Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ending on cliffhangers is lame

Spoilers below...

So this seventh season of 24 ends in fairly obvious fashion; Kim Bauer volunteers for some experimental treatment so that Jack can be cured through phony-baloney stem-cell medicine (stem-cells must be a godsend to sci-fi writers, nobody knows what they are or what they do, so you can make up any crazy shit you want). President Whats-Her-Name sends her dumbass, killing-federal-witnesses daughter to jail and in the process drives away her husband. Tony's master plan is predictably ridiculous and he gets caught. Plus, Agent Walker decides that, since the season is over, she might as well throw her career away and torture the main bad guy. Just another day in the 24-verse.

The show still suffers from not being able to sustain its central conceit: namely that all this lunacy could happen in 24 hours. Also, as per usual, the plan of the bad guys was needlessly complicated and ideologically confused. And the personal drama surrounding the President felt like a tedious distraction from the real story rather than a worthwhile subplot.

Still, this season was a marked improvement over the last, if only because it didn't suck horribly. Setting the action in Washington, D.C. was a nice change of pace from the usual location in L.A., and it made the interactions between Jack, the FBI, and the White House more plausible. And the writers made much better use of supporting cast members who, unlike Jack, could potentially be killed (and several of them were). There was even an effort to confront the issue of torture in a slightly more nuanced fashion.

For all its many faults, 24 remains one of the few TV shows dedicated to fast-paced, non-stop entertainment. It isn't a CSI knockoff or yet another show about lawyers or doctors; it's an action movie every week. So will the next season build off the improvements of this one? Only time will tell, but I'll be one of the viewers who sticks around for Day 8.

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