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Jack comes to D.C.

Last night, the new season of 24 began. This series is a hit or miss for me. Some seasons have me glued to the couch whilst suffering multiple heart attacks while other seasons lose me a few episodes in. This season has me hooked—so far. Besides the great pace the first two hours opened with, I’m also pulled in by the themes being elaborated on in this season and the series’ location.

The series is confronting head on the criticisms it’s received over the last couple of years regarding the prevalence of torture, both by the bad and good guys (particularly Jack Bauer, the main character). In fact, the opening scene has Jack sitting in front of a Senate committee conducting a hearing about the very subject. This was something my husband picked up on from day one of the series (but then, he’s a political scientist and he always picks up on stuff like this), but it didn’t really get a lot of attention in the media until the last few years. A recent article in the January 5-11 issue of TV Guide touches on that:
The series premiered two short months after 9/11, and the first few seasons rode a wave of American nationalism. “For most of our run, nobody really cared how Jack stopped the terror threat du jour,” says executive producer Jon Cassar, who has directed more than 50 episodes. “The important thing was he stopped it.”

But all those ugly reports out of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo suddenly put Jack and his aggressive interrogation methods on the wrong side of public opinion. The PR crisis escalated when news boke that 24 was an inspiration in early “brainstorming meetings” among military officials at Guantanamo. Even Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia cited the show in defeding American interrogation policy during a conference in Ottawa. “Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. . . . He saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” Scalia said. “Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?”
I think it’s important to raise and work through issues like these, and films and television series are good places to do that. Good stories explore who we are, why we make the choices we do, and wrestle with the outcomes of those choices. Stories like that invite us to reflect on our own lives and invite us to examine what we believe and why. They help us think through the issues facing us in our own lives and, if we are intentional, they can even change the way we approach life, people and the world.

I’m interested to see how this series deals more directly with questions of law and ethics in the context of good and evil as well as the choices we make individually and as groups regarding those issues. How are we to confront evil? Do the ends justify the means? Can bad actions be good if they are done for the overall good? Is the law the highest rule—or is it something else? These are all good questions—ones that, if we dig deep enough, will bring God-talk into open spaces.

The other aspect of the series that’s got me interested is a lot less weighty, heh: this season takes place in Washington, D.C., a city that I’m familiar with. Part of the fun last night was trying to figure out what parts of the episode were filmed in D.C. and where. Tom Bridge at does it much better than me—check it out. Among other things, he picked up on the fact that several scenes had to be filmed in L.A. (or somewhere else besides D.C.) because of the high rise buildings in the background. You see, D.C. has a law forbidding buildings above a certain height. Heh, the first time I drove through D.C., I couldn’t help but think of it as a kind of squished San Francisco. (Though now, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why I connected it with that city, huh.)

Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s one place I know is in D.C. because I’ve stood right there, heh:

The above is a screenshot of Jack from one of the promos for this season of 24, and I immediately recognized it:

It’s shot on the south side of the Lincoln Memorial, from which (as you look east) you can see the Reflecting Pool in front of the Memorial and the Washington Monument and the Capitol in the distance. I took the above photo last November when I took a friend of mine into D.C. to see the sites.

Time will tell if Jack actually makes it to the Memorial in any of the episodes, heh. In the meantime, the next two episodes are on tonight, and then the series begins airing one episode every Monday. So far, I plan on tuning in. . . .

(Images: Fox) miscctgy