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I wonder what I would do if I had to write the next season of “24”: the challenge is that after a couple of show that had very similar patterns, there is now a need to break out of that pattern, while the pattern existed for very good reasons. The key element of the pattern is: You have to provide highlights, not just at the end of the season, but in regular intervals. That requires that you “resolve” situations frequently. This again requires that the situations you resolve are not the most critical ones. So there’s always a bigger fish coming up, and the audience knows it, and you know the audience knows it. I will be glad to see how the makers get started into their “re-booting of the franchise”, which they promised for next season, because Season 6 clearly suffered from the audience being too well acquainted with the mechanics of this show.

My impression was that the producers try to compensate by making the villains as interesting (and as many) as possible. The best way to do this is to abuse personal relationships, and in come…

*** Spoilers from here ***
Jack Bauer’s brother. And Prince Philipp … ah sorry that was in “The Queen”, here he is Jack’s father! Now how personal can it get? And the Chinese bad guy who captured Jack and tortured him for two years (I do have the feeling that the show’s fate on Chinese tv has been sealed with this installment – last time they just captured Jack for a reason, this time they are nasty!). And a Russian who is unimportant enough to get killed soon in the process, but is responsible for all this mess. And a vice-president who is a jerk, and a right-wing warmongering  jerk at that. As usual, you have the ambiguous character, this time played by Peter McNicol, giving us the Presidential advisor Tom Lennox. I have a bit of trouble liking the current set of characters they way I liked their predecessors: Milo is not up to Edgar, and gets what he deserves for being in love with the wrong woman (who is boring herself), and nobody could ever step in to fill the gap Tony left behind. At least Jack’s annoying daughter has been done away with, and I hope it stays that way.

As for the action, there is no need to complain: we have ourselves an A-bomb blowing part of LA to smithereens, a couple more to keep up the threat over some episodes, and then indeed something that can be called a little cheat: the story line about the bombs is over, really, they won’t go off, but of course we are only somewhere near episode 18, so what to do with the rest of the time? Start new trouble, out of blue nowhere, because those devices built into the Russian nukes grant access to “the whole Russian defense system” – shame nobody had mentioned that before, would have been a bit more credible as a plot twist. Anyway, so there’s a new reason to keep moving and kill relatives and gross out parts of the audience by new and innovative ways of getting rid of implanted tracking devices (“Careful with that axe, Eugene”).

It all kinda works out, the pacing is done well enough to entertain, but there is this feeling of being not really sure in what kind of McGuffin world we ended up (and in retrospect, it’s pretty and increasingly hard to distinguish the seasons). I like the very end of the end, however, where for a change people do not shout at each other, where Jack is allowed to look deep into the bottomless pit of his empty life, and where all the running and spinning and crashing stops just long enough to make us wonder whether that show could not really do with a bit of humanity in the next season. Maybe that would be the way  of saving it from utter arbitrariness.

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