by GARY YAMASAKI I was a big “24” fan during its eight-year run, sticking with it through thick and thin. So, it was with a great deal of anticipation that I sat down to watch the two-hour premiere of this year’s incarnation of the show to immerse myself in another “day”–well, “half day”–in the life of Jack Bauer.
Very early in the episode, I sensed something was amiss. Now, I don’t mean there was something wrong with the episode, but rather, there was just something different from what I had grown accustomed to from the previous eight seasons of “24”. And with a little reflection, I quickly realized I was reacting to the producers’ choice of a point-of-view strategy at odds with that utilized in all of the previous seasons.
With regards to point-of-view crafting, the primary hallmark of the first eight seasons was that we, the audience, are led to adopt Bauer as the point-of-view character of every episode, experiencing the events of each episode through his point of view. And this results, as highlighted in Who Says You Have to be Objective, in our empathizing with him. . .pulling for him to succeed in whatever he attempts. However, as we proceed through the first hour of this season’s premiere, that sense of empathizing with him is missing. And it is not simply the fact Bauer is here depicted as a terrorist that prevents us from feeling empathy for him; as the this previous post demonstrates, negative characterization of a character does not necessarily hold an audience back from empathizing with him or her.
The disappearance of empathy is directly attributable to a change in point-of-view strategy, specifically, a change in the dynamics on the informational plane of point of view. As demonstrated in Synching Minds, a powerful contribution toward establishing a particular character as point-of-view character—resulting in the audience coming to empathize with him or her—is made by controlling the amount of information fed to the audience such that audience and character possess exactly the same information. . .the audience not being made privy to any significant detail the character does not know, nor being deprived of any detail the character does know.
Now, consider a particular turn of events in the premiere’s first hour. When CIA agents are in hot pursuit of Jack, he foregoes the best route of escape—via rooftops—in favour of a much inferior street-level route. In past seasons, Jack is always shown choosing the optimum option in whatever situation he is facing, and so, when he is captured we are left wondering, “What was he thinking?” The producers of the show know what he was thinking, and they could have made us privy to that thinking—synchronizing our level of information with Jack’s level of information—but they do not, thus blocking us from seeing the events through his informational point of view. And being blocked in this way gives us an unfamiliar vantage point: a position away from his side following along with all of his strategies.
Already by the second hour of the season premiere, we are being led out of the dark as we become privy of Jack’s thinking behind his actions, thus re-establishing the point of view we are so used to, and I suspect this will be the point of view we are given for the remaining ten episodes of the season. But the point-of-view crafting of the first of the twelve hours is so jarring that I felt it could not pass without comment.
Being a writer, I was very interested in seeing how this article stacked up to my wife and I’s experience of a new “24” 😉
We’d seen all the previous seasons and were ready!
Truthfully, neither of us felt anything missing, via the first hour vs the second, where the pov shifts.
We also didn’t feel any loss of sympathy or concern for Jack. But then, we had seen all the previous season, and of course “know” he’s always in trouble and being falsely blamed!
So maybe that mitigated the lack of any disappearance of empathy.
If anything, knowing the eight seasons of back story, we felt even more concern that yet another crazy misguided U.S. administration was once again bent on destroying Jack 🙂
I think I was more perturbed at that then anything else. I mean, this guy should have a standing orders commendation listen-to-what-he-has-to-say presidential pardon order, seriously!
So, for us, a sampling of two, albeit veterans of the series, there was no loss of suspense. The show flew by, both hours! And we can’t wait for the next episode.
Oh, one other tiny quirk-complaint from me, the rapidity of Chloe’s makeup improvement, from the time she was rescued (nearly scared and wrinkled), to sitting in front of her computer station (smooth toned, no dark shadows), to being in the re-con van (pointed lines at the outer edges of her eyes) gave me more trouble than any shift of any pov.
I think it’s a matter of that our sympathy for Jack was already set.
And, that shifts of pov aren’t guarantees of something working, or not working.
But definitely something to be aware of 🙂
Thanks so much, best wishes,