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Throwback Thursday - 24 - Day 2: 10.00PM - 11.00PM

Throwback Thursday, a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from over the years.

There’s something of a stigma attached to 24's whereby the show is known best for its pulsating action, use of the phrase “damn it” and general fast-paced storytelling. The show’s peak in the fourth and fifth seasons, which are almost entirely action-based, don’t help this assumption, and by the end of the original run, competent plotting had become somewhat secondary to big moments and cheap thrills. Go back to the early days, however, and things are vastly different. The debut season that enthralled millions featured carefully plotted story - let’s put the amnesia arc to one side - with actions set pieces somewhat few and far between (certainly in comparison to the later years) and seemed to set the tone and style for the show. And while this didn’t last for the entirety of 24's 204 episodes, there were still hints of it to be seen throughout, especially in its sophomore season.

That brings us to the second season’s “10.00PM - 11.00PM”, the 15th hour of the year, and undoubtedly the best episode the show delivered. It’s a notable episode on several levels, not the least of which is its ultimate detonation of the nuclear bomb, something the show tried to top in later seasons to limited success (*). Most importantly, however, is how quiet and action-less the hour is. Aside from the bomb at the end, a gun is fired once (and not even at a person: Kim shoots the back window of a car), there are no chase sequences or desperate attempts to try and stop or capture a terrorist or other antagonist.

(*) The first two-thirds of the sixth season revolves around nuclear devices, and while the show does detonate one in the fourth episode that year, there was very little impact both emotionally or in terms of story. Here, at least, the bomb going off means something.

Instead, it’s all about Jack and his effort to try and save Los Angeles from a nuclear bomb, and there are very few points of tension throughout, aside from the question over how Jack will get off the plane and survive the blast. Having watched this - and virtually every other episode in the series - innumerable times, it’s difficult for me to say with any certainty exactly how effective the build-up to Mason’s last-minute save is in terms of keeping the viewer guessing. Frankly, I’m not sure that it matters, because the emotional pay-off is far more important: Watching Jack get to prepare to sacrifice his life for the good of L.A. makes for much greater story than anything else the show might have done as an alternative. And what “10.00PM - 11.00PM” does in this regard is nothing short of superb.

For much of 24’s run, Jack doesn’t get to be emotional. There are always too many other things going on at any given moment for him to be allowed the opportunity to express his feelings, even just a little; episodes like the first season finale or the third season episode where he has to kill Ryan Chappelle are great because they allow for that insight. Here, as he pilots the plane towards his death, he’s allowed time to reflect on his life, particularly when Mason reveals himself. Their conversation about Jack having a death wish is arguably the best scene from the show, hitting all the right emotional beats and giving Jack the opportunity to really consider whether he actually wants to live. Given the state in which he started the season, still reeling from Teri’s death, that’s a highly debatable topic to this point, so providing a definite answer there was a smart move.

All criticisms of the way the Emmys work aside, Kiefer Sutherland’s 2003 nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama came from this episode, and it’s easy to see why. His goodbye phone call with Kim made for tough viewing, with Sutherland only barely keeping the tears from flowing. There are so few moments where we see this human side of Jack that the show capitalises on it wherever possible. Here, we’re able to connect with him as he makes peace with seemingly heading for his death, and the episode is all the better for it. Xander Berkeley - who was ignored by the Emmys that year, much to my surprise and disappointment - was fantastic in the “real hero” scene. Until Mason experienced radiation poisoning earlier in the season, he was mostly a detestable character, but in the character’s final hours, Berkeley transformed him into one who it was nearly impossible not to feel sorry for. Dying anyway, Mason’s choice to “go out in a blaze of glory”, as he told Jack, was a noble one and expressed a level of selflessness rarely seen by any character on 24, let alone him.

Much of the success of the hour comes from Sean Callery’s wonderful score, for which he won an Emmy, which expertly captured the sombre nature of all that was going on. Frequently utilising a piano to punctuate key emotional moments, it’s difficult not to get a little misty-eyed upon hearing the tracks again. It’s a considerable turnaround from the fast-paced, loud, and intense pieces that Callery often had to deliver, but it was a masterful composition.

There are several other loose threads going on within the hour, which I’ll discuss below, but most of “10.00PM - 11.00PM” is centred on Jack and Mason’s plane journey, and it benefits greatly from it. It goes against everything that 24 is known for, yet delivers the best episode of the show’s run.

Seriously, even years on from first watching this - and having rewatched it several times since - I still get chills at certain moments; “Jack, I’m supposed to do this” is the best example of this, with Jack placing his hand on Mason’s shoulder before jumping out of the plane a close second.

Hello there, Dean Norris, who looks almost exactly the same as he does 13 years later.

"One man dies, Mr. President, to ensure the safety of millions," Mike says. That's not even a choice.

The cynicism with which Dennis Haysbert delivers the line "They have ties to the other agencies, including the Pentagon, which means everybody knows” is just perfect.

The way the sky turns red when the bomb goes off is haunting.

Say what you will about Elisha Cuthbert's acting on 24, but her breakdown as Jack says goodbye is excellent.

Director Ian Toynton received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series, one of only three episodes to be honoured in the category.

We got the introduction of Donnie Keshawarz’s Yusuf Auda who, while starting out as an untrustworthy character (“You Americans…”), ended up being a useful ally for Jack and Kate. The episode also set in motion the storyline involving Jonathan Wallace and the Cyprus recording, which is one of the better second arcs from a season.

What do you think of this episode? Is it the best 24 episode? Does it stand the test of time? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

About the Author - Bradley Adams
17 year old based in England, currently Senior Staff at SpoilerTV. Most of his posts are news/spoiler based, though he is currently the reviewer of Person of Interest, co-host on the SpoilerTV Podcast. Created and is in charge of the yearly Favourite Episode Competition and currently runs the Favourite Series Competition. A big TV fan, his range of shows are almost exclusively dramas, while some of his all-time favourite shows include 24, LOST, Breaking Bad and Friends. Some of his current favourites include Person of Interest, Banshee, Arrow, The Flash, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul and many more. He also runs an Arrow fans site, ArrowFansUK, and aside from TV, is a keen cricketer. Get in touch with him via the links below or via email
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