”24”: Graem’s secrets and lies
Last night we got a thrilling look at the daring tactic that 24 is employing this season: Whereas in previous years the goal has always been for Jack Bauer to foil a foe, to catch the bad person before he or she does something awful, and to keep his emotions in check at no matter what cost to his personal life or sanity, this season flips that strategy. The awfulness — in this case, the detonation of a nuke — occurred at the beginning of the 24-hour day, and Jack’s new goal is to contain the horror. And as this episode proved more than any other thus far, it’s now emotion, not coolheaded calculation on the parts of both heroes and villains, that dominates this series.
Think about it. There was, most prominently, the grandly emotional tussle between Jack, his brother, Graem, and their father, Phillip. These family ties heightened tensions in what would have already been some exceedingly tense interrogation scenes. But the way Jack cradled Graem’s head against his chest as he was ordering an associate to inject more pain serum into Graem — it was excruciating to watch yet terribly moving. So, too, was the episode-ending moment when Graem (who, we were so quickly made to understand, had spent his whole life trying to live up to the example of his father and brother’s almost superhuman stoicism) was murdered by his father, just after they’d both proclaimed their love for each other. Again, the physical contact was crucial to making the scene so shattering: Even as he upped the dosage to a lethal level and held his son’s mouth so he couldn’t breathe, the father’s eyes locked with his son’s, in a gaze of tragedy. Bravo to the writing team of Howard Gordon and Manny Coto, and the direction of Jon Cassar, as well as the acting of Paul McCrane, James Cromwell, and Kiefer Sutherland: This was great stuff.
Now, note also that each subplot hinged on emotion, not rational reasoning. The president resisted signing the orders that Tom Lennox (and, it turned out, Powers Boothe’s seething vice president) so ardently desired — and why? Because the president’s sister, Sandra, had talked to him about Walid’s sorry plight. She appealed to his sense of decency, and it rattled him sufficiently to resist what the chilly, emotionless Lennox wanted.
And the subplot with Morris at CTU? Once again, emotions ruled the hour. Getting that phone call that his brother was in critical condition due to radiation exposure drove the normally unflappable Morris to flee the building to be with his brother, putting himself in the hands of McCarthy and, very soon it seems, Fayed, to be ”persuaded” to program the trigger code on the four remaining nuclear weapons.
There were even emotions that couldn’t be fully fathomed in this episode, that await further explanation. I know a lot of you think that Josh is Jack’s, not Graem’s, son; maybe you’re right. But help me to understand: Why did Marilyn say to her father-in-law, ”You make sure [Jack] keeps Josh out of this.” Why would Jack bring the boy into this mess, since Jack made sure to have mother and son sent off to CTU before interrogating Graem? Were these simply the words of a mother and wife who knows all the men in her life betray or get betrayed?
Frankly, this episode left me so wrung out I haven’t even begun to fully process what it means for 24 mythology that Graem ordered the killings of David Palmer, Tony Almeida, and Michelle Dessler. For the moment, I’m going to leave it to all of you readers, who collectively are more savvy and have better memories than I, to discuss the reverberations of those big revelations for the past seasons of 24. I’ll read your thoughts, and we can hash it out together more next week. Right now, I’m still savoring the great moments from last night, such as the stark seconds when Jack lost control of his emotions after Graem admitted to engineering the killings and Jack refused to accept his brother’s insistence that they were both fundamentally similar in nature. ”We are not the same!” Jack yelled, his voice cracking, his desperation palpable. And to think last week I was complaining because that episode was a little uninvolving.
What a difference an hour makes.
And next week we get two of ’em. Please tell me what you now think It All Means. Everything.