'24' Swings a Double to the Fences
Show returns to form with the shooting of innocents and killing off regular charactersLOS ANGELES --
You two people were sleeping, right?
In a one-two punch of high-intensity hours, "24" delivered two events that were eye opening even for this show, which specializes in shock and awe.
In the first hour, "5:00 PM - 6:00 PM," a desperate Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), on the trail of deadly nerve-gas canisters -- one of which was threatening a crowded hospital -- arrived at the house of his former Counter Terrorist Unit mentor, Christopher Henderson (Peter Weller), first encountering his wife, Miriam (a nearly unrecognizably blond JoBeth Williams). Previously, Bauer had learned Henderson was involved somehow in the plot and even evaded Henderson's attempt to murder him.
After Henderson arrived, Jack began a ferocious interrogation, threatening to shoot Henderson in the knee. An old CTU pro, Henderson shrugged it off. Bauer then shot his wife in the leg -- "above the knee," he pointed out -- then threatened to put her in a wheelchair with the second bullet.
Henderson kept his mouth shut.
Although Bauer has previously beheaded the guilty, employed all forms of torture against the guilty, and pretended to kill the children of a terrorist, this marks the first time he intentionally harmed the innocent.
"That was a decision we came up with and debated," says executive producer Howard Gordon. "I know [writer] Manny Coto was an advocate of that. The point of it all was to really understand, take a measure of whatever Christopher Henderson is hiding, that it's so profound that he would sacrifice his wife, whom he loves.
"He's not a monster. He's a guy, married to his wife. He's been lying to his wife, in his mind, to protect her, but in his mind also because he loves her. You've got to remember the context of there's nerve gas that is about to potentially kill thousands of people and more out there. This goes back to the torture debate that keeps on coming up."
Granted, but there's a difference between torturing the guilty or the apparently guilty and intentionally shooting an innocent woman in the leg to force her husband to talk.
"If you want to identify it as a first for Jack, then go ahead," Gordon says. "It's true. Jack has had a couple of first this year. He's traveled a lot of territory on this show. I'm sure there will be repercussions. But I really do think the greater wound isn't what Jack did to her, it's that she realized that her husband has, A, lied to her, and, B, is willing to sacrifice her for this lie."
In hour two, "6:00 PM-7:00 PM," one of the terrorists used the stolen key card of CTU operative Lynn McGill (Sean Astin) to infiltrate the CTU building and was able to set off a nerve-gas canister. A few staffers -- including most of the major characters -- were able to seal themselves off in the situation room and a couple of other places, leaving everyone else to be felled by the gas.
In the end, that included lovable technical analyst Edgar Stiles (Louis Lombardi). He died within sight of his colleague, Chloe O'Brien (Mary Lynn Rajskub), who had impatiently dispatched him on the errand that ultimately cost him his life.
"I got a lot of e-mails," Gordon says, "from people who refuse to believe he's really gone. Edgar, RIP. Edgar was a harder decision than [shooting the wife], because the wife was a guest star. Here's a very beloved character and a regular and somebody who's been part of the '24' world for a while, so that's a harder one.
"But it does renew our contract with the audience, that this is a terrible threat with terrible stakes, and unfortunately Edgar had to dramatize that fact."
The episode also featured the execution-style slayings of McGill's (Sean Astin) drug-addicted sister (Penny Balfour) and her no-good boyfriend (Matthew Boylan), who fell victim to the terrorist to whom they'd agreed to sell Lynn's key card.
"It was a very violent episode," Gordon says. "The whole thing was one after another. I was a little freaked out by it, to be perfectly honest. I was a little shaken by the whole experience."