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The term “dark comedy” often seems overused, as relatively few films really strike the balance between truly dark and truly funny, tending instead to fall more on one side or the other. One film that really deserves the title, however, is Mark Waters‘ 1997 adaptation of Wendy MacLeod‘s play, The House of Yes. Blending sharp, clever dialogue and a wonderfully unhinged lead performance by Parker Posey with exceptionally disturbing subject matter and boldly unlikable characters, The House of Yes has to be one of the darkest comedies ever made. At the same time, though, it is strikingly funny.
Posey is “Jackie-O” Pascal, a disturbed young woman with a lifelong obsession over Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and, especially, the JFK assassination. As a child, she once dressed as her namesake for Halloween, complete with fake blood and “brains” made from macaroni. She also has an unhealthy fixation on her twin brother, Marty (Josh Hamilton), with whom she shares a far too close relationship, even for twins. Their mother (Genevieve Bujold), upon meeting Marty’s fiancée, Lesly (Tori Spelling), tells her, “Jackie and Marty belong to each other. Jackie’s hand was holding Marty’s penis when they came out of the womb.” This casual admission of such an unsettling fact to a relative stranger gives the viewer a pretty strong idea of how this unbalanced family came to be the way they are.
Jackie and Marty’s younger brother, Anthony (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), has his share of problems as well, chief among them being his strong desire for the sort of bond shared by the twins. Feeling left out, he makes clumsy advances toward Lesly, heightening her understandable discomfort as she is basically stranded with her bizarre new family during a hurricane. The film’s single location and relatively few characters, as well as its reliance on dialogue and performance above all, make its origins as a stage play obvious, but that doesn’t really hurt its impact. The oddly claustrophobic nature of the single location only adds to the tension of the situation as poor Lesly, who is clearly Marty’s futile attempt to escape from his insane family, struggles to cope with the extreme dysfunction all around her. Of course, Marty can never really escape from the madness of his family, since he himself is such an integral part of it, and the conclusion of The House of Yes is in keeping with the rest of it: relentlessly dark, and at the same time, disturbingly funny.
There but for the grace of God goes Fox, who dares to air the series finale to one of their most successful shows in the shadow of “Lost,” which was basically the biggest series finale since “Cheers.” Man, do you remember the cast of “Cheers” on Leno’s show after that last episode aired? They were smashed. Good times.
The “24” finale, however, was not good times.
The bad guys won. Allison had the video of Starbuck with the Russian. Mr. Blonde wiped his servers, so the backup copy of the video was gone. The recording of the conversation between I.M. Weasel and Suvarov, which Jack gave to Chloe, was confiscated by Dominic. Chloe and Buffy are looking at long stints in the slammer for treason. Jack is looking at either the death penalty or life in a deep dark hole somewhere halfway around the world, if he’s lucky. Game over. Bad guys win.
Well, that’s how this would have happened in the real world.
But not here. Instead, Jack, Chloe and Buffy are saved by a long-overdue crisis of conscience on the part of one Allison Taylor. One that, ideally, shouldn’t have needed to happen in the first place – this is where frequent commenter Mr. Paulsen would make a crack about manufactured conflict, and he’s not wrong – but there you are. That’s a hell of a way to end your show about an ass-kicking counter-terrorist agent, with him being saved not by his wits but by someone else’s guilty conscience. And by a hell of a way, I mean lame.
“So what did that Medsker fucker say about me this week? Man, I hate that guy.”
Jack should never have a passive role in how events unfold. He should have been at the center of it all, not on his knees getting a last-minute pardon. To his credit, at least he took his execution the way you would expect him to, by telling the guy to pull the damn trigger already. Still, being a fugitive should have been his choice. The exposing of the scandal should have been by his hand. Hell, he just whacked a small army of Russian goons, and it was one of the best episodes of the show in years. There should be a rule with the “24” staff to never, ever take the power out of his hands.
It was actually going well in the first hour. Jack finds that sweet location where he can take out Logan, and from there it all went wrong. Biting Dominic’s ear off? Really? If I were in charge, I would have had Jack wound Suvarov in Logan’s office at the very least, prompting Allison to sing like a canary not because her conscience is getting to her but because Jack Bauer will fucking kill her if she doesn’t. The truth comes out, the peace treaty is killed, Logan is exposed as the puppet master, Allison’s legacy is ruined, and Jack flees the country as a wanted but righteous man, becoming a folk hero in the process. Years from now, Kim will get a text message from an unknown number saying, “New Zealand is nice this time of year,” or “Zihuatanejo.”
