‘nobody is safe’ rule and while there has been nothing here as of yet to rival the blowing up of CTU three episodes into its previous season, Jack showing a willingness to break the law and throw away his career and his life so that President Palmer can save face when it comes to the stern rule of ‘not negotiating with terrorists’ once again shows how the series is unafraid to shake up the rule book.

This is only the fourth episode of the season and one might be left thinking the writers are shaking up the foundations of the entire show in a game-changing way. It isn’t, but since some might be watching the show for the first time and reading these reviews in tandem, I am hesitant to talk too much of the twist that will be revealed a few hours from here.

What it does indicate once again is the series’ unwilling commitment to delivering some of the darkest and most intense thrills on television, and ones that are intertwined with ferociously complex character beats. Jack is ostensibly our hero and yet we watch him beat up his protégé and partner while committing a criminal act just so our beloved President doesn’t have to break the non-negotiating rule when it comes to threats against the country.

Even his tentative moment with Kim is replete with a subtle sense of manipulation. It’s a tender moment, scored beautifully by Sean Callery who reuses his gorgeous cue from the second season’s epic fifteenth episode, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that Jack is still lying to his daughter, even peripherally, while he opens his heart to her.

That it’s followed by a quick ‘dammit’ and a brilliantly delivered ‘sonofabitch’ line from Sutherland once again is evidence of how the series can hit a hundred miles per hour like no other series on television.

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