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 the Sep 25/2012 post, 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 Sep 27/2012 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 the Nov 29/2012 post, 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.