5 on 24, Pt 5: Citizen Soldier

A five-part video essay about the real-time action series
by Aaron Aradillas and Matt Zoller Seitz  posted May 24, 2010
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The May 24 finale of the political-action series 24 marks the end of one of the most stylistically fresh and politically controversial programs in broadcast TV history. The video essay series 5 on 24 examines various aspects of the show, including its real-time structure, its depiction of torture, and the psychology of its hero, counterterrorist agent Jack Bauer. To view part 1, click here; part 2, click here; part 3, click here; and part 4, click here.

The following video essay takes place in real time.

And what about Jack?

When we first met the hero of 24, he was a father trying to repair his fragile marriage and understand his rebellious teenage daughter. He was also a soldier, a good one—one who knew how to both give and follow orders.

As the show went on, though, Jack was revealed to be essentially nonpolitical. He was too smart not to be. He knew how the government-military machine worked. Jack swore an oath to uphold the constitution of the United States of America, and time and time again he has been prevented from doing his job, not just by terrorist threats, but bureaucratic red tape. And his friends have either been murdered or turned traitor out of frustration at how the government operates. Jack is like a black-ops Forrest Gump, causing death or pain to those he grows close to. He's part of that class of people who do what needs to be done so that others can take freedom for granted. And not once—not once!—has he ever called in sick.

And now, nine years after that first long day, Jack is suffering the ultimate indignity of having his show canceled.

Jack's many selfless acts of bravery go unheralded. Then again, it's all in a day's work. 


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San Antonio-based film critic Aaron Aradillas is a contributor to The House Next Door, the founder and publisher of Rockcritics.com and the host of “Back by Midnight,” an Internet radio program about film and television.

More articles by Aaron Aradillas

Matt Zoller Seitz is a writer and filmmaker whose debut feature, the romantic comedy Home, is available through Netflix and Amazon. His writing on film and television has appeared in The New York Times, New York Press, and The Star Ledger, among other places. He is also the founder of The House Next Door, a movie and TV criticism website.

More articles by Matt Zoller Seitz
Author's Website: The House Next Door