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24: Legacy - 5:00pm - 6:00pm - Review: "Tedious and lethargic"



There are a number of things that tend to be seen as defining 24, the most positive of which is usually stand out its addictiveness, thanks to the breakneck pace of the series and its ability to pull off stunning twists. As time went on, that previously admired factor dwindled, to the point where many of the surprises were either repetitive, not surprising, badly written, or occasionally a combination of all three. Part of the reason for that is exactly why 24 became so successful in the early years. It was new and exciting. It made a bold statement by killing its main character’s wife at the end of the first season - in 2017, that might seem like a normal night of television; in 2002, it was huge.

But there’s only so long that can happen before running out of steam, and before audiences begin to see what’s coming because they’ve been conditioned to expect a twist, and to expect a particular twist because they’ve been in that situation in a prior season. (The recurrence of a government mole in all but one of nine seasons is the most infamous example.) And so either each shocking moment needs to up its game, or the writing needs to adjust to relying less on them - an impossibility on a show with which twists are built into its DNA.

“5:00pm - 6:00pm” was touted by FOX as a big episode, one particular promotional video noting the importance of the final five minutes (*). On a story level, this was a big episode: Amira blew up the George Washington Bridge, while Nicole and Isaac were kidnapped by Jadalla to blackmail Eric into helping recover the sleeper cell information. However, neither worked - for a number of reasons - and although Legacy has made the right choice in pushing on at the midway point of the season, its execution was deeply flawed.

(*) This was revealing enough to indicate that Amira and Khasan’s attack would probably be successful, but hinting too heavily in a promo is a long-standing problem for the show. Take this fourth season clip, for instance.

Amira, through the past two episodes, had developed into a much more human character, and a considerably more realistic one as a high school student: she had misgivings about killing her ex-boyfriend and appeared caught in two minds over keeping her father restrained. It seemed set that she would change her mind at the last minute, and that would have amounted to a solid character arc that began in such laughably poor fashion that it would have been a semi-miraculous recovery. Instead, Harris shot her brother in an attempt to allow him and Amira to have a normal life together, and she stabbed her part-time lover for it. The scene was both predictable and bizarre, falling into a twist for the sake of a twist and struggling to logically justify what transpired. It didn’t help that, moments later, she told her father that “They took [Khasan] away and they left me here alone,” a statement that overlooks how it was her cohort/lover that just murdered Khasan, not Americans in general nor even a group of Americans - making the pronoun odd. Despite previous hesitance to commit these crimes - an impulse that makes sense given her age - she immediately decided to carry out the attack with no second thought.

In some respects, it makes sense that she’d want to avenge her brother’s death. But Legacy has failed so astronomically to justify why she’s doing any of this aside from Khasan’s involvement that all we’re left with is her simply wanting to carry out his wish of ensuring he’s a martyr. That isn’t enough of a reason, and the episode is swift in ignoring a need to explain any of it. What can be taken from this is that she loves her brother more than her father and that her hatred for the United States is so strong she’ll do this but also have to force herself to do it because, as she tells Harris, “This is harder than I thought it would be.”

Even with the problematic build-up aside, the actual attack joins the revelation that Drew is alive as Legacy’s second attempt at the worst and dumbest scene in the franchise. False diffusion of tension can work, and it has worked in prior seasons, but when that diffusion is revealed to be false, it cannot come through lazy storytelling. Having Jenkins, the only security guard on the Bridge, take an eternity to check whether Amira was dead but also not actually ensure that she was, thus allowing her time to come to and press the trigger, is lazy and forced. It was yet another eye-roll worthy moment, a considerable problem for a scene that is so substantial and impactful, narratively, that the ramifications should be felt for the remaining six episodes (*).

(*) That is, of course, unless Legacy goes the same route as the sixth season, which detonated a nuclear bomb in the fourth episode but had pretty much forgotten about it by the sixth.

From where “5:00pm - 6:00pm” began its story, it didn’t really have much choice but to end with Amira and Khasan’s attack either failing or succeeding. But where the episode flounders is how it treats that expectation. It is less excruciatingly tense than it is simply excruciating; less entertaining than it is tedious and lethargic. There are ways to balance inevitability with suspense, but that wasn’t what happened here. What happened here bordered on farcical, and is a stain on any strengths 24: Legacy has accumulated thus far.

