[This is a review of 24: Live Another Day episode 10. There will be SPOILERS.]
Since Jack threw Margot Al-Harazi and her son out a window, 24: Live Another Day has been running at a breakneck pace, and it doesn't show any signs of slowing down as it careens toward the final two episodes. And for a series that took so many years off before making its comeback, it's great to see the show able to do what's expected of it from a structural standpoint and still manage to be entertaining and exciting, as it burns through more characters and twists in an hour than most shows do in a season.
To that end, '8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.' winds up paying off the surprisingly early demise of the season's primary antagonist with a villainous reveal that adds some weight to the Jack/Audrey/Mark situation. The return Cheng Zhi (Tzi Ma) may not have shocked everyone, but it allows his rather intimate and unpleasant history with Jack and Audrey to hang in the air from the moment he steps into the room strewn with the bodies of Adrian Cross' team of hacktivists.
The way the season has been teasing the sneaky underhandedness of Navarro and Cross, it became increasingly unlikely that neither would be the primary baddie for the final few episodes. Navarro's goals seemed purely selfish, while Cross came across more like a tech mogul from 'Silicon Valley', proclaiming the ways his niche technology would make the world a better place. His ideology – though twisted – had enough of a different kind of self-righteousness that his fate was ostensibly sealed.
Ultimately, the episode made great use of characters whom, earlier in the season, seemed more than a little ancillary. And while neither Navarro nor Cross really fit the profile of what has come to be thought of as a 24 villain, '8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.' demonstrated its willingness to flip the script midway through the hour to generate some surprises in the midst of all the fireworks going on. But before the plot could shift to the demise of Cross and the emergence of Cheng Zhi, Live Another Day managed to serve up the truth about Kate's husband, posthumously vindicating him and then creating some tension by briefly teasing Navarro getting away with everything. It says a lot about the character of Kate Morgan and even Yvonne Strahovski's performance – which was strong, this episode – that the audience could care about the death of a man who has never even been on-screen.
To the writers' credit, they use the audience's connection to Kate as a means to justify Jack's distinctive interrogation technique, making it typical over-the-top Jack Bauer behavior that fulfills the needs of the plot as much as it does the emotional needs of the characters and the audience. The episode even pays Kate's retribution off by letting her take a page from the Bauer Book of Handling a Crisis to help secure the location of the override device.
For a fast paced show like 24, emotional pay offs like that can sometimes feel too forced and coincidental, especially when the focus is rapidly shifting to more exigent circumstances like Cheng sending fraudulent orders to a U.S. submarine to sink a Chinese carrier. But here, Kate gets the chance to satisfactorily settle the score with Navarro (sure, there's always room for more, but in this instance it works), and still be on hand for when the Russians show up to try and apprehend Jack and basically ruin everything.
Now, with just two hours to go and a familiar villain on the scene, the question is: Will Jack be afforded a chance at some well-deserved payback as well?
24: Live Another Day will continue next Monday with '9:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.' @9pm on FOX. Check out a preview below:
Photos: Daniel Smith/FOX