Thursday, 28 May 2009

'24' Season 7 Retrospective

Bank Holiday Monday saw one of the highlights of the year hit TV screens across the country and now I’ve had a few days to digest it all and get my emotions in check, I’m finally ready to talk about it…

…I am of course talking about the season finale of ‘24’… What did you think I was talking about!?

Yes, the clock has finally reached 08:00:00 and Jack Bauer can now take a long soothing leak and eat a big ass sandwich, well he could, except for one small problem: he’s in a coma.

Speaking of comas, I spent most of the last episode of Day 7 trying to keep my eyes open for what had to be the dullest season finale in the show’s seven season run.

The finale was a very accurate sample of just what has been the biggest problem with 24’s seventh season, which has inexplicably not only been a commercial success but also a critical triumph; it never lived up to the hype.

All we heard in the long gap between the show’s critically panned sixth season and January’s return was how they were trying to avoid a repeat of season 6 and how they had gone all out to ensure season 7 was its antithesis – if season 6 was Larry Moss, season 7 was going to be Jack Bauer… on crack.

Fans couldn’t wait, I literally had a boner for three straight days when I found out they were bringing Tony Almeida back from the dead (suck on that Viagra – sorry, bad choice of words) even if he was seemingly the show’s villain.

The show began at typically break neck speed but as we got deeper into the season something just felt off, I remember writing in my mid-season review that the show hadn’t yet fired on all cylinders but I had hope that the second half of the season would live up to the endless hype, yet this never happened.

I sat there Monday night waiting for the big revelation, for the poignant moment, for the redemption we were promised but it never came. Instead we got Jack calling on a Muslim Imam who he had only met an hour or two before for solace in his final moments, we had a bunch of crap with Renee seemingly doing the exact thing that they’d all chastised Tony for doing and we had Tony disappear fifteen minutes into the episode never to be seen again.

All I’ll say is that Almeida better be back for season 8, if this is how he goes out then as I stated a few weeks back, everyone associated with this show can kiss my ass.

I was pleased to see that Tony wasn’t in it for the money or to cause suffering and it tore me up inside when he was yelling at Wilson about how he had killed his wife and unborn son but most of all I was relieved that he wasn’t another entry on Jack Bauer’s loooooong death list.

Yet somehow I was left feeling let down, it had been almost promised that by the end of episode 24 we would feel sympathy for Tony, and I, along with all his other fans, did feel for this fallen hero, but for casual viewers or people who haven’t watched from the start, there was no real moment of redemption for Tony and he is now seemingly stuck in a perpetual grey area.

This season has undoubtedly been the year of Tony which I cannot complain about, Carlos Bernard is a great actor and Tony Almeida is a brilliant and insanely popular character, we may not have got to see many sarcastic Tony moments this year, which are always delicious, but Carlos Bernard has got to show off some really strong acting chops and I lift my Cubs mug in salute to him for that.

Fundamentally this season was fine and continued doing what the show does well and if there’d been no hype then I would have been fine with it. It’s my expectations that have soured the taste of season 7 as they were built to such feverish levels and never realised and I’ve been left wanting more… and not in a good way, as I dare say I’ll never get it.

‘24’s nature involves massive gaps in the show’s timeline between seasons, so unless the Hydra-like conspiracy that has been behind the events of season 5,6 and 7 shows up again next season we may never get to delve any deeper into Tony’s fractured mind.

The conspiracy has now become a joke though, I’ve seen on a couple of websites people creating diagrams to explain who is involved and how. When you need a diagram to explain something that is central to your show – something’s wrong.

Will Patton was surprisingly good as ‘head’ of the conspiracy Alan Wilson (I’ve put head in inverted commas because no doubt next season it will be revealed that there was actually someone behind Wilson, thereby completely making a mockery of everything Tony did this season) but I honestly can’t believe that when they had so long to get this season right, that the best they could come up with was stretching out the Charles Logan conspiracy from season 5 & the season that shall not be mentioned.

Everyone involved with the show had the time and the desire to do something spectacular with Day 7 – they even stopped production to make sure they got the final episodes just right, which given how they turned out is an absolute joke.

I’ve performed a virtual biopsy on the first three quarters of the season already this year (in case you hadn’t guessed – I’m kind of obsessed) so I’m going to try and focus entirely on the tail end of the season in terms of why I feel unfulfilled.

The build for the finale began when Tony smothered Larry Moss to death at the end of episode 18 and made off with the remaining canister of the bio-weapon. At this point, things were looking good. I didn’t particularly like the fact that Tony had been turned to the dark side (so much so that I wrote an entire blog on it) but I held out hope and ultimate judgement until the last second on the clock ticked away.

We got to see Tony being really evil and giving us all the awesome notion that he was trying to expose the conspiracy and the ends would justify the means (something the show has always been a heavy study of).

Then came the unnecessary bio-weapon attack build-up with the Muslim patsy, after the revelations and noteworthy moments of the previous few episodes these three episodes felt like nothing more than padding to get to the final hours which is why I’m so resentful of the fact that they actually bragged about stopping production to rewrite these episodes because quite frankly, they sucked.

With that attack averted in typically last second style, the stage was set for the finale. So what went wrong? Too much Olivia and The White House for a start, she is a character that we had no real emotional investment in so why should we care about her fate, sure it would affect the President, but she was barely seen for the finale’s first hour.

Instead we had Olivia rammed down our throats yet again and although it gave Ethan and Pierce, two of my favourite supporting characters, a chance for some screen time the whole thing ultimately fell flat. On the plus side, with Cherry Jones returning, this outcome should hopefully ensure no Olivia and no first husband next season which can only be a good thing.

