I have to admit, I have conflicted feelings about Sunday’s season premiere of 24.
On the one hand, I am a big fan of the series. I love the intricacy of the plotting, even though it’s kind of absurd that something goes horribly awry like clockwork precisely every 60 minutes and Jack Bauer never so much as comments on it. (“Hang on, Chloe — it’s two minutes to the top of the hour. Something must be about to hit the fan!”)
What troubles me is that the show has, for several seasons, been a cheerleader and how-to video for torture. There are reports that interrogators at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo have watched episodes of the show in search of inspiration.
I still recall a moment from early in a season a few years ago when Jack shot down the man who assassinated former President David Palmer. It was obviously intended to be a righteous, feel-good moment of vengeance, but it stuck in my craw from the moment it happened. Didn’t Jack know or care that the assassin might be a source of valuable intelligence? And since when did Jack become judge, jury, and executioner? At the time he shot that suspect, the man was unarmed, gravely injured, lying on his back. And Jack shot him without so much as an attempt to subdue him for the authorities.
Whenever I watch the show, I try to separate my loathing for its advocacy of a worldview I consider evil and shortsighted from my visceral enjoyment of a tautly constructed thriller. Much of what I loathe about 24 is likely the handiwork of its showrunner, Joel Surnow, an unapologetically neofascist über-right-wing pro-torture Republican.
But who am I kidding? When Sunday comes, I’ll be watching, waiting to see who gets handed their taint by the wrath of Jack Bauer this year. (Even if I do have to watch it during the day when my wife is at work, because she scowls whenever she sees it on the TV.)
At the end of the day, of course, it’s just fiction. As long as I and everybody else remembers that, maybe we can all just sit back and enjoy watching things go boom.