One of the problems of long running series is a tendency to repeat itself. And it is a tendency inherent in the plot munching behemoth that is 24. Now into its fifth series it is running out of major terrorist threats to inflict upon Los Angeles: having blown up Nuclear Power stations, nuclear bombs, killed at least one President, set off a lethal virus in a hotel and killed Jack’s wife (in order of series importance). But the biggest problem in 24 is making the threat credible, whilst giving the good guys a hard fought for victory.

This is seen in series two in particular, where a nuclear is primed to go off in LA. Rather than finding and disarming the bomb, the series decided to detonate it, albeit in a desert somewhere in Arizona – hence killing a few campers at best. The hotel virus had a significant death toll, but its containment meant the death toll was considerably lower than the estimated figure. Hence a victory!

Which brings us to season five, and an attempt to not spoil something. Suffice to say there are twenty deadly devices, and the estimated death toll is currently standing at 400,000. Three devices have now been let off: actual death toll is bobbling about the thirty. Does it undermine the seriousness? Not really. But then who takes it seriously anyway. But in designing the weapon, the program also designs its own flaw.

It is not a program about big death tolls anyway. Like anything else, killing off the beloved characters is where it puts us through the wringer. And with discarding two in the first episode, season five looked to be the most nihilistic yet. But even 24 plays by its own rules – and heoric, sad deaths are set apart from the run of the mill. How? By removing the pips at the end of the show. In memory only a couple of characters have earned this (George Mason most notably I believe). But episode 12 of season five was a real choker…

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