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24: Legacy - 8:00pm - 9:00pm - Review: "Insulting the viewer"



Midway through 24’s fifth season, then-temporary-director of CTU Lynn McGill had his access keycard stolen by his sister and her boyfriend. In an attempt to get it back, he tells her the following: “Damn it, Jenny, this isn’t a laundry room. This is a secure government building.” An hour later, a terrorist infiltrates the building and deploys nerve gas, killing 40% of personnel.

And yet the level of security at CTU’s headquarters, its sophistication and the supposed expertise of the guards who protect the building, is more akin to a laundry room than it is a secure government building. In fact, describing it as “secure” is not only laughable but ludicrous.

Terrorists infiltrating or attacking CTU for one reason or another is a trope that’s played out four previous times in the show’s run. And on all four of those occasions, there has been enough justification to be able to suspend disbelief that the infiltrators could succeed and that CTU didn’t look completely useless in the process.

That was not the case in “8:00pm - 9:00pm”.

There is only so much leniency that can be provided in a situation like this, and Legacy continually toed the line. But not only did the show eventually cross that line, it leapt over it with little regard for logic or appreciation for the respect of its viewers. It set into motion a sequence of events that became more outlandish and less believable as time went on, to the point of Naseri’s attack itself having all the impact of a non-event.

His kidnapping of Jennifer Marshall, the girlfriend of guard Steven Grant, to leverage his way into CTU wasn’t a problem, nor indeed was Grant’s cooperation. But that is about where it ends since what follows is a series of events that suggest ineptitude of the highest order across the board, including from Rebecca - who clearly notices unusual behaviour and yet lets it lie. No other guard notices when he disables the security cameras. There is no screening of the van at the gate, a basic measure that seems logical to take even when the vehicle is approved by Grant. Just prior to him taking Jadalla from interrogation, he orders a full sweep of an egress, with the two guards promptly leaving the hallway completely open. Were it not so frustrating that this was a genuine attempt at competent dramatic writing, it would have been worthy of bellowing laughter.

Repeating this plot once again isn’t a problem in and of itself; CTU is an important facility and, provided there is an explanation for why it is being attacked, it works. What is a problem is lazy writing that is neither ambitious nor clever, insulting the viewer by asking them to just go with the guards’ inadequacies for the sake of tense and pulsating television. And once the writing fails to achieve that simple principle, the impact is sucked away like a vacuum and the end product becomes tedious.

In a way, CTU deserved everything that happened to it in this hour for its inability to defend itself, even on a basic level. And if a pro-antagonist viewpoint is what resulted from a particular plot in which that is absolutely not the intended outcome, something has gone very, very wrong.

Eric, determined to find and stop Naseri before he can hurt anyone else, spent much of this hour concerned with diffusing a bomb, and despite that providing more thrill, it was one of his earliest scenes and its fallout that was the most interesting. This season, Nicole has been caught in the line of fire on multiple occasions, and although she is clearly upset and terrified by everything Jadalla’s done, there has been an appreciation that her husband’s continued efforts are necessary. So it became a far more intriguing turn of events when Eric’s “one last mission” mentality towards Jadalla turned into “one last mission that is not quite finished when we think it is finished and so I have to keep on fighting.” But how many more “last missions” will there be before it either is truly the final mission or, more likely, Eric accepts that he cannot quit this business?

Judging from the job offer Rebecca sent him, it was almost certainly before Legacy’s day even began.

Much like Jack Bauer, Eric is wired for this work, and although it is admirable to think he would be able to live a normal life, that never seemed like a genuine outcome. What is surprising is that he had already been speaking with Rebecca about joining CTU as opposed to the season ending with him impulsively deciding to go and work for them after all he’s done. It throws a real spanner in the works as far as his and Nicole’s marriage is concerned - especially given her impression that he wanted to settle into their new lives and have a family. Solid as Eric diffusing the bomb was, it is this side of his life that is more relevant in the long run and, arguably, more engaging even in the short-term.

Speaking of short-term, Henry attempted to excuse what he did as a “short-term compromise” that will put John into the White House. The mentality was, once again, completely insane, and John - now far less swayed by his father’s suffering - put it as succinctly and accurately as possible: “For the record, you were the one who threw it away.”

The idea that acquiescing to Jadalla’s blackmail would help John, in the long run, has always been baffling, and Henry’s continued insistence that it was for the greater good - even after over a hundred people died on the George Washington Bridge - rightly disgusts John. His decision to drop out of the race - a plot point that had become less than an afterthought for the past three hours - was clarified and earned, and although it would have been nice to see some pushback from Nilaa, her acceptance of his choice makes sense. Now that he’s been kidnapped by Naseri, of course, things will undoubtedly change.

“8:00pm - 9:00pm” could and should have been far better than it ultimately was, but the incredibly poor writing of Naseri’s attack left the hour mostly devoid of tension. At least the other plots prevented it from being a total dud.

From the CTU Archives (connections to 24’s original run not mentioned above):

I’d need more than two hands to count the number of times 24 has done the “terrorists kidnapped someone I love to make me do something for them” plot, successfully (for the terrorists) or not.

Notes:

Naseri was Ibrahim Bin-Khalid’s bodyguard, who posed as a translator for the Rangers to gain access to a high-value asset, whose family he then killed - including decapitating the asset’s three children. That very basic piece of information needed to be included last week to emphasise how much Eric hated Naseri, and for the show to make him a villain worth caring about from the outset.

Rebecca asking John to meet her at CTU at the same time that we knew Naseri was about to attack made it so predictable that he’d take John hostage. Plot twists don’t tend to work quite as well if you can see them coming twenty minutes before they happen.

Both Andy and Tony featured in one scene each: Andy was given back his security clearance; Tony expressed his support for Rebecca and John’s relationship. It would be nice if the show used each of them more in the final three hours.

Isaac: “We won’t be seeing any terrorist attacks on TV tomorrow.” Except, maybe, for the one that already happened?

Jennifer - somewhat understandably, given her fear - failed to understand the basic concept of not moving. Again, it might have been better had it not been so obvious that she’d move.

Just after Nicole told Isaac about the letter, there’s a shot of his face that zooms out and then zooms back in without cutting. It looked like something that Brooklyn Nine-Nine or the like might do for comedic effect; it looked bizarre on 24: Legacy.

I could be wrong, but I feel confident in saying that 08:57:04 is the latest in an hour that 24 has ever returned from its final act break.

What did everyone think of “8:00pm - 9:00pm”? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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