The aforementioned kidnapping of Nicole and Isaac is a promising storyline; the shot of her standing up from the couch to talk to Eric on the phone is one that feels like it’s been used virtually every time the show cuts back to her, and her lack of significant material has left her as something of a non-character. And although using her to blackmail Eric probably won’t add a whole lot of depth to Nicole’s story, at least it gives her relevance to the season at large. But getting to that point was disastrously poor: 24 doesn’t do things easily, and so the CTU pickup was never going to go as smoothly as it looked like it would. The predictability of the kidnap wasn’t ideal, but the scene itself - which featured Isaac becoming the second character to be hit by a moving vehicle and sustain very little damage - was shoddily constructed and, ultimately, boring. That’s a bad situation for this subplot to be in, and it needs to pick up quickly.

Back at CTU, John continued trying to convince his father to come clean on his treachery, to no avail. Henry’s persistence in denying everything remains dull, though McRaney at least provided a hint of intrigue as he appeared ready to admit his crime once again, before repeating that he knows nothing. It’s difficult to believe anyway that Henry is simply trying to protect himself or John by withholding the truth - the campaign will be hurt worse if any of what’s occurred in the past six hours ever got out - but, from this, it seems more likely that he’s protecting either Luis or another, higher-placed individual who still has a hold over him. John’s assertion that he’s going to pull out of the race makes sense both as a ploy to coax a confession from his father, but also as a decision due to the scandal that now haunts his campaign. That being said, Nilaa’s refusal to even try and argue against it is baffling, particularly given John’s insistence that she was innocent of being the traitor. Rebecca will almost certainly talk him out of giving up if his intent is to give up for real, but it may be a little late to salvage how this was handled.

The only real strong point of the hour came from Eric, whose anger came to a head over Ben’s death and CTU’s inability to keep the Gabriel story from leaking out. Though we’ve seen him frustrated and desperate, Eric has previously yet to be truly angry. It’s a necessary time to turn to that emotion, and Hawkins sells it well - his resentment towards Locke for describing Ben as “degenerate” is especially great. Eric’s desire to see this through because of the personal impact is unsurprising for the show and admirably fitting for him, while his heightened determination to stop Jadalla as opposed to blaming himself for the attack is refreshing; Rebecca’s initial belief that it’s her fault does negate that somewhat, though it’s hard to fault the show for portraying her that way. With his wife and brother now being held by terrorists, Eric will probably return to his desperate state of the opening three hours, and that will keep the pace up as we head into the back half of this season.

Where “5:00pm - 6:00pm” should have been a monumental hour for 24: Legacy, it was instead a storytelling failure, revoking much of the competent character development that had come before it through miserably bad writing on both a macro and micro level. If this is the template for the remainder of the season, then it could be a long six more weeks.

From the CTU Archives (connections to 24’s original run that aren’t referenced above):

That season six nuclear bomb comparison becomes even more apparent given director Jon Cassar’s choice to use a shot of Amira’s father looking towards the smoke cloud followed by a shot of his devastated face. It’s eerily similar to how Brad Turner opted to shoot Jack’s reaction when Valencia was obliterated. Equally, Jenkins shouting “No!” as Amira presses the button is similar to Ray Wallace shouting the same a second before becoming dust.

I’m half expecting Eric’s opening voiceover next week to begin with: “Right now, terrorists are plotting to murder hundreds of thousands of Americans. My wife and brother have been kidnapped. And people that I work with may be involved in both. I’m Army Ranger Eric Carter, and today is the longest day of my life.”

Notes:

Sean Callery did some very Sean Callery-esque work at both the start and end of the hour, which I always appreciate.

Only one brief scene with Andy this week as he proclaimed stealing the information for Eric took courage, before chiding Locke for not having enough. Ouch.

CTU can only detain Henry for 24 hours, but given that there are only 18 hours (and six actual episodes) left, it’s highly doubtful that he’ll be in custody much longer.

Jadalla and his men got out of their safehouse very quickly.

What did everyone think of “5:00pm - 6:00pm”? Leave your thoughts in the comments!