''24'': It's hero time for Lynn
Well, last night's 24 made other do-or-die cliffhanger shows like Lost look pretty wimpy. I'm not just talking about killing off a second prominent character in two weeks. Well, I am, actually: It takes Lost (and don't get me wrong I am a Lost fan; I watch it every time ABC can bother to program a new episode) months to work up the gumption to bump off even one character when we know at least a few would have dropped like (the lord of the) flies during that time in any half-real scenario. But on 24, after last week's wrenching but completely plausible death of Edgar, it was entirely in keeping with the series' mandate not merely to keep moving relentlessly forward but also to bump off Sean Astin's Lynn.
Lynn proved himself to be, in his final minutes, a loyal government agent in a time of crisis, redeeming himself for the lost-key-card fiasco by helping to deal with the nerve gas but dying from exposure to it in the process. Even before that, the hour was front-loaded with terrific moments. C. Thomas Howell's clinical psychologist trying to help Chloe deal with her paralyzing grief over Edgar's death? At once entirely believable and 24-ishly impish, because we knew this goateed wuss was going to be verbally pulverized by Chloe's infallible fallback mode: sarcasm passing for wisdom. ''Shrinks are always giving advice that they probably don't take themselves,'' was one of her milder remarks.
One reason I'm enjoying this season so much is that every single actor seems completely committed to his or her character, never trying for any unwarranted sympathy. Thus, in his creepy-solemn way, Howell did a great job of portraying an earnest psychologist, and yet it was also entirely satisfying when Jack gripped him by the throat to express his displeasure at the doc's extra-professional relationship with Kim. And speaking of creepy-solemn, how about our President Logan, caving in to the vice president's plan to declare martial law while putting on a blubbery performance for Jean Smart's First Lady, who finds that strategy contemptible?
This season, it seems 24 cannot introduce a bad character. Certainly our first glimpse last night of the Homeland Security official Karen Hayes, played by the ever-worthy Jayne Atkinson, promised to ratchet up the inter-office tension, as she tossed out statements like ''For all practical purposes, CTU is no longer an operational entity.'' Just wait till she actually gets into CTU headquarters and starts talking like that. Thanks to Jack and the newly gutsy Audrey, there'll be some good sparks.
And after wishing in last week's TV Watch that the show would give Peter Weller's Henderson more to do than lie around in a semi-coma, 24 answered my hopes by having him spring up from bed like Frankenstein's monster to prevent a grief-addled Tony from killing him. Attaway, Weller! Now keep this meanie in action, 24 writers! Speaking of Tony, we left him in Jack's arms, his life in question after Weller plunged Tony's death syringe into Tony himself.
So what do you think? Is Tony dead, too? Is Kim, sent off by her father after she told him she doesn't want him in her life anymore, gone for good this season? We saw in the coming attractions that a chunk of California is going under some form of martial law next week, but how do you think the First Lady and chief of staff Mike might collaborate to undermine the prez and vice prez?