24: Live Another Day Review: “5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.” (Season 9, Episode 7)
Like many televised pop culture phenomenons, 24: Live Another Day comes with a drinking game. Similar to the original series’ run, whenever Jack Bauer screams, “Damn it!” you take a drink. (Kiefer Sutherland even pointed out he knew of this game in an interview, revealing he let out a barrage of those expletives one episode just to mess with the players.) He goes for the curse word quite a few times in this week’s episode. And, boy, he picked the right week to get all nervy and panicked. It is not every day you get a half-dozen drones fired at you.
24 is not a show that anyone will ever hold up as an example of realism in storytelling, although it helps that the series is filmed in a gritty, close-up, handheld style that recalls realist action films, like the ones from director Paul Greengrass. Even so, this is a deliciously silly hour of the thriller, due to a riveting (and ridiculous) car chase. Usually, a car is fleeing another vehicle. Here, Jack is stuffed into a coupe with Kate and a semi-conscious Simone, trying to drive fast enough to evade drone missiles, which are being fired by someone who could be the world’s worst Space Invaders player. (The last time I checked, drone technology was capable enough to demolish a car driving at regular speed in a parking lot.)
That action climax, where drones zoom right into the tight lanes and corridors of suburban London, entertains. At the same time though, it is illogical. Of the hundreds of people spilling out of a hospital, Margot has the eyes to spot, in a few seconds, her daughter’s figure amidst a large crowd who should be fleeing to their cars after a massive explosion. The convenience of Jack and company zooming out of the lot without any hold-ups was when this episode just stopped making sense. Then, despite news coverage talking about the bombing of the hospital they were escaping from, little word of the other drone strikes manage to reach the President, Prime Minister or even the CIA compound by the episode’s end.
The sequence is a doozy, although we have to buy several outlandish moments, such as one where Jack decides to switch cars and proceeds by punching a civilian, getting into his car and evading missile fire despite being at a stand-still. (Another observation: Jack is driving on the left side of the car during the chase, despite the series being set in London, where the wheel is on the right side.) It is a sequence both stupendous and stupid. On another show, this pile-up of contrivances and conveniences would collapse the taut plotting and serious tone. However, the episode comes from director Jon Cassar, who has been with the show since its earliest years and knows his way around an action sequence that is thrilling, filled with carnage and yet compact enough so as not to raise the network’s budgetary concerns.