Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Rest was All Chaos. Final thoughts on 24, Season 1


It's a reviewer's cardinal sin to make people feel stupid for liking something, so I'm sorry for what I'm about to do. You have the right to like 24, there are a couple great things about that show, but I hated it. Josie and I sat through the first season and barely found the energy to finish it. Quite frankly, we wanted to see Jack Bauer hit the sack at midnight, but we all know it didn't happen.

This post will be filled with spoilers, so if you never watched 24 and plan to do so, please skip it for I'm going to spoil the entire first season. It's not all bad. About twelve episodes in, I liked it a lot. It was crazy, over-the-top conspiracy theory pulp fiction. It was fun. But just like someone spending the night up partying, the show hit a wall around 3 P.M and  things went south from there. That's an euphemism. The entire show went to hell.

See, the gimmick of a real-time show with twenty-four episodes for twenty-four hours is demanding. You have to come up with a lot of content. A straightforward story can't quite carry it through. Filler became very important in 24, around episode 14 or 15. The problem with the filler is that it exploited every shortcomings of the show, magnified it a hundred times and served it to us as a main course. The main issue was the raging, self-sufficient and self-congratulatory sexism. 24 is the most sexist television series I've ever seen.

I'm aware most shows have sexist inclination. Even kickass heroines are leather-clad objects of men's desires. They don't have much of a point except to bang the male lead. I've made peace with that because it's everywhere. But 24 pushes sexism to new heights. Every woman in that show is either incredibly dumb, evil or dead and it becomes a big storyline fodder. Jack Bauer's wife and daughter are the biggest culprits. If there were awards for dumb, helpless women in fiction, they would win a lifetime achievement award.

The best example I have of that is when Teri arrives at CTU, around episode 20. She just flops around like a dead trout, going from room to room and asking everybody: "Jâââââck. Where is Jââââââck. Oh my God. You have to find Jââââck and Kim too). She is inside a counter terrorism unit, there are people working and she just whines and moans helplessly, she begs anybody to help her while her husband and his colleagues are out trying to catch terrorists. The difference in reactions to Teri is also telling. While Evil Nina keeps feeding Teri classified information for no reason, except an unwarranted empathy *, Bauer's acting replacement as CTU director George Mason blows her off and tells his assistant to keep that fucking trout out of his office. And he's right. She is a dumb trout. She was written that way. Normal women would have kept at least a little grace under pressure.

My favorite Teri moment was probably when she is suddenly struck with dissociative amnesia. For about three episodes all the does is to wander around with a wounded deer/dead trout look on her face (see display picture), moan and yell a lot and not understanding the simplest command. Then she comes back to reality with no bearing on the storyline whatsoever, except she got her ex-lover shot. What was that supposed to be, if not a bad, sexist screenwriting joke right out of the 1950s?

The George Mason method to shutting up a woman. I kid. I kid.

The characters of 24 also have a strange, misplaced sense of moral righteousness. Dennis Haysbert character for example, who's running for president. He is caught in a convoluted ethical quandary as a subplot, and I really don't know what was the big deal about it. Seven years before the events of season one, his daughter was raped. It's an atrocious ordeal, which the family survived with great dignity. A journalist gets a source saying the son killed his sister's rapist in shadowy circumstances. Maybe it was an accident, maybe it was murder. My question is: who cares about a rapist's fate?

Apparently Haysbert's character David Palmer does. He wants to go to the media and tell the truth. Because the truth matters more than his son's future apparently. What kind of parent does that? Then, Palmer learns that the source is his son's therapist and the campaign backers make him thoroughly disappear. Again, what is the problem here? Keith, the son, has a problem. He gets emotional and says: "Dr. Ferragamo was there for me when nobody else was." Newsflash kid! He betrayed you for money. He banked out on your secrets. He was not REALLY there for you. So of course, father and son expose the conspiracy with a great deal of courage, exposing themselves to a potential great sacrifice.

I'm not asking for realism here. I am aware that if 24 represented political reality, it would be a lot more cynical and it would clash with the show's patriotic undertones. But for the sake of filler, characters stop behaving like human being and become beacons of virtue with complete disregard for the mortal world. They live and fight for ideas and ideas alone. I don't know about you, but that doesn't make them sympathetic to me. I'm not going to root for someone ready to throw his son under the bus for his political integrity.

But that fed the show's urgent need for filler, in the final third of the season. There were so many dead air moments that screenwriters filled with needless emotional content. David and Keith fought about ten times for no reason except they weren't there for each other. David's wife Sherry (another evil bitch) schemes on her husband all freakin' season long. It just went to the dogs really bad. The only three characters who kept their cool throughout the season were Bauer, Mason and Almeida, three upstanding American white boys. The rest was all chaos.

* She wouldn't have had to kill Teri if she didn't agitated her with needless, alarming information about her husband. She might've had been able to leave CTU unnoticed also. So she didn't agitate Teri out of spite or out of a desire to screw the CTUs plans. She didn't have to do that. But she's stupid, remember. And evil.

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