Last year I reviewed the CD box set of season one of the TV show 24. I argued that the success of the show was due largely to the shows two stars, Keifer Sutherland, who played Counter-Terrorist Agent Jack Bauer and Dennis Haysbert, who played presidential candidate David Palmer. I worried that if Haysbert was relegated to a supporting role, the show would slip. Well, I’m happy to say that Haysbert had a prime role in season two, and he was just as good in it as he was in season one.
Season two begins with a solid plot idea: terrorists are trying to detonate a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. Now President David Palmer implores Jack Bauer to return to his job as an agent (he left after his wife was killed in season one) to help find the bomb. Palmer is beset not only by the task of trying to thwart the terrorists and keep the bomb threat a secret, and thereby avoiding mass panic, but also by some scheming and disloyal members of his staff.
Unfortunately, there is a huge problem with season two. Two words: Kim Bauer. The subplot involving her character is so improbable as to be laughable. Surely, 24 is a show that requires the viewer to suspend a bit more of his disbelief than he usually would. But the Kim Bauer subplot stretches that to the breaking point, breaks it, and then keeps going.
You see, Kim is working as an au pair for a child, Megan, with a psychotic father. As Psycho Dad gets abusive, Kim escapes with Megan. Instead of racing to the cops, she sort of runs around until Psycho Dad catches up with her. After Kim, who is smaller than Psycho Dad, beats him up, she rushes Megan to the hospital. At the hospital, the doctor finds evidence of long-term abuse of Megan, and suspects Kim might be responsible. Psycho Dad shows up at the hospital, and threatens Kim with kidnapping charges unless she goes away. By this time, naturally, Jack Bauer has told Kim about the bomb, so she can’t leave without Megan. What to do?
Call Hunky Boyfriend! Hunky Boyfriend comes to the hospital and helps Kim get Megan out of the hospital, evades hospital security, and beats up Psycho Dad. They then steal – oops, sorry, take – Psycho Dad’s car (wouldn’t you know it, Hunky Boyfriend had to take a cab to the hospital). A cop later pulls them over for speeding, and is about to let them go – he buys the story that they are borrowing the car from Kim’s boss – when he sees blood dripping from the trunk. Psycho Dad has killed Hapless Mom! So, Megan gets carted off by the proper authorities, and Kim and Hunky Boyfriend get arrested for murder. After being processed at the police station, Kim pleads with the cops not to send her back to L.A. because of the bomb, which she had promised her dad she wasn’t going to say anything, but, well, who wants to die in a nuclear bomb blast? The cops don’t believe her, and transport her and Hunky Boyfriend back to L.A. Kim and Hunky Boyfriend decide to escape by starting a fire in the cop’s truck (or is it an SUV?) Now, it’s not clear where Hunky Boyfriend got the lighter to start the fire (don’t cops empty suspects’ pockets when they are arrested?) but spontaneous combustion would be just too improbable. Instead of pulling the truck over to the side of the road, the cop freaks out at the site of the fire, and the truck rolls over. The cop and Hunky Boyfriend are seriously injured but – surprise! – Kim only has a few scratches. After she radios back that the truck has rolled over and that the cop and Hunky Boyfriend are injured, she escapes on foot. She eludes a police helicopter only to get stuck in an animal snare as a mountain lion is chasing her. Despite her helplessness, the mountain lion decides not to eat her. (Bad mountain lion! Very bad!) Had enough yet? No? Good, ’cause there’s more.
She gets rescued by a character played by Kevin Dillon. Dillon tricks her into thinking the bomb has gone off so she’ll stay with him in his cabin because, well, he’s kind of lonely. When she discovers his deception, he lets her go and gives her a gun to protect herself from the mountain lions. (Bad mountain lions! Very bad!) She then hitches a ride out of L.A., during which time the bomb detonates, although not in L.A. but in a remote desert thanks to Jack. She gets out near a convenience store, where the owner lets her in to use the bathroom. While she’s in the bathroom, some guy freaked out by the bomb breaks into the store when the owner won’t let him in. Kim tries to subdue him with the gun, but she doesn’t have the heart to shoot at him, even though she earlier fired at a scummy driver who tried to pick her up when she was hitchhiking. Mr. Freaked-Out-By-The-Bomb disarms her, and then accidentally shoots the store owner. He takes Kim hostage when the cops show up. But she escapes, the cops capture Mr. Freaked-Out-By-The Bomb, whereupon Kim admits to the police that there is warrant out for her arrest.
She then goes back to the cop station, where – surprise! – the cops know that Psycho Dad is the one who murdered Hapless Mom, that Kim was just trying to help Megan when she took her away from Psycho Dad, and that when she escaped from custody which resulted in the serious injury of a cop (not to mention Hunky Boyfriend), well, that won’t be a very big deal. Funny how they were able to find out all these things while having to manage the panic in L.A. after the bomb went off. Anyway, she is then transported back to Psycho Dad’s house to “pick up her things.” (Yeah, that’s where I would go!) Wouldn’t you know it, the cops know Pyscho Dad murdered Hapless Mom, but they’ve got no one watching Psycho Dad’s house, other than the cop who transported Kim. And, wouldn’t you know it, Psycho Dad shows up and subdues the cop. He goes after Kim, but she hides from him in an attic, whereupon she falls through the attic right on to Psycho Dad, rendering him unconscious. She then takes his gun, and with a little coaching from Jack via cell phone, shoots Psycho Dad not once, but twice. See, if she’d had some coaching from Jack when she was at the convenience store … oh, never mind.
It’s so unfortunate that this schlock is included in 24. It sticks out like sore thumb. No, it’s worse than that: It sticks out like a body builder at a 98-pound-scrawny-weakling convention. It diminishes the other plot lines, most of which are pretty well constructed. Yes, I know that Elisha Cuthbert, who plays Kim, is eye candy, and the producers have to find a part for her. But this is ridiculous.
I can only hope that the shows creators have realized what went wrong with season two and have fixed it in season three. Otherwise, the shows ratings will soon tank.
Finally, in last year’s review I asked if “you should buy the DVD set?” I suggested that it was worth it if you were a big fan. Otherwise, maybe it would have made a good Christmas gift. This year, find something else to stuff the stocking with.