Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: 35th and Bell, Phoenix, AZ
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I watch and generally enjoy 24 but have felt the show was constrained by two things, its taking place in real time and the overwhelming nature of the threats Jack was confronting. For me, this always stacked the deck in favor of Jack's willingness to go to extremes. He (and we) always knew the guy he was about to question was a bad guy and the immediacy and scope of the threat always justified extreme measures (like, the hacksaw). In this episode, however, the situation changed. There was still the pressure of time but the stakes were much lower -- only one life was at risk even if it was that of the First Gentleman.
Thus, Agent Walker's revulsion at what she had done was justified. Even though she knew she was only, uh, kidding, she caused real pyschological pain to an innocent woman and, as I mentioned, the stakes were low. President Taylor had already announced she had to be willing to pay the price of her husband's life for the sake of the country, innocent lives in Sangala, and her principles so Walker (and Jack) could not inflate the threat to a level that would have justified physical torture. For those looking for a break in the action along with a moral dilemma for the characters to cope with, this was the opportunity.
Although he didn't do much with it, SA Moss really had a fairly strong position to defend in his Reflecting Pool exchange with Jack. The time pressures were still there for swift action but the threat level was too low to automatically excuse extreme measures. I think this is hinted at by Jack only killing the SS agent in self-defense but Moss assuming the death of the SS agent to have been a deliberate result of Jack being Jack. Jack's "Not today" could have been met with a "This is now just a kidnapping."
I have no idea if the writers will do anything with the opportunity but it might allow for a quarter of an hour of reflection now that Henry Taylor is no longer even a hostage but merely a prominent victim on life support. Until the next big threat appears (and I am assuming one will) Jack and Walker will face much more of a moral quandry than they did when The Device threatened to kills tens of thousands in the twinkling of an eye.