Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The 24 Twist

**IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED THIS WEEK'S EPISODE OF 24, STOP READING NOW. (No, seriously. Stop reading now)**

Anyone else out there in Jack Bauer-land who feels as betrayed as I do by Monday's ep of "24"? I don't mean by Tony Almeida, who pulled a heel turn reminiscent of the glory days of the NWO by smothering Agent Larry Moss at the end of an otherwise fantastic hour. I mean by the "24" writers.

Last night's absurd, out-of-left-field twist pretty much canceled out many of this season's best moments.

Much of this resurgent season has been about the redemption of Tony, only the second greatest character in "24" history behind Jack. There was that great moment early on when Tony, in FBI custody nearly pushed Jack to the breaking point only to whisper to him the code that allowed him to discover he was an inside man. And when he warned Jack not to ignore his own rules about 'collateral damage' to save a Port Authority cop, only to have Bauer's back in a 2-on-9 firefight.

And last night, he saved half the east coast from Jonas Hodges' missile brigade all by himself. BY HIMSELF. With the FBI guys on the outside looking in, Tony took on the Starkwood mercs to save the day. Why would he do that if he was a Starkwood mole, or a plant for the 'higher ups' Hodges referred to in the White House? I can understand deep cover, but he had plenty of chances to not put himself in harm's way without drawing suspicion.

And I don't wanna hear about suspending disbelief. I'm the world's biggest 24 apologist, but where do they go from here? And even better question, why did they choose to take the story in this direction?

With Jack incapacitated by the bio-toxin, Tony stepped up to be The Man in the field. Instead of rolling with that and finally - FINALLY - giving much of the 24 universe what it's been hoping would happen for years: A Jack & Tony team-up. The role reversal that put Jack in the unfamiliar spot of tech support while Tony took point in the field has been a huge success the past few weeks, humanizing the once-indestructible Jack Bauer while elevating the Soul Patch from sidekick to partner.

Instead, the writers took the lazy way out, sacrificing story coherence for pure shock value. I can't wait for the obligatory exposition scene in hour 23 where Tony is cornered by Jack and tries to make sense of his actions.

He should save his breath and just give us one of the Almeida patented open-mouthed stares of anguish. Because there is no way they can make all this fit into anything resembling consistent character actions.

Tony's road to redemption has reached a dead end. There is no way for him to come back from this. It's one thing to kill a merc in Emerson's crew for info about the planned White House break-in. He gets the 'in the line of duty' pass for that.

That's why, at the start of the season, when we first thought he was a bad guy, he didn't crash the passenger jet. It was the first indicator that all was not what it appeared to be with Tony. Because crashing a plane full of people can't be forgiven, no matter what kind of Op you're running.

Know what else can't be forgiven? Smothering an FBI agent - a genuine good guy - in a mouthful of his own blood.

That's it. Tony's gone to the dark side, and he's not coming back.

Frankly, that stinks. A great character wasted. And a fabulous comeback year for my favorite show has been derailed. I'll still be watching, hoping they get back on track. But to be honest, I think Jack getting a happy ending has a better chance of occurring.

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