Three days later, I find myself thinking of Jack Bauer’s act in the last series of 24 with shock and horror.
It’s last year’s television, shown now weekly on the free Murdoch channel in the UK. Spoilers, obviously. That Murdoch channel is ludicrously called “pick”- “refuse” would be a better name, it has cheap and tedious programmes of police car accident videos, but occasionally other drama. 24 is “sponsored”: “Oikos sponsors indulgent entertainment on Pick”. The film is of a middle-aged woman eating some gloopy stuff while half-naked men dust her living room. “It’s aimed at me!” I thought.
So it seemed. Margot Al-Harazi has gained control of seven US drones, equipped with missiles. This middle-aged woman does what she likes: she tells men what to do, kills people, and blows things up. I really enjoyed the first eight episodes. Margot’s husband, an alleged terrorist, was killed in a drone strike and she wishes to kill the US President to avenge him. I watch the Americans throwing their weight around in London, and the portrayed British weakness, sucking up and incompetence in this American series, and cheer her on. She shows intelligence, determination, and even principle- which is more likely seen as fanaticism.
Episode eight ends with Heller walking to the centre of the pitch at Wembley, and apparently being hit by a missile.
I should have stopped watching then. In the next episode it is revealed that the video feed to the missile controller was disrupted, and Heller escaped. Heller’s apparent noble self-sacrifice, which had the potential to be moving and cathartic, could not be tolerated on this drama: the “good guys” must never suffer. A very minor character has an heroic death, and that’s it.
Most watching probably identify with the “Hero”, Jack Bauer, who is happy to torture bad guys. None of the threats against him can last long. It is one man against the world, yet he always triumphs. There are comprehensive recaps, so it would take significant limitation to intelligence before the viewer did not understand in each scene what the threat and the Macguffin were. We learn of a task, and the overwhelming odds confronting him, yet he strolls in and does what is needed.
I hardly thought Margot would win in the end, but when Bauer finds her he first shoots her, not killing instantly but disabling her. She could be captured and tried, but instead he throws her out of a fifth floor window, killing her. There is a shot of her falling, bottom first, and one of her on the ground in a pool of blood. Someone found this so delightful that he pointed a video camera at a telly, so he could share it on Youtube: comments include “Best Bauer kill EVAH!”
That shocked me. 24 is a simple tale, and simple folk could be motivated by seeing the hero so easily accomplishing his goals to attempt their own; but such simple tales usually have second chances and the chance of redemption, and I expected Margot’s survival, possibly even her escape to plot again. Life is cheap in this series, and wordless mooks fall in gun battles every episode. That does not matter because they are not real people, only a momentary problem for the hero or someone else who falls to the baddies. Margot has some characterisation, motivation, personality. It troubles me that she would be seen by anyone as merely the enemy, to be killed.