Paul and I just finished watching Season Four of 24 on DVD. WOWOWOWOW, what a fantastic season, perhaps even better than the first! The plot was much better integrated than in previous seasons, in that it followed a single thread all the way through rather than being “reset” at any point. (Still, I have very fond memories of the fantastic twists and turns of first season.) Most important, the moral ambiguity of Season Three is completely absent in Season Four. (In Season Three, the writers seemed determined to make heroic Jack into something more “complex” — and thus less heroic. The scene in the trainyard was particularly awful, yet still so masterfully played. Also, Tony had no justification for his betrayal, since he was not under the sort of watchful duress like Jack in the opening of the first season. Don’t get me wrong: Season Three is still well worth watching, just a bit hard at times.) To my endless delight, Jack is nothing but Pure Hero in the fourth season, not just for his immense bravery, determination, and skill, but also because he always manages to keep the full context in the hard choices that he must make.
For those of you who like action-oriented drama but unfamiliar with 24, all four seasons are now available from Amazon. For those of you who are already fans, this article on the upcoming season might be of interest. In addition to revealing the characters from Season 4 who will continue into Season 5, it discusses some of the demands upon viewers in serialized television like 24 and Desperate Housewives as opposed to the purely episodic shows like CSI and Law and Order.
Personally, I can’t stand episodic television dramas anymore. I stopped watching the various incarnations of both CSI and Law and Order in recent years, despite the good writing and appealing characters, for a very simple reason: almost nothing that happened mattered. Apart from changes in the characters, nothing that happened in the episode made a difference in the lives of the characters — and that lack of change is precisely what makes the show episodic. In the case of CSI and Law and Order, I too-often found that I’d spend forty minutes watching an episode only to forget it entirely within a few days — such that I could watch almost the whole episode again a few month later without realizing that I’d already seen it, until some random detail popped out as familiar. Any time spent watching those episodic shows was like “lost time” for me.
As for Season 5 of 24, Paul and I will be waiting until it comes out on DVD, since we like to watch the “hours” in quick succession during our daily exercise session. I’m going to hate the wait, but I suspect that I’ll be well-rewarded in the end.