(Note: this article contains spoilers. If you haven’t been keeping up to date with the series, read no further…)
If you’ve been following 24, or the Further Antics of Jack Bauer, you’ll know that the ongoing theme this season is torture: is it ethical or not? The whole season so far – the first twelve episodes, at least – seems like it’s attempting to justify the Bush administration’s stance on torture. It feels like an attempt to influence public opinion to think that torture is a valid means of getting information. Of course, in a series of one-hour (or 42-minute) episodes, where something has to happen before the end of the episode, torture may work, but rarely in real life is torture used in that manner. The torture that was used by the United States during the Bush administration was a long, drawn-out form of torture, not the kind that would help prevent an imminent terrorist attack.
While the issue of torture was one of the first things presented in this season – Jack Bauer facing a senate committee accusing him of violating the law by torturing suspects – it’s become a sort of running gag, with characters asking and being asked, several times in each episode, whether torture is a good thing or not. Some of the characters search their souls for an answer – such as the freckle-faced FBI Agent Renee Walker, who is against torture, but uses coercive threats on a baby herself – and others are staunchly against it – such as Senator Blaine Mayer, the head of the senate committee, who, in episode 12, finds himself to be a hostage in the White House, presumably because Jack Bauer was prevented from going far enough when interrogating a conspirator.
It’s no secret that the producers of this show are pro-Republican, and have supported former president Bush. But their need to justify torture has gotten so repetitive that it is grating. Perhaps that’s their goal: by bringing up the issue in every episode, they may be hoping to convince the audience through attrition. But it’s detracting from an already-weak series, that has become a parody of its former self.
I’ll probably watch this season through the end, but the thrill is gone. The quality of the plots in the first few seasons has been replaced by more of the same, by facile plot points and unrealistic consequences to the characters’ actions. And I would suggest that in episode 12, when the African rebels managed to get into the White House, and, finally, take the president hostage, it really jumped the shark.