Monday, February 6, 2017

REVIEW: '24: Legacy' - Carter Robs a Police Precinct While Rebecca Hunts Down the Leak in '1:00 PM - 2:00 PM'

FOX's 24: Legacy - Episode 1.02 "1:00 PM - 2:00 PM"

When Ben Grimes demands money in exchange for the list he seized from a safe box in Khalid's compound, Carter must go back to his roots to help obtain the money. Rebecca is determined to figure out who leaked the rangers' files.

Diversity in the lead role was very important to the creative team behind 24: Legacy. Obviously, there's a lot of great affection for Jack Bauer. But it's understandable that the writers wanted someone who didn't fit into the same mold so that they could tell different stories. It's so important to see a black man saving the world. Even though television is becoming more and more inclusive of different voices and perspectives, it's still important to recognize the importance of Corey Hawkins' casting. Yes, the narrative is still fundamentally about one man racing against the clock to stop a devastating terrorist attack. He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. And now, he's a black man. That's important. The franchise has been groundbreaking in diversity in the past. It was the first show to depict a black President and later on a female President. Those visuals were so powerful. And now, Hawkins has picked up that mantle. Of course, the franchise is still depicting muslims in the same one-note way it always has. That's one of the big things it still needs to improve upon. But right now, Eric Carter being a black man gives the storytelling a new approach to things.

I bring all of this up now because of what Carter does in this episode. The series premiere didn't really comment on race or use that as entry points to the characters' lives. This hour digs into that a bit more with several characters. It's at its most resonant when it comes to Carter. Of course, it also comes as the show just goes completely ridiculous with his story too. He was able to take out the three terrorists who were hunting him and Ben. But now, Ben is demanding two million dollars from the government for the list of sleeper cells. He wants the money in an hour. Through a series of wildly over-the-top events, that leads to Carter robbing a police station. That is just so completely random and ridiculous. It's presented that way to Isaac and Nicole who see it as confirmation that Carter is losing it because of the action. Rebecca and Andy have similar reactions as well but ultimately help him try to pull it off. It's just more problematic that the show is trying to suggest that this is just a normal stunt in the realm of possibility. Again, anything is possible when national security is at stake. That's the reasoning behind this move. It's just crazy and rushed that something this extreme is happening in just the second episode of the series. It feels like the creative team believes the audience watched the original show because of the need to constantly be one-upping its ridiculous twists. That's a lame and possibly destructive way to tell stories.

And yet, it's powerful when Carter notes just how easy it will be to get arrested. He's simply a black man walking in a bad neighborhood. All he has to do is nervously look over his shoulder and run away from a police car in order to start a pursuit. It's that kind of commentary that the show is now capable of doing. Of course, Carter is the only character where the acknowledgement of the stereotype is the point. He manipulates it to his advantage in order to gain the upper hand. The show is aware of that and makes itself look smart as a result. And yet, it suffers from not recognizing how formulaic and cliche the rest of the diverse characters are. Yes, Carter is a black man fighting a terrorist organization to save the world. But his brother is a dangerous drug dealer with a jealous girlfriend who is about to double cross him with an upcoming drug deal. That's not a new story. Nor does it have a new or original take on the story. It's just the same boring plot happening once again. That's not engaging to watch. Moreover, it seems to be moving slower than other stories. It's all about tortured love dynamics and misunderstandings that don't make sense. That's never a smart way to build motivation for a character - especially when it's building to life-and-death stakes.

And then, there is the introduction of Muslim characters. They appear in several different ways in this episode. John's campaign manager, Nilaa, is mentioned as being completely necessary to his run for the presidency. But here, she's described as Muslim and that's it. It's a very pointed attack as well. She's used in an attack ad to make John look like a danger to America because he trusts a woman who attends a radicalized mosque. Once again, it's the easy approach to paint Muslims in a villainous way. Nilaa counters it with a good argument saying she went there to try to reason with the people. That's a good message that allows her to remain campaign manager. And yet, the show undercuts that message a little bit once again by having another Muslim character who is basically the stereotype and nothing more. It's understandable that there should be a face to the terrorist plot for the audience to try to understand why this is happening in the first place. He is the son of the man Carter and the rangers took out all those months ago. And now, he's come to America to carry out his father's plan. It's just an awkward story because it's just the bad guys fighting over what to do considering it seems like they've lost the flash drive with all the necessary information. It shows that Bin Khalid's son is willing to die for this mission. But very little of it is all that exciting or compelling to watch.

And that does bring us back to what's going on with Carter at the police precinct. It's ridiculousness shows that the series isn't afraid to go to some extreme places in order to amp up the tension. It's just problematic that everything becomes so chaotic at the end of every hour. Plus, there's a lot that goes down at the end of this episode. It's almost a little too chaotic. Rebecca and Andy are trying to clear Keith so that he can take over this mission and Rebecca can go to her husband's fundraiser. But all the secrecy gets Mariana to tell head of field operations Thomas Locke about what's going on. He frees Keith who stops what Rebecca and Andy are doing right when Carter needs them the most. He's in the evidence locker with the deadline for the payment counting down. But he's trapped in the room with no way out. Of course, it's reasonable to expect him to use one of the bombs he has on the officers to blast his way out of the room. It's just completely crazy that that already sounds like a reasonable thing to do on this show. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "1:00 PM - 2:00 PM" was written by Evan Katz & Manny Coto and directed by Jon Cassar.
  • Things are at least escalating quickly at the high school. Amira is committed to the mission and seducing Harris into helping. She needs his chemical expertise for whatever is coming and she expects it to come soon. But more importantly, they kill Drew. So now, they have a body to clean up. It's just lame that it takes death to raise the stakes just a little bit. And yet, it's still hard to care about this story.
  • It was established that only the heads of the CIA, NSA and CTU had the information on the rangers. Rebecca has to get the codes from Keith in order to investigate the leak. But then, it's revealed that Rebecca has the same access. Plus, the information was retrieved from Nilaa's computer. So once again, Nilaa is being looked at with suspicion. Though she still seems too obvious a suspect.
  • John and Nilaa finally make it to the campaign event. Once there, the audience is introduced to his father and his uncle. All of this suggests more importance in the future (especially with Rebecca set to join them soon). However, the characters are way too thin to speculate over who leaked the information from Nilaa's computer.
  • People seem to be overhearing a ton of conversations at Isaac's compound. Aisha overhears that Isaac is planning on dumping her after his drug deal goes down. That leads to her calling her contact basically saying it's okay to kill Isaac, which Nicole then overhears. 
  • When Locke shows up at CTU, it's up to Andy to distract him for a little bit. That leads to the reveal that they have some history. That could be an interesting story thread to pursue in the future. It would help with diversity efforts as well.
  • Carter hears about the money at the police precinct in the first place because of his brother. And yet, the way they interacted with each other in the premiere makes it very unlikely that they actually have each others' phone numbers. 
  • Carter also doesn't see himself chasing the danger now because he misses that kind of life. Instead, he sees it as his responsibility. He didn't pull Ben off the rangers' unit when he should have. And now, that decision could kill hundreds of people throughout the country.