The Final, Final Countdown... Maybe
Maybe the most subtle performance goes to the people behind the scenes. They fill the blue and green screens with digital imagery and they design the sets. Thanks to the DVD extras, such as the “Virtually New York” feature, we get to see how the show created the city of New York without having to film on location. In many cases, whole cityscapes were added in post-production, even in relatively inert scenes, to ground the action in authentic-seeming hustle and bustle. Fascinating as it is, this is one of those things I didn’t notice until I was told, but now that I know it, I can’t stop noticing it!
“The Ultimate CTU” feature shows us how production designer Carlos Barbosa, art director Carlos Osorio, and construction coordinator Philip Stone configured CTU’s New York headquarters. Where season seven’s Washington, D.C. locale signified scrutiny, of national policies and of Jack Bauer’s tactics, season eight’s New York center evokes healing (due to September 11, 2001’s indelible impact) and unity (with the presence of the United Nations and the season’s aspirations for peace). CTU’s new workspace is sleek and “super-glossy”, plus completely businesslike, devