The President is rotten. I know what you’re thinking: “Here comes another rabid anti-Obama rant.” But the president I’m referring to is Allison Taylor-“Madam President” on the Fox TV series show “24,” which said its final goodbye last night.
I never liked President Taylor very much, even when she was the “good guy”-compassionate, perspicacious, a believer in political moderation and civil common sense. The reason I didn’t like the President Allison Taylor character very much was because she exuded “goodness,” evident in the way she fretted under tension, wringing her hands and compressing her lips tightly, before delivering soppy lines designed to set liberal hearts fluttering.
It’s not that I don’t like “goodness.” My theory about “the good” is that you’ve got to recognize the bad in yourself first. Children begin in innocence, the bad naturally burgeons within them as they become exposed to “the world,” and then they must struggle back to the good.
Jack Bauer may have ripped someone’s guts out in the last frame but it’s clear he’s motivated by “the real good,” not the fake good of the self-aggrandizing politician. “Goodness” is never static, never a fait accompli, as some would have you believe; it is always a project still in development.
It’s not so with “good” people like President Taylor. Convinced of their own perfection and goodness, such people have weak barriers against corruption. Allison Taylor so badly wanted peace with Islamic Country X that she was willing to cover-up the perpetrators of President Hassan’s death, and to lie to Hassan’s widow, Dahlia. Of course, the real evil of the season finale of “24” was that a country which was the beacon of light had descended into the dark night of liberal fascism, as government forces repressed and destroyed the truth tellers.
I’m always late to the party when it comes to television series shows. The popular “24” series had been running for many years before I began watching it. All the terrorist plots had already been revealed, all of the moles discovered. The show was tripping over its own toes. Strong criticism came from the liberal left that “24” was profiling Middle Easterners, leading to the preposterous current season which has a Russian plot behind the brutal murder of President Hassan. Having a few real Russian friends, it was often hilarious to listen to phony Russian accents.
It doesn’t matter to die-hard “24” fans if the plot twists are ever more fantastic. The key to “24” is its characters and the non-stop action-abundant in car chases, split-frames, hi-tech, and flash gunfights. The plots are merely an extended video game.
Aside from diminutive but tough Jack Bauer, my favorite CTU characters have been Chloe O’Brian on the good side and Charles Logan on the bad. As President Taylor becomes more entangled by degrees, Charles Logan manipulates the entire American body politic so that evil is perceived as good and vice-versa. Impossible, you say? Logan, played by Gregory Itzin, is the perfect Iago, whispering intrigue into the president’s ear.
Madam President has been seduced by power and her own narcissism to cover up the murder of President Hassan, and she’s set to sign the peace agreement with the Russian president and Dahlia Hassan at the U.N. Jack Bauer simultaneously seeks justice and revenge for the assassination of his intimate, Renee Walker, a female CTU agent strung more tightly than guitar strings. Renee Walker wasn’t your classic feminine “heroine” but there was something sexy about a skinny woman in a pants-suit and an edgy mien. Maybe it was that she was supposed to play across the gender aisles. In any case, Renee and Jack were the perfect Yin and Yang (or maybe Yang and Yang) superheroes who would stop at nothing to reveal governmental perfidy.
In this current and final season for “24,” Renee Walker had an evil twin-a character named Dana Walsh. Dana Walsh was presented early in this final season as a “good guy,” plagued by a troubled past. From a theatrical standpoint, the “24” directors deserve credit for compressed character development even while the plot twists were worn and threadbare. Katee Sackhoff’s great portrayal of Dana Walsh played heavily on audience loyalties. You were supposed to like her initially, but less and less as she was revealed as yet another mole who enabled the smuggling of a nuclear weapon into New York City.
In true “24” style, let me cut to the chase. President Taylor has a change of heart in the final frames and declares herself a fraud and a criminal, saving Jack Bauer’s life. Jack has a teary face-to-face with Chloe, new chief of CTU. The wounded and bloody Jack Bauer disappears into the anonymity of the city, paving the way for the “24” movie, currently in development. It had better be good if the planned “24” movie is going to live up to its reputation.