By Ken Tucker
Updated February 09, 2010 at 09:47 PM EST

What is up with 24 and its female characters so far this season?

• Chloe might as well not exist, for all the screen-time Mary Lynn Rajskub is getting. (Techie Arlo now gets the kind of sarcastic lines Chloe used to deliver, as when he said dryly to Dana Walsh, walking off to make a phone call last night, “No biggie — just unsecured nuclear materials.”)

• 24 Emmy winner Cherry Jones has been reduced to a series of tedious speaker-phone conversations about those tedious U.N. peace talks over which the President is presiding.

• Katee Sackhoff — well, where to begin? Her Dana Walsh, data analyst, was introduced as a take-charge, don’t-mess-with-me new character, only to have her personality reduced to a puppet being manipulated by her blackmailing, dumb ex-boyfriend. Dana now spends most of her time on the phone to him, or on a computer guiding him, or looking distracted at CTU briefings. Something’s gotta change, and fast, no?

Sackhoff is such a lively person, you wish someone would write her a role that captures the rowdy spirit she showed on Battlestar Galactica as well as during a recent interview on G4 network’s Attack of the Show!:

• Annie Wersching’s Renee Walker, by contrast, has frequently been the season’s redeeming presence, female or male. Re-tooling the character to become a pushed-to-the-edge protagonist was wise, and Werschling made her early hours on 24 sturdy, with hardboiled toughness.

On previous 24 seasons, when Jack Bauer is subjected to severe pressure, his occasional minor crack-ups only add to his heroic sensitivity. For a while, it looked as though Renee, who’s been abused by her Russian contact Vladimir (rape has been implied), was going to be able to show how a female agent can come through various horrors with strength and dignity intact.

Instead, last night Renee was left a quivering mess after stabbing both Callum Keith Rennie’s Vladimir and Jack — once again, a woman has trouble doing a “man’s job” in 24 world without either being marginalized (as Cherry’s President seems to be) or shutting down.

I admire the work Sackhoff and Wersching are capable of doing. Here’s hoping 24 can turn them around quickly. With this show, anything’s possible, right?


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