As much as I supported the WGA in the recent strike, and wanted it to end quickly and favorably on behalf of the writers, it did result in one nice benefit for me: for the first time since I signed up for this gig, I didn't have to spend my birthday week slogging through four full episode recaps of 24. Indeed, as you probably know if you're reading this, the whole 2008 season got pushed back to 2009. As a result, the time between seasons stretched out to the eighteen-month interval that often passes within the timeline of the show. How's that for real time?
And you know how the DVDs for some seasons include a brief prequel for the next season? I normally fold those into the recap for an episode, but since this prequel got broadcast on FOX, is two hours long, and features a cast of thousands, it seemed best to do a stand-alone recap of it rather than cramming it into a couple of pages at the beginning of Day Seven. So off we go, with 24: Redemption. I'm not exactly sure what the title refers to in this context, but if it refers to an effort by the show to address some of my endless complaints about it, the fact that the producers sent me an advance DVD screener a few weeks ago is definitely a step in the right direction.
Most of this was shot on location in South Africa, which is immediately apparent during the opening shot, a low helicopter view of a sprawling South African township. The subtitle reads, "Sangala, Africa." It will take me a while to realize that Sangala is the name of the fictional nation where the South Africa-shot action is set, and not the town we're looking at. And while Sangala doesn't really exist, neither do any of these people we're about to meet. And there are a lot of them, I'm just warning you right now. People of the township go about their hot, dusty, picturesque daily business, apparently unaware of the significance of the pickup truck passing along through its main dirt thoroughfare. In the bed of the pickup truck are a handful of preteen boys, one of whom, in a white t-shirt, is glancing around with a much less fatalistic expression than his fellows. In the front of the truck bed is a bald guy watching over them. Going by the fierce scowl and assault rifle he's displaying, I take it he's not their Montessori teacher. The man's cell phone rings, and he answers a call from a Colonel Dubaku. In English. Yes, we should just establish right now that Sangala is a land where all of the citizens are dark-skinned and speak English with an "African" accent. Dubaku is a man in fatigues calling from a paramilitary base camp somewhere, and I assume he's meant to be scary and imposing. He does have a menacing voice, accent, and general presence, but it's all rather undercut by the Gary Coleman side-parted afro he's rocking. Dubaku isn't happy to hear that the truck is returning with only five kids. "I need soldiers, not excuses," he says. The bald guy promises to bring more. Dubaku hangs up and walks through his camp to watch some more ten- and eleven-year-olds taking target practice with assault rifles and live ammunition. He nods in approval. This isn't some summer camp he's running, is it? Some kind of extreme version of Outward Bound, helping at-risk youth get their lives together and prepare for genocidal invaders?