Kim at the airport was kept to a minimum which was extremely beneficial to the first hour, which was definitely the stronger of the two episodes, as were Janis and Chloe at the FBI. So we were left with Jack and Tony and Tony’s ultimate end-game.

Although Tony’s plan was revealed to have been about avenging Michelle’s death it wasn’t done in a way that made him seem sympathetic to the less avid viewers. His strapping a bomb to Jack wasn’t really explained at all – by blowing up Jack he was destroying all traces of the bioweapon and achieving his goal of killing Wilson – instead it was just made to seem like he was some heartless bastard.

In terms of redeeming Tony it would have been nice to see hear him explain to Jack how he purposely set up the subway attack to fail, but no, he happily admitted that he was prepared to kill thousands, and people are actually saying that the showrunners et al redeemed him!

Tony made some very valid points in his confrontation with Jack about saving more people than Jack, yet all Bauer could focus on was the innocent people Tony did kill, which at my count was 3. Sure it was bad but come on Jack, pot, kettle, black much?

The performance by Carlos Bernard can not be praised enough though and as someone who has loved this character from the start, it was heartbreaking to see him screaming at Wilson about what the conspiracy bigwig had taken from him. When, after already being shot once, he still tried to get his gun to kill Wilson it was agonising to watch…

…But then they made a complete mockery of the whole thing by leaving an ambiguous ending on whether or not Renee did the thing that they basically stopped Tony from doing.

Once Tony and Wilson were in custody and the threat was over, we had forty-five minutes of loose ends being tied up, and not in an exciting way, in the most tedious way ever. It was all capped off by the lamest ending yet, there’s no suspense in this, we all know Jack will live (unless Kiefer Sutherland goes on another head-butting spree before season 8 filming begins) the only way this ending can even have an ounce of excitement and intrigue, is if they pulled the ultimate twist and had Kim die during the procedure… Like that’s going to happen though.

They have to bring Almeida back for a shot at redemption in season 8, if they don’t I’m going to find it increasingly difficult to watch another year of Renee without the sweet solace of Tony.

Other Televisual (and Media Bashing) Musings this Week:

- ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ went live this week as the semi-finals began. Sunday night’s opener was simply great television and although there were good acts throughout the show. The outcome was decided long before anyone even performed.

In fact, this show was won in the first audition week, if anyone is trying to tell themselves that Susan Boyle won’t win this then you’re deluding yourself.

And let me say this, if she does win then it has nothing to do with her supposed talent, it’s more to do with the vapid, vain, image-obsessed society we live in and the fact that there seems to be this sideshow element that someone who isn’t exactly much to look at can actually be talented.

If Susan Boyle looked like Katherine Jenkins then no one would think she was any good, because at best she’s an average singer, her performance on Sunday was shaky and never really got going, but because she looks like she does everyone wants to pat her on the head and patronise her like she’s some sort of child who just learned to tie her shoelaces.

Speaking of Boyle’s looks, I actually think I figured out why the judges love her so much - she looks just like Piers Morgan with a shit wig on. Is she his Mum? No wonder she loves him so much…

Funny how she ended up going on last as well isn’t it Cowell? Like she needed that spot, she could have walked out on stage and raped a virgin with a leather studded dildo and she’d have still gone through, but she still had to be positioned in the ‘pimp spot’.

Faces of Disco, who gave a great performance of masked campery, were robbed on this semi-final, against anyone other than Boyle and the ridiculously awesome Diversity they’d have gone through, but this is a Cowell show so you know it’s going to go whichever way the big man decides.

And as for poor Darth Jackson, he’s an absolute whackjob; but you know what they say about that line between genius and insanity. My favourite bit of the night was when he unmasked under pressure from the audience shouting “off!” and someone yelled “on!” when he took it off! Harsh but very funny…

More on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ Next Week

- The media’s coverage of my hometown of Burnley’s promotion to the Premier League has made me sick to my stomach, almost as much as all the fake fans that have crawled out of the woodwork to celebrate the sides deserved success.

When I say the media, specifically I mean the BBC, their coverage of the homecoming parade was fucking disgraceful, so condescending and holier-than-thou, it was like they’d seen, to quote Chris Rock, “a retarded person that could talk” it’s almost the whole Susan Boyle factor again – they didn’t expect Burnley to be good because of how it looks.

Throughout the night, not once did they interview a thoughtful articulate fan who could put across just how much this achievement means to the real fans of this historic football club, no they interviewed the morons who were only there to get drunk and speak in a mixture of incoherent chanting and slurred Lancastrian gibberish.

I can just imagine some yuppie producer sat in the London studio telling the reporter “go and interview that guy in the flat cap sodomising that Whippet… aren’t northerners funny?”

- This week’s ‘Flight of the Conchords’ was the best of the season so far, but there’s just something been missing since the boys returned for their sophomore year. Hopefully this was the turning point though and it’ll soon be back to its brilliant best.

It was nice to see Alan Dale crossing another show off his list in his attempt to appear in every TV show on US television, by my count that’s 1,097 so far – you can do it Alan!

TV Moment of the Week:

- This week’s TV Moment of the week comes courtesy of ‘Sons of Anarchy’, as Clay did what Elliot Oswald didn’t have the, ahem, stones to do, and cut off the meat and two veg of the man that raped Oswald’s daughter.

If that scene wasn’t gruesome enough, Clay then had the former carnival clown’s dismembered member mailed to Oswald to remind him that he ‘owes’ the Sons. That’s one package I definitely wouldn’t want to sign for…


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