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TV Review: 24 – You Don’t Know Pain!

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At this point in the 24 canon, we true fans of the show understand Jack Bauer, even when his actions seem beyond all reason. Witness his actions in episode 21 of this season, when Jack pulls out all the stops to get where he wants to get, taking no prisoners and seemingly not caring about anyone else. The truth is something else entirely, as when Jack tells Pavel (the man who murdered Renee Walker) during a brutal torture sequence, "We were out. Why wouldn't you just leave us alone?" Then Jack proceeds to eviscerate him.

Anyone who is disillusioned by how deep and dark Jack has become hasn't been watching 24 for the last eight seasons. Jack goes as far as he has to go to do what is right, even in the course of events that make him do things that are ostensibly wrong. Can anyone forget how he wiped out the Drazen crime family in season one, beheaded killer Marshall Goren in season two, and killed countless others in the pursuit of stopping bigger and more inhumane things from taking place?

At this point we can look at the situation in two ways: the writers want us to completely accept that Jack has fallen from grace, or they want us to remember the Jack of old who kicked ass with no apologies. While I would like to believe it is the latter, there is a case to be made that this rogue Jack may be going to a dark territory even he cannot navigate.

When disgraced former President Chucky (Your Friend to the End) Logan asks President Taylor for some kind of recognition for his help in the peace accord, we can see the great pain it causes Taylor to acquiesce to this essentially diplomatic blackmail. Thanks to Cherry Jones's amazing portrayal, Taylor is battling internal demons like never before, knowing that Chucky has dispatched a team to murder Jack Bauer. Despite knowing it is wrong, Taylor's eyes are on the bigger prize of world peace. Perhaps she sees the death of Jack Bauer as collateral damage, but her expression lets us know it goes against all that she holds dear.

Jack has the evidence that confirms Russian involvement in the death of President Hassan. He calls reporter Meredith Reed, with whom Hassan had a clandestine romance. Reed agrees to meet Jack to get the information to make it public in the press, but Jack's call has been monitored by CTU and teams are descending on the department store where Jack has arranged a meeting with Reed.

Jack is getting assistance from old buddy Jim Ricker (played with panache by the incomparable Michael Madsen), and they know the department store will be a set-up. Pavel is sent to take out Bauer, and he confirms in a cell phone call to Logan that he should also kill the reporter for good measure.

Ricker is in place to stop Pavel, and then Jack bing-bang-boom takes out the team that was in place on the ground in the store. Pillar, the Chucky flunky who has managed to be in charge of CTU, realizes Bauer has escaped with the evidence and Reed, and he calls Chucky to tell him to get out while the getting is good. Chucky has his eye on the big prize (public redemption as a savior of the peace accord), so Chucky is unrelenting. He still orders Pillar to get Bauer.

Meanwhile, in yet another abandoned warehouse, Jack has Pavel tied up and ready for torture. Jack knows how to take pain as well as anyone (witness how many times he has been tortured in eight seasons), but Jack also dispenses it with expertise. He tells Pavel, "You don't know pain," and proceeds to work on him with tools, alcohol in wounds, and a blowtorch. Still Pavel will not give, proving to be as resilient to torture as Jack.

Seeing that his methods are not working, Jack checks Pavel's cell phone. He realizes the SIM card is missing, and then figures that Pavel swallowed it. This is when Jack parts ways with Pavel, telling him this is for Renee. He splits open Pavel's stomach and retrieves the SIM card, leaving the terrorist who killed Renee to die.

Upon putting the card into the phone, Jack makes a huge discovery: President Logan was the last person who spoke to Pavel. The expression on Jack's face (give credit to Kiefer Sutherland for this nuanced performance) lets us all know that everything has come to this moment. The ghosts of the past collide with the here and now, and it is obvious Jack's next move will take him to a place he has never been before.

With three hours left in the season and the life of 24 as a television series, we must pause to understand that Jack has no place left to go. He is more than a rogue operative at this point; he is a man without a life, without a country, with nothing left to lose or to give. Jack will pursue justice the only way he knows how, but the price of his actions may be more than we as fans have ever wanted him to pay.

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • Paul West

    Good review, Victor. But, is Jack Bauer the ONLY guy in America who can save the world???

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Heck, no, Paul. We also have the Johns (McClane and Rambo) to help as needed, but Bauer has more angst and demons than those guys.

  • Mark

    I have watched 24 from the beginning and I disagree with you that Jack is acting in a consistent manner when compared to past seasons. When he wiped out the Drazen family it was because he believed his daughter had been killed. In the past few episodes, we have to believe that Jack has gone over the edge because Renee, a woman he has not seen in years until the past 20 hours, has been murdered. I do find Jack’s actions credible and in fact consider him a hypocrite. How many times over the course of 24 has he stopped another person from seeking revenge because it was not in the interest of the mission? When it comes to himself, those rules do not apply.
    While I have enjoyed the action of the past couple of hours, overall this has been a disappointing season. As Cole said to Chloe, “There are no good guys”. That pretty much sums up this season.

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Well, Mark, you’re right in some ways that Jack has stopped people in the past, most notably Tony, from seeking revenge because of the mission.

    The difference here is the mission and the revenge are linked. President Taylor, a person Jack trusted implicitly, has taken the low road and undermined the truth in order to selfishly attain a legacy of peace.

    Whether or not Jack is wrong in seeking revenge (I think not), the truth is this peace will be built on a fragile foundation of lies. Whether or not it lasts (which I doubt) is not the point; it’s not what you get but how you got there.

    Jack will pay for what has been happening, but it’s not like he hasn’t been paying all these years. It’s just that he is saying “No more” to be used and twisted by those in power.

    And Cole is no boy scout either, by the way. One minute he’s ready to kill Dana himself, and the next he’s mad at Jack. If Dana’s gun hadn’t run out of ammunition, she would have killed Jack just like Jack killed her. “No good guys?” Well, maybe not, but Jack used to be better than good. It’s his tragic fall that compels us to watch, knowing that his inner good seeks redemption despite all of the bad he has to do.

    The next three hours should be an interesting ride.