“24” continues to amaze: In a stunning display of self-discipline, the show’s creators are keeping the soap operatics on the back burner while allowing action to drive the plot. Yes, sometimes the action seems a little heavy on the deus ex machina element (case in point: how in the world did there happen to be a terrorist sniper in place to kill the guy responsible for the nuclear-plant takeovers before he could be questioned?).
But my quibbles aside — and they should be put aside, because we’re talking about a prime-time network action drama here, not a complex entertainment like “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” — there’s actually something akin to real tension developing in the story line. One nuclear plant is already melting down and more might do so at any time. We’ve already gotten to see the heroic control-room workers who got radiation-toasted while trying to avert catastrophe. Elsewhere, Jack is getting ready to go mano a mano with the super-nasty Turkish Terrorist Dad, who just offed his credulous pharmacist brother-in-law. The Terrorist Mom, meantime, has let it be known that unless Jack can save her son, the Terrorist Teen, from the very upset Terrorist Dad, she won’t lift a finger to stop the imminent deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Mommy dearest!
Other crucial “24” matters:
Best new character: Edgar. He’s a nebbish. He’s a mensch. Never mind the his lisping and whining and Brooklyn mama’s boy exterior. So far, he’s averted the meltdown of 100 nuclear reactors, exposed the enemy mole and tried to abandon his post to rescue his mom from the fallout cloud.
Whatever happened to: Paul, the soon to be ex-husband of Jack’s girlfriend, Audrey. I think he went to the bathroom two episodes ago and hasn’t come out. When he does, get ready for trouble!
Chloe: As a key Jack ally, who can believe she’s really gone for the whole season? Maybe she’ll come back with her baby and they’ll take on the terrorists together, “Lone Wolf and Cub” style.
Intriguing: Erin Driscoll, the putative CTU boss (putative, because it’s clear Jack was, is, and will always be The Man; and if he’s not, there’s always Tony), alternates between something like sensitive nobility (as when she talks Edgar out of his well-meaning but sort of dumb mom rescue), callous cruelty (as when she oversees the torture of one of her employees), and continuing blind stupidity (as when she agrees with a subaltern that they should cover up evidence they helped the enemy mole get a high security clearance). Conclusion: She’s nuts, just like her schizo daughter, Maya.