’24’ experiencing fourth season slump

Robert Taylor

Terrorist family subplot making show increasingly unbelievable

Any fan of “24” is used to getting a few wild coincidences every season (Kim encountering every single wacko in California in season two), not to mention some hard-to-believe plot developments (Tony’s amazing recovery from surgery after less than an hour).

But never before have we had to put up with at least five of each per hour, which is what viewers are faced with as the fourth season of “24” continues to develop.

The Secretary of Defense James Heller (William Devane) and his daughter (Kim Raver) were kidnapped at the end of the first episode and were supposed to be executed live on the Internet by angry terrorists. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) must once again go rogue in order to rescue them.

It’s not a bad setup, but the execution involves some of the stupidest villains in the history of television. While trapped in his cell, the 60-something Heller manages to kill his guard, steal a machine gun and shoot down another couple of bad guys before being captured once again. This time the terrorists don’t even bother putting a guard at the cell so that the secretary, along with his daughter, can attempt suicide.

About four hours later, Jack breaks into the compound and manages to single-handedly take out almost every terrorist, rescue Heller and his daughter and get back out of the compound. Jack has become more like Rambo than an actual human being of late, unable to make a mistake or take a bad shot even if he tried.

There is also a family involved with the terrorists, and they are inanely stupid. The Arazs are made up of the father Navi (Nestor Serrano), mother Dina (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and son Behrooz (Jonathan Ahdout).

Dina poisons her son’s girlfriend because she might have seen the son deliver a briefcase to a secret hideout. Then Dina shoots the girlfriend for good measure.

But when the dead girl’s mother shows up, Dina does such a bad job trying to convince the mother she didn’t see her daughter, she might as well have said, “Your dead daughter is bleeding all over my living room.” Then, for some reason, the father decides his son must die, and from there on in, it gets more and more convoluted and unbelievable.

Over at the Counter Terrorist Unit, Erin Driscoll (Alberta Watson) has been put in charge, and she is faced with the job of being a bitch to every employee at all times, disagreeing with Jack as much as possible and making the wrong calls whenever she can.

Except for my beloved Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub, who left after three episodes, but will return) all the faces at CTU are new guys, but nothing is new about their characterization, which we’ve seen before — and often — in “24.”

You have the quarreling African-American couple, the man in a position of power and the woman holding many secrets and not afraid to play dirty. Can anyone say David and Sherry Palmer?

Once Heller and his daughter Audrey escaped from the terrorists they showed up at CTU. Heller’s son was taken in two hours before and tortured to get any information about the attack. What is Heller’s reaction when he learns this information? He goes in with his son and tells him he’s allowing them to keep torturing him until he spills his guts. Yes, these are supposed to be the good guys.

Although there are dozens of plot holes and coincidences, (these are only a few of the dozens I could list) “24” never gets boring. I do want to watch week after week, if only to see what character is going to do something totally absurd or to see Jack manage to dodge a machine gun being fired at him again.

And now, seven hours into it, we learn that those first seven hours really meant nothing and that the real meat of the day is actually only beginning. It turns out the kidnapping was a diversion to make everyone log onto the Internet to overload the system so the terrorists could infiltrate the nuclear power plants in America. (If they really wanted every computer in America on the ‘Net, they could have just posted nude pictures of Jennifer Connelly and Chad Michael Murray. It would have been a lot easier and gotten so many more hits.)

“24” has gone so far off the rails I doubt it can get back on track, so to speak. Hopefully the return of series favorites Tony, Michelle, David and Chloe will help. But, on the bright side, at least Kim is nowhere in sight!

Contact pop arts reporter Robert Taylor at [email protected].