Wednesday, July 4, 2012

“24” -- Season VI -- Executive Summary

Since I have such a ho-hum day-job, I find a bit of Walter-Mitty-like relief in such shows as “Rubicon” and “24”.  I originally saw the latter on TV, episode by episode, as it came out -- “in real time”, as they would say -- and this summer have been rewatching it on DVD, the first five seasons and now beginning the sixth.   And upon second viewing, have noticed a couple of things.
First, the series’ fascination with torture  was not some late development, growing like toenail fungus as the show gradually ran out of ideas  and had to come up with starker atrocities to shock its audience back to life.  No, it was part and parcel from the very first.
Second, the figure of Jack Bauer.  Initially, we saw him as
            (1) A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.
But as the seasons unreel, it’s more like:
            (2) Mr Bill.
            (“Ooo, nooooooo !!!!”)
As in, How shall we sqoosh him next?
From Greek tragedy to Grand-Guignol.

Cut to Season 6, episode 1.  Unshaven, released from two years of torture in Chinese custody:  “He never broke.”  (This causes the audience to pant, and to service their erectile tissues, male or female  as the case may be.)   So, what -- a welcome-home parade?  No rather:  immediately to be turned over to be maimed and killed by some two-bit terrorist.
Prior to his ordeal, Jack is offered a private room, with -- not a silver-handled pistol, with which to Do the Right Thing, but -- a silver mirror and shaving-bowl:  He sees himself sadly in the mirror, and removes his shirt -- looking like Jesus, post-flogging, in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion”.
This is pornography.  This is Torture Porn.

[Précis of the screenplay:]
Homeland honcho (actually, honchette):  Mr. President -- a bus blew up in Los Angeles!
President Palmer the Lesser:   This calls for drastic action.  Do we know who is responsible?
Homeland honchette:  No-one has the slightest idea.
Hunchbacked Iago advisor:  Even so, we should put everyone we don’t like in detention camps.
ICU (urgently calling in):  We have a solution!  Sacrifice Jack Bauer!!  Hand him over to the terrorists, to meet a grisly end, with no guarantees, just on their say-so !!!
(Everyone nods)
Someone:  But … won’t they torture him?
(Everyone slowly turns, frowns, wrinkles noses  or purses lips.)
Iago (acidly):  That’s rather…. the point.


As Cassandra the Prophetess was fated never to be believed,  so Jack the Sacrifice is fated  never to be appreciated.
In Season VI, having dutifully sacrificed himself once again, Jack has been taken off to China to be folded, spindled, and mutilated  for a couple of years.  He returns, and immediately resumes serving the country that treated him like a used kleenex.
Meanwhile  Audrey Raines had gone off on a quixotic search for him -- by no means at his bidding, and contrary to his will, had he but known.
She is (naturally) captured, and Jack now offers up his life to save her.  He does save her, but owing to a glitch, does not himself die.
Her father then shows up and, confronting Jack, says (what-- “How can I ever repay you?”  “Can you forgive me for ever doubting you? -- Nope):  “I don’t want you anywhere near my daughter.”
("Hee -- waas -- dee ------  spi-high-zed ....    reeeeee -----  jeh- hec -ted ....")

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