This contains spoilers.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that every TV show or movie about the CIA must be in want of a mole. 24 has been the most faithful adherent to the mole law over the years, for better and for worse. 24 doesn’t so much have a script as a stationary cupboard with a mole infestation. If they run any kind of background check on new recruits, the department responsible clearly has a mole. Sometimes these moles have moles of their own – or don’t turn out to be moles after all, until a later point in another season when they suddenly relapse into their moley ways.
It was only a matter of time, then, before Live Another Day discovered its own burrowing mammal.
Episode 6 (4pm to 5pm) picks up just after Catelyn Stark has unleashed her surprise drone attack upon Navarro and his team, who were tricked into thinking they had found her posh British lair. What does the US President do in response? Reinstate Jack Bauer, of course.
It’s a shame to see 24 revert so quickly back to its old ways, especially when Kate Morgan (aka. Jackie Bauer) was doing such a good job as the token rogue CIA agent. Thankfully, the writers clearly know Yvonne Strahovski is a strong addition to the cast: she and Jack are sent off immediately to meet his arms dealing contact, Karl Rask. Here is where Live Another Day’s cast continues to get better and better: Aksel Hennie, who was excellent in Headhunters and Pioneer, brings an enjoyably nasty villain to the table. First, though, there’s the matter of Jack reuniting with his friend without appearing suspicious. The solution? Drug Kate.
This is where 24 learns from past mistakes: rather than have Jack inject her with sedative like a psycho, she chooses to do it herself, an act that keeps Kiefer Sutherland’s violent hero vaguely likeable. The problem? Karl has an anti-sedative that he wastes no time in deploying, giving him ample time to torture Morgan, whom Jack says betrayed him.
While this is going on, Stephen Fry begins to steal more screen time for his bumbling, scoffing Prime Minister Davies. Tutting and whining like a schoolboy with a skewed tie, the more uncomfortable Fry looks as the PM, bizarrely, the more convincing he becomes. William Devane, meanwhile, continues to be a sympathetic pillar of US patriotism, conveying Heller’s slow onset of dementia. When Davies finds out about that, he scoffs, bumbles, tuts and whines. Then, after seeing footage of Jack putting Kate in his car boot, sends in MI5 to stop (read: ruin) Bauer’s mission – well done Britain. Again, Fry may not be convincing, but his actions are certainly believable.
The episode’s biggest surprise, though, comes from Catelyn Stark’s daughter, Simone. After last week’s cruel display of indifference, Emily Berrington’s loyal daughter gets the chance to show some compassion as she’s asked to bump off her former husband’s sister – and her young daughter. Just as we begin to feel sorry for Simone, she chases her niece across the road and becomes close acquaintances with the front of a bus. It’s a genuinely shocking moment that reminds us how surprising 24 can be, even in its ninth season.
It’s a slight shame, then, that just as the programme delivers a major rug-pull, it’s busy following routine elsewhere. The casting of the superb Caroline Fowlds as a secret service assistant sums it up perfectly: another great addition to the line-up, but perhaps a lazy one given her similar role as Jo in BBC’s Spooks.
So, who is the mole? Is it Kate, after her husband was arrested as a traitor? Jordan, the savvy tech guy who’s not quite as good as Chloe? Mark, Audrey’s new bloke, who’s already forged the President’s signature once?
A phone call to the Russians explaining that he can’t deliver Bauer as promised leaves him facing the consequences of his actions already – and rules him out as the season’s prize digger. That accolade goes to none other than Benjamin Bratt’s Navarro. After all, it is also a truth universally acknowledged that, when hunting for a mole, it must be the star name in the cast. Now the mole has been exposed – and, indeed, confirmed as having framed Kate’s husband – the question is what 24 will do with him. He can either be announced to the rest of the ensemble and interrogated. Or he can continue to burrow unbeknownst to the team, unearthing dramatic tension as he goes.
One can only hope that if he is caught, Kate is the one who gets to do the torturing: Episode 6 is an enjoyable enough hour in the life of Bauer, but Jack’s getting a little old for this stuff. The clock counting down keeps the silliness moving along nicely but as we reach the halfway point in the season, you start to hope someone will eventually call time on Kiefer Sutherland and break away from the old formula. Universally acknowledged truths are fun, 24, but tell us something we don’t know.
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