I’d blame the limp-wristed ending on the producers’ desire to maintain “24” as a viable movie property, but the strange thing is, this ending does not set up a potential “24” movie very well. How do you bring him back when both the Russian and US governments want to put him on trial for mass murder? Throw in the Chinese, and Jack is effectively banned from 60% of the world. Ah, well. It’s over. As Marge Simpson once said, when Homer wasn’t sure if a problem was properly resolved, “It’s an ending. That’s enough.”
Our last song comes courtesy of the Pope-dissing firecracker Sinead O’Connor. She took her PR lumps after that incident on “SNL” but those first two records of hers were damn good. Thank you to everyone who read this column over the years. It’s been fun sharing the experience with you all. My current plan is to not like another TV show enough that my bosses will ask me to blog about it. Wish me luck.
There’s no other way to say it: the carnage from tonight’s episode of “24” made me positively giddy. Jack Bauer may have dispensed some Dirty Harry-style justice in the past, but this time around, he’s a Terminator. He doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, and he absolutely will not stop until you are dead. Jesus, I can still feel the small jabs that he hit that hit man with last week, but that shot of Novakovich’s suite littered with dead guys, with Novakovich himself taking a poker to the stomach…that was a thing of beauty. I have been waiting for years to see Jack do something like that. Way to give the people what they want, Fox. I love it when shows finally start acting like they have nothing to lose. Unfortunately, they usually only do so after they’ve lost everything.
Having said that, I’m still unhappy that Jack hasn’t thought to upload the incriminating video to the interwebs. On the plus side, Mr. Blonde still has a copy of it on his hard drive, and since the video is of Starbuck, and Buffy is the one that’s about to pay him a visit, it’s possible that Buffy will get one look at this video and want to blow the whistle whether Jack wishes it or not. Either way, it will be a huge missed opportunity if the world doesn’t see that clip.
I thought for sure that Timmy was going to quit on the spot when Allison asked him to organize the raid of a newspaper. He’s always had a strong moral compass. He has to know that this is bad juju. But never mind that: Jack had to know that White She Devil was not smart enough to evade the authorities long enough to get her piece written. Heck, how many of us are smart enough to fall off the grid? The second you use a credit card, boom, you’re done. Need cash? Can’t get any out of an ATM. She was a sitting duck, and Jack should have known that.
“Hello? Hey, Mr. Rafferty, how are you? Are the royalty checks still coming in?”
Then again, I’ll forgive him for having other things on his mind, namely how he was going to make I.M. Weasel sing like a canary about his involvement in the day’s events. I’m actually tempted to reinstate Logan’s other nickname of Buck Buck Brawwwwwwk, because the sounds he was making as he was grilled by Jack sounded just like a chicken. And, to bring the Terminator analogy back, I loved how Jack only wounded the American agents while mercilessly killing any and all Russians. I half expected him to say to Logan, after knocking one of his Secret Service agents unconscious, “He’ll live.”
So I.M. Weasel finally reveals his source within the Russian government, and it is none other than President Suvarov himself. Now forgive me, because I can be a little dense – I’ll pause while you get all jokes out of your system – but this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Why on earth would Suvarov tell Logan anything? There is no good that can come from this, especially if he’s trying to torpedo a peace treaty that the President of the United States is pushing. If I’m Suvarov, I am meeting Logan’s call with a long string of phrases that vary on the theme “You dumb motherfucker!” Gee, thanks for not ratting me out, but you may as well have, dingus. Please tell me I’m missing something here.
That was a nice touch, though, to see that Jack planted a bug on Logan and overheard everything he said to Suvarov. Here’s the question, though: was he able to capture that recording? Overhearing isn’t exactly admissible in a court of law. Not that Jack is thinking about the letter of the law at the moment, but you get the idea. In case the video’s destroyed, he’s going to need a backup plan. Assuming he even has a plan at this point. Seriously, he’s killed every single Russian connected to Renee’s death. What else is left? Killing Suvarov? He should make a video of himself, in the event of his untimely death, where he explains everything that has happened up to now, and finish it by playing the recording of the conversation he just overheard, if he’s capable. Then, upload it to the Web. Have I mentioned that he should be uploading stuff to the Web, multiple times, and sending copies directly to TV stations as well?
