We need to give “24: Live Another Day’’ some credit for the show’s gradual rediscovery of what made it so great in the first place. “24’’ was at its best when it functioned like a big-budget action soap opera – “Days of Our Lives’’ with bombs, bulletproof vests and Berettas. In general, the more outlandish the show was, the better it tended to be.
It’s nice to see “Live Another Day’’ starting to break through. Jack’s sublimely resourceful “shoot the bystanders in the leg to start a riot’’ plan (straight out of the successful “24’’ twist playbook) at the American Embassy in London touched off last week’s extraordinary, Dog Day Afternoon-like episode. Hour five deals with the fallout. There’s a sense of impending doom looming over the entire episode – the drones are on their way toward London, quiet little birds of prey loaded to the teeth with weapons, barely large enough to be glimpsed by the naked eye but capable of unleashing monstrous destruction. Frightening thought, right?
That’s the overwhelming vibe of this hour. Jack has been captured, but not before passing on the vindicating flight key on to Morgan. She uses a nifty little bit of coordination with an ever-more-Goth Chloe to unlock the key and find out that, yes, for sure, the drone that went all HAL in Afghanistan was under control of the Al-Harazi clan. Chloe is in her wisest of wise-ass moods in this episode, snapping off help-desk smarm, Liz Lemon-style eye-roll and sarcasm towards the master hacker Adrian Cross – enough that you almost feel sorry for the poor international criminal. Elsewhere, Agent Ritter really hasn’t had anything to do so far but give Agent Morgan one or two shocked expressions. He must be in for bigger things soon.
Navarro (still hard for me not to see this as a “Law and Order’’ episode) and Morgan get the information to the president. Heller grounds all of the drones across Europe, but six of the buggers go rogue, switching from oh-so-friendly green to menacing red and converging on Merry Old England. This is a captivatingly eerie scene – echoes of “WarGames,’’ without the chess game and Matthew Broderick. It’s kind of hard to write a bad scene when there’s a big missile / airplane tracking board present, right? Almost like the fact that it’s impossible to write a bad submarine movie? There are just too many crazy visual things happening for stuff not to be cool.
Just like Luke Skywalker, Simone Al-Harazi has had a vital appendage chopped off by a parent. At least it’s not the full hand, right? Margot does her best to mend a few fences, having a tender moment with the daughter who won’t ever be able to throw her changeup the same way again and then threatening the son-in-law that’s in charge of the drone attack. In the midst of domestic bliss, she found time to make a threatening viral video, giving Heller three hours to surrender to her or to face a massive round of London destruction. Her son-in-law just won’t learn, though, trying for yet another plan to spring his bride from Mama Al-Harazi’s clutches. This one doesn’t work, either, just leading to another whuppin’ from one of her goons.
Did the family get sloppy in the midst of all of the quarrels? A bit of data on that viral video gives the supposed address of the Big Terrorist Hideout, a stately estate somewhere in London – in quick driving distance, of course. A little-too-eager Navarro – after just being forced to can Morgan – decides to lead the assault himself, right alongside Ritter. Remember that scene in Speed, where Jeff Daniels and the cops find what they think is Dennis Hopper’s hideout, and then the whole darn place explodes? I’m getting some of those serious vibes there. Morgan shares my suspicions, unleashing the power of Chloe on the data. What a combo these two are making.
Big things are in play over in the hotel with the Hellers, where the President is desperately trying to placate the British (always nice to see Stephen Fry do anything on television, especially playing the Prime Minister) while old friend Jack is brought over. In a one-on-one chat with the President, Jack introduces a new element in the situation – an arms dealer who worked with Margot, and could lead the good guys right to her. Another well-worn and proved “24’’ plotline – finding the middleman to get to the big villain. Jack tells Heller he’s the only man who can go out and make the connection. Heller isn’t amenable to that idea, but, come on, it’s gotta happen, right? You can’t just keep America’s hope under lock and key. He’ll be out and rampaging next week. Oh, and Audrey and Jack have an emotional reunion or something. There’s a lot of near-nuzzling and eye-staring and it’s very “Notebook’’-y. Ho-hum. I want to see some more stealth drones zapping Piccadilly Circus.
The American assault team arrives at Margot’s stately manor – or so they believe. Of course, it’s an Ackbar-level trap (totally nailed that “Speed’’ reference). Chloe rings up Morgan to warn her of the planted data, but it’s too late. The missiles from one of the drones blow the hell out of the mansion, wiping out most of the assault force and, presumably, one of the main characters. Navarro’s got to be dead, right? He had just a bit too much of that Goose from “Top Gun’’ vibe when he took charge of the mission.
The final blips of the episode give us another look at that trademark Al-Harazi ruthlessness, as Margot puts a bullet into the skull of her son-in-law for an attempted betrayal. Totally expected, but still a solid yikes to see. What an undistinguished character. I’m not even sure what his name was, and I don’t even want to bother to Google it. I’ll just call him Al. Goodbye, Al. Nice knowing you this past month.
Other thoughts, as I wonder how I can work the phrase “Game of Drones’’ into next week’s episode:
– This Margot is the most evil Margot in entertainment history, right? By now, she must trump Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.’’
– Speaking of Fairley, she had an interview with Yahoo! not that long ago. There are some mild “Game of Thrones’’ spoilers here. Those of us who have read the books will know what they’re all about…
– Random memory from prior “24’’ season: that time Terri Bauer got amnesia in the first season. It made the top of this pretty comprehensive VH1 “ludicrous 24 moments’’ countdown.
– Next week, hour 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. Again, no breaks in “24’’ this season.