“24,” 5 1/2 Seasons, One Column (Revised to include the 3/12/07 episode)
With all the news about the military objecting to torture scenes and with cultural references to Jack Bauer everywhere in the media, I realized that it was my duty as a political cartoonist to actually watch “24.” I bought all five seasons as DVD box sets, then I watched the 13 episodes from the current sixth season online; that’s 133 episodes. It took me a month.
I learned four important lessons: 1.) torture works great; 2.) people always give in to the demands of terrorists; 3.) the fate of the world is always decided in the San Fernando Valley; and 4.) it takes me an hour to go anywhere in LA, but federal agents can get anywhere in minutes. Now, while it is still fresh in my mind, here is the story of “24,” all in one column:
We start Season One with Federal Agent Jack Bauer who thinks his boss, George Mason at the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), is lying to him, so Jack shoots Mason with a tranquilizer dart. A terrorist parachutes from a plane that she blows up to steal a “key card” that leads to two or three assassination attempts on presidential candidate David Palmer, who has an evil, ambitious, whiny wife Sherry, and who’s being blackmailed because his son murdered a guy who raped his daughter. Jack’s ex-lover, agent Nina, is secretly a CTU mole controlled by an evil Yugoslav family, the Drazens, who are hunting Jack and Palmer for revenge. Jack’s daughter Kim and his pregnant wife Terri are kidnapped and then escape. Jack is blackmailed. Terri gets amnesia. Kim gets into a drug deal and goes to jail with the math professor girlfriend from “Numb3rs.” The evil Drazens break their patriarch, Dennis Hopper, out of a secret jail; they kill Lou Diamond Phillips and kidnap Jack. Kim is kidnapped again and escapes. Jack is blackmailed again; he shoots it out with the Drazens and kills them all. Nina, the evil mole, kills Jack’s wife Terri.
In Season Two, Jack hunts for a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles (Jack says “nu-cu-lar” like President Bush). A blond Valley Girl is preparing to marry a terrorist, but it turns out she’s the real terrorist. Kim is a nanny for an evil guy who kills his wife and tries to kill Kim, who tries to save the guy’s annoying, abused daughter. Kim is saved by her boyfriend who loses his leg and jilts her. She’s then caught in a bear trap and locked up by a lonely survivalist in a mountain cabin. She is stalked by a mountain lion and is falsely arrested for shooting a convenience store clerk. Jack goes undercover with thugs who are hired by evil Nina and kills them after they blow up CTU’s offices. President David Palmer pardons Nina, who gives up the terrorists. Jack is captured and tortured by terrorists; he then escapes and kills them all. President Palmer’s nasty now-ex Sherry is part of a government conspiracy to start a war; Jack catches her. Palmer has the head of the NSA tortured to find out the location of the bomb. Mason is poisoned with plutonium and has only hours to live; he gets blown up with the nuclear bomb in the desert. Palmer is poisoned by a terrorist handshake assassination attempt.
In Season Three, Palmer is fine. Jack just spent a year undercover with Mexican drug lords who want to buy a deadly virus from Ukrainian terrorists and hold the world up for ransom (so does evil Nina). Jack breaks a mobster out of prison and goes back to Mexico with him to find the virus. Chase, a CTU agent who is Kim’s fiancé, and who has a secret daughter, follows, gets tortured, escapes and gets his hand chopped off. The mobster’s sister in law is killed; then the mobster kills his brother; then the mobster gets blown up. Nina gives Jack trouble, and then gets killed. In Los Angeles, Harry Dresden, from “The Dresden Files” (with an English accent here) has the virus released into a hotel. Agent Michelle (who is in love with Agent Tony) is in the hotel as everyone else dies, but she is immune. Dresden demands that Jack kill his boss, Chappelle, so Jack shoots Chappelle in the head. Dresden kidnaps Michelle and blackmails Tony; Jack kidnaps Dresden’s daughter and blackmails Dresden. President Palmer’s ex, Sherry, kills a guy, blackmails Palmer and is killed by the guy’s girlfriend, who then kills herself.
Jack starts Season Four working for Secretary of Defense Heller, who is kidnapped by terrorists along with his daughter Audrey, who is Jack’s new girlfriend. Jack breaks them out and kills the terrorists, but there are more terrorists, one of whom tries to kill his own wife and son. Air Force One is shot down and terrorists steal the president’s “football,” which contains codes for arming nuclear bombs. Evil and incompetent Vice President Logan assumes the presidency and invites former President Palmer to run things. Jack raids the Chinese Embassy. A bad guy steals a stealth bomber to drop an A-bomb on LA, and gets shot down at the last minute.
Season Five starts with the assassination of former President David Palmer. Jack’s buddies Tony and Michelle are blown up. Nasty President Logan has a complicated plan to start a war and lets his screwy wife drive into a trap with the president of Russia; Jack saves them. Russian terrorists take over Ontario Airport and threaten Jack’s new girlfriend’s son, who Jack saves. The terrorists are killed, but one steals nerve gas which he uses to kill shoppers in a mall. Jack finds the big bad guy is Peter Weller (Buckaroo Bonsai), a former CTU agent. The nerve gas is released in CTU, killing lots of agents, including Edgar the computer nerd and Sam the Hobbit. Jack thinks his old girlfriend Audrey is evil, but she’s not. Terrorists try to release the gas again, but Jack stops them. Jack kidnaps President Logan and tortures him, and then Jack is kidnapped by the Chinese, who are still mad at Jack from Season Four.
In the current Season Six, Jack is back, after having been tortured for two years in China, and he’s ready to kick some terrorist butt. David Palmer’s brother Wayne is president now and one of his advisors is Tom Lennox, another math professor friend from “Numb3rs,” who is tied up by his assistant while some guy blows up President Wayne Palmer along with a terrorist who decided to be a good guy. Nerdy CTU analyst Chloe is working with her ex-husband Morris, who is kidnapped, tortured and agrees to arm nuclear bombs. A nuke goes off in Valencia (Magic Mountain), there are more nukes out there and nasty ex-President Logan wants to help Jack find the bombs through the Russian Consulate. Jack breaks in and tortures the Russian Consul General where Jack is captured and he escapes. Ex-President Logan’s ex-wife stabs him and Logan dies. The nukes are about to be launched.
That’s where we are today, and that’s all you need to know.
Daryl Cagle is a political cartoonist and blogger for MSNBC.com. He is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to more than 800 newspapers, including the paper you are reading. His books “The BIG Book of Bush Cartoons” and “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year, 2005, 2006 and 2007 Editions,” are available in bookstores now.
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