Two hours left. It’s the end of an era, if you will. We’ve given nine years of our lives to this show, and in a week, it’ll all be over. They say that they want to turn it into a movie franchise, but as Mr. Paulsen points out, if people aren’t willing to watch it for free, who’s going to pay to see it? Surely the people at Fox know this, which gives me hope that they will actually have the balls to kill Jack in the final seconds of next week’s series finale, giving him a ten-second silent clock tick. Ah, but who are we kidding, that will never happen. The thing is, it should. For what he’s done in the last few hours, Jack’s either looking at death or life in prison, even if he succeeds in exposing two corrupt administrations. And I for one do not want to see Jack end the show behind bars.
I originally planned on titling this blog “…And you will know us by the trail of dead” after seeing that slow pan of Novakovich’s suite. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t pimp Ice-T’s hardcore side project from the early ’90s, which seems positively quaint now but was a big deal at the time, to the point where his song “Cop Killer” got him in so much trouble that Time Warner voided his contract. These days, of course, he’s a “Law & Order” guy. You know what would be really awesome? When the time comes to kill off his character, it’s at the hands of a guy who was amped up after listening to some rapper talk about killing pigs. I have to think even Ice-T would appreciate the irony of that.
Tonight’s episode of “24” felt like a blast from the past. It was pretty lean in terms of storytelling, it contained a hellacious, if predictable, end-around, and ended with one of the most vicious torture scenes in the show’s history. Pity it had one major, major flaw.
I liked that Dominic was so busy trying to nail down Bauer down that he took no notice of Chloe and Merv the Perv conspiring behind his back. Even when he noticed Chloe giving him The Look (you know the one), he just tinted the windows and kept on scheming. Fool. Nobody puts Chloe in a corner. Still, you’d think Dominic would show a little more diplomacy when safeguarding high crimes committed by the White House. By yanking that file away from Arlo, he may as well have stamped “CORRUPT” on his forehead.
As Jack is setting up the meet with White She Devil, I’m thinking to myself, “There has to be a better way to do this.” Not in terms of getting her the evidence (more on that in a bit), but in terms of meeting out in the open like that. So as it’s going down and he shows up, I knew he’d have a plan, and sure enough, he did. He didn’t care about getting caught on camera – he knew the hit man who took out Crazy Jackie would be there, and could then settle two scores for the price of one. Get the intel, and make the motherfucker responsible for Jackie’s death squeal like a stuck pig before ultimately killing him. Re-enter Mr. Blonde, to get the drop on Dmitri Sharpshooter.
But I have another idea.
“Let’s see, stab him, then the lighter fluid, then the blowtorch, then the pliers. No, pliers first. The crowd loves it when I open with that.”
That’s great that he was able to abduct – and torture the bejeezus out of – Renee’s killer, but if he just wanted to make sure She Devil got the video, why didn’t he just go viral with it? Post that puppy to YouTube, text her the link, have her record her own version in the event CTU discovers it, and send it to every TV station in New York City. She Devil said it herself, Starbuck’s tape alone was more than enough evidence to blow the lid off. He didn’t need to risk her life over it, which actually goes to Dominic’s point that Jack has indeed lost it, and is acting not out of duty but out of grief and hell-bent on revenge. I believe Jack has it mostly together; he did check himself after unloading about 20 hay makers on the helpless hit man. But let’s not kid ourselves, people: Jack Bauer is the Crow, and he will not stop until everyone responsible for Renee’s death is dealt with. And by dealt with, I mean gutted like a deer, but not before having a little blowtorch work done. And taking the cell phone memory card out of hit man’s stomach, staring him in the eyes the entire time…wow.
The bottom line is that Jack should go viral with the footage anyway, because once it’s out on the web, the government will not be able to control the message any longer. It’s an instant checkmate, and Jack, of all people, should know this. But hey, the “24” writers, for as advanced as their tech is, are slow on the draw with certain things. They actually used texting to their advantage this week, after passing on a golden opportunity to use it in an earlier episode. Before you know it, they’ll be Facebooking, tweeting, and then, when no one’s looking, sexting. Shhhhh!
I still have one question: has I.M. Weasel revealed how he suspected the Russians were involved in the day’s events? I remember him offering his services to Allison, and then blackmailing Mikhail into submission, but never really being forthright – not his strong suit, sure – with either of them. He must have known something, but what? If he heard chatter, then who was chattering? I hear chatter about lots of things, but I don’t offer my services to the President unless I’m 100% sure of my intel, especially if I’m a disgraced former President looking for redemption.
