Episode(s) Post-Mortem: 8×15 & 8×16 – Alas, Sweet Pompadour

April 6, 2010 3:25 PM
Episodes 0 Comments

Wow, yeah, it’s been awhile since I wrote anything about this season. Time to flex those old rhetorical muscles again to clock in with something on last night’s double header episode, which seems to have been generally received by most fans (including me) as the best of the season so far. My commitment to fandom of the series has waned severely over the last six weeks or so, due to two main factors. I knew going in that without Tony Almeida, the show would have a more difficult time than in previous seasons with keeping me invested in the action. Couple that with the fact that up to this point, the material has been pretty derivative and plot-focused without a lot of attention paid to the internal struggles or personal motivations of the characters, and the show started to lose me. Having a plot-intensive story is fine, of course, but only if it truly will offer the unexpected twists and turns of an inspired, original and tightly-woven progression. Until last night, this season has failed to live up to the hype.

While I will say up front that I will never be capable of thinking that anything 24 puts out not involving Tony Almeida and the Brotherhood is as good as what they put out when Tony is involved and Jack and Tony are mixing it up, these latest two hours have injected some much-needed life into the action and investment into the audience. So in the spirit of drinking from a glass that’s half-full, I’ll offer up my highlights. I apologize in advance if it seems stream of consciousness. I’ve had a rough few days

First, Dana Walsh. Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way up front. Number one, her storyline stunk up the joint for the first 12 episodes, no question. I remember saying somewhere – maybe Twitter, maybe the forum, I can’t recall specifically – that I had a thought her desperation to hide her past might be indicative of more than just a desire to hide the things she had done as “Jenny Scott”, and that she could be a mole. Then I dismissed this idea, thinking it was just too far out there, even for 24. Turns out, I was wrong. There is never anything too far out there for 24 and Dana did indeed turn out to be a mole.

Let’s set aside for a moment the undeniable knowledge that moles have been done to death on this show, and that their shock value is now virtually nonexistent. Let’s also set aside for a moment the fact that, as Gareth of TV or Not TV so astutely pointed out in his mid-season review I posted a link to recently, unless the writers are able somehow to explain how a girl from Hicksville, USA that once sweated up the sheets with the likes of Kevin Wade acquired ties to a high level organization that supplies black market intelligence to terrorists, then it’s just sloppy writing. My question at this point is whether or not Dana Walsh was even Jenny Scott at all? Was it yet another cover? In these latest episodes, the writers alluded to “help” that Dana may have had establishing her credentials and getting through vetting for her position at CTU NY. I will be a very upset viewer if they do not extrapolate on this coming through to the final hours, and if the Dana character is dropped after this.

However — the fact that the writers did make Dana the mole, perhaps a mole as ruthless and as (debatably?) sociopathic as Nina Myers herself (though personally I don’t think Dana’s character was as well-established as Nina’s, and as Gareth also pointed out, the audience was predisposed to distrust her from the get-go, so there was no emotional investment in her moledom) — this is truly fucking awesome, thanks to the unbelievable abilities of Katee Sackhoff as a performer. I loved her in BSG and, despite how poorly written Dana’s character was through the first half of the season, I still love her performance in this role from the top down. She has offered up an admirable and credible performance with very dubious material, and now that the writers are finally giving her something substantial, dramatic (as opposed to melodramatic) and relevant to work with, she has exploded.

The interrogation scene between Katee Sackhoff and Kiefer Sutherland was bone-chilling, and very well-accented by the scathingly austere, futuristic glow of the white interrogation room set. WELL DONE! Katee Sackhoff paced every piece of dialogue brilliantly, and her delivery with those fucking eyes rockin’ the Nina Myers Interrogation Room Gaze At The Surveillance Camera™ hammered it home.

But of course, the true highlight of this storyline was what happened before that in the parking garage. In a massive homage to the Season 1 finale, the director (the amazing Brad Turner, who has been directing episodes for the series since Season 3) mirrored the Jack/Nina “last standoff” scene with Mason and Tony, using Cole and Dana with Hastings standing in for George. From Hastings busting in yelling “Cole, don’t do it!” to the disbelieving heartbreak, anger and betrayal on Cole’s face to Dana’s matter-of-fact dead stare, it was a wonderful tribute to one of the best moments in the series’ history in this, the final season. Sackhoff and Prinze Jr. totally made that tribute scene their beeyotch. Brava, Bravo.

I thought Hassan taking out Bauer and giving himself up to the terrorists was pretty fucking great. Taking out Jack Bauer is a feat that not even Tony Almeida was able to accomplish. *Clap clap*. Hassan is one Badass Pompadour Rockin’ Motherfucker.

In all seriousness, though, the Hassan storyline through these two episodes was very well executed. There have been moments throughout the season when I questioned Hassan’s character. Samir was correct when he called him vain, and self-absorbed. Over the last few episodes before this, Hassan was sort of faced with how he had failed and disappointed the people he cared about the most, and how what he worked so hard to achieve was being hijacked by the very men he was trying to stop. These two episodes were about his reckoning, and in the end he came through as a hero who was willing to sacrifice himself to protect his ideals, his beliefs, his vision and innocent people. I am proud of you, Mr. President.

I knew there was something off about the pursuit from the get-go. As soon as they entered the apartment building, and it was being cut with scenes from Samir’s rant, I got a distinct “Chase in Season 3 busting into the routing room” vibe (the episode where Ryan Chappelle dies). But I was expecting Jack to bust in and Hassan to be gone, or for it to be a decoy and for Dana to have been lying. I didn’t expect Hassan to be lying dead on the floor with his throat gaping open. WOW!

I think this was a very important and very good decision by the writers, especially at this juncture. Ratings have been flagging a little, reviews have been mixed, fan response has been mixed. So far, for me, this has been the only truly impactful death of the series so far this season. Although bodies have been dropping left and right, none of them have belonged to anyone we truly care about (largely because there haven’t been THAT MANY *to* care about). However, over these last two episodes, Omar Hassan rediscovered himself on an existential level and so by the time they reveal his brutal slaughter, the audience is absolutely low-hanging fruit, ripe for the picking. Very well-done. Probably the best stretch of writing the show has seen so far this season. I also thought the dialogue itself in all of Hassan’s scenes was very effective and of course Anil Kapoor’s performance was exquisite.

I didn’t think it was OMG-Love-It-More-Than-Anything-In-Season-7 good, but I think they have finally found their stride. It’s unfortunate that it’s taken this long, but on the bright side there are still 8 episodes left to go. That’s a third of the season and now that they have wrapped up the thread with the Middle Eastern terrorists and the nuclear materials, they could go absolutely anywhere with it. The ending of last night’s episode has left me pretty excited to see how they will take the series down to the final seconds.

I also think it was very important at this juncture for Jack Bauer to take a hit emotionally. So far things have gone his way. Sure he’s had some close calls, and it sucked when Owen died, but all in all, he’s had a pretty routine day for Jack Bauer. He’s stayed in his “good place.” Hell, he’s even falling in love with Renee all over again. But, 24 has always been a tragedy, and I think for the show to stay true to its roots, there have to be some pretty heavy losses coming through these final hours as well. There have to be sacrifices and reckonings — Jack’s, Chloe’s, Taylor’s, Logan’s, Pierce’s (if he ever shows up). It’s good that Jack has failed and it will be good watching him (and Renee also) go through it. I think it will also be good from the motivational and emotional point of view of Taylor’s character as well. Cherry Jones was excellent in these episodes, and the devastation on her face when she saw Hassan was gut-wrenching.

Overall, I give this 2 episode double header a 9.25/10. Nothing without Tony Almeida will ever get a perfect score from me. But yeah, I was into it.

Other thoughts:

Callery, I love you, forever and always. How you resurrected that sort of Spanish guitar type retro theme during the hunt that was prevalent in Seasons 1/2 and gave it a new twist with the electronica stuff. I know you’re probably already married and probably think I’m a whackjob, but I would have your children, absolutely.

I liked how Chloe and Renee worked with Jack to identify the mole, but I still wish the emotional stakes for Chloe would be demonstrated a little more profoundly. So few old guard characters left coming through to the bitter end. Although it was badass in 8×14 when she asked herself “What Would Jack Bauer Do?” and then pulled a gun on that NSA asshole.

I’m extremely pumped for Logan’s return next week. Cannot wait to see Greg Itzen in that role again.

Avery told me she hopes that on some off-chance, Dana’s employers is connected to Nina’s mysterious employer from S1. I’m not holding my breath, but that would certainly rock the house.

I agree with whoever said that the actress playing Kayla Hassan is kinda mediocre.

Loved it when Tarin freaked out on Hassan about his “Western whore”!!!! I “oooooooohhhhhhheeeeeed” out loud.

Glad Ethan didn’t die.

I counted 3 shots in the AIG drinking game for last night’s double-header: 2 “we’re running out of time” related instances of dialogue, and Jack stealing someone else’s car (always a personal favourite of mine). Any I missed?