Time for tonight’s song, courtesy of a mid-’80s AAA-hungry Brian Setzer. This is the first time I’ve heard this song since its release, and all I could think of was Marshall Crenshaw. I’m frankly surprised Crenshaw didn’t write this, because it sounds just like him.
Bledsoe: “You won’t take the shot, it’s too risky! I’ll kill her before you…” Jack: *Blam*
Seriously, that was one of the best deaths in “24” history. Here was Toepick, trying to act all intimidating, when Jack was a mere five or six feet away. He may as well have had the gun on Toepick’s forehead. Heck, I’m pretty sure Jack has made that shot across a windy rooftop with a pea shooter in a previous season.
As Jack continues to thwart I.M. Weasel’s nefarious plans, Logan’s conversations with Allison remind me of a “Simpsons” episode – in full disclosure, it should be noted that pretty much everything reminds me of a “Simpsons” episode – where Apu is trying to get out of his arranged marriage to a family friend, and Homer suggests that he pretend that he’s married to Marge, and Bart and Lisa are his kids. When the plan continues to go wrong, Apu finally grows tired of Homer’s wacky schemes:
Apu: Is it me, or do all of your plans involve some horrible web of lies? Homer: It’s you.
Logan is Homer. Allison is Apu. Only she’s still going along with Logan’s ridiculous suggestions, even though each one is riskier and more conspicuous than the last one. Again, the woman who sent her own daughter to prison is authorizing Logan to put his assistant (official “24” nickname: Dominic, from his “Dollhouse” days) in charge of the hunt for Jack at CTU. Because that doesn’t look at all suspicious that you’re putting someone in between Jack and Chloe. Yumpin’ yiminy.
“Well, I say he does have to shoot me now! So shoot me now!”
There was a time when I hoped that they could come up with a way to take the bad guys down without getting Allison’s hands dirty, but as she continues to acquiesce, I am running out of patience with her. She’s had more than enough time to realize the grievous error in judgment she’s committed, but the problem at this point is that she can’t go back, so the web of lies expands. Still, go back to the beginning of this subplot, and think of Logan and Taylor as exes. Would you take ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ assistance from an ex – a known liar, to boot- even when they assured you that none of it would come back to haunt you? Of course you wouldn’t, because the two of you broke up for a reason, remember? There isn’t a parallel universe on this or any other world where Allison would accept that kind of help from someone like I.M. Weasel, and I’m growing tired of seeing them continue with the ruse.
Now let’s get to the other great death in tonight’s episode. Was anyone else shocked at the remorselessness Jack showed in dispatching Starbuck? Yes, she could not be trusted, and yes, she had killed several innocent civilians in order to facilitate her escape, as well as conceal her cover. And yes, Jack is going to have hell to pay from Buffy, even though Starbuck spared his life when hatching her Plan B to go off the grid. But for someone who said he was only interested in justice, Jack killing an unarmed Starbuck seemed a bit dark, didn’t it? How about chaining her to something and having the police deal with her? If the Russians kill her before she gets processed, so be it. She had her chance to escape on Jack’s terms, and she reneged. But just deciding that she had to die…that’s not going to help his case when he sees what’s on the video file and tries to make his case for, well, overthrowing the government. It seems the smarter play would have been from the Richard Kimble playbook, where you try to keep as many people alive as possible, even when they mean you harm. You’re trying to make a big, big case; it’s a lot easier to do that when there is no blood on your hands.
Only four hours left. I traded messages with onetime “Prison Break” blogger John “You Must Suspend Disbelief” Paulsen about the perils of blogging TV shows, and he told me that when “Prison Break” went off the air, he threw a party. As much as I’ve loved watching this show and writing this silly, silly blog, I’m harboring similar plans. I am grateful to all six of you who have stuck with this blog until the very end, but I’m officially at the point where I cannot wait for this show to be over. And with any luck, our colleague Will Harris will find himself in the same room with Cherry Jones at the next TCA gathering, and I can ask him to get her to talk about how she felt about getting lobotomized mid-season. Hey, at the very least, we might get a good off-the-record story from her on the subject.
In the meantime, I leave you with this clip from the Cranberries’ first album. It seemed to fit, given that Jack put Starbuck down like a dog, but not before putting Toepick down like a rabid dog. Plius, I have been sitting here for about an hour trying to find a clever lyric as a subtitle for this week’s blog, and I’m tired, man. Cranberries it is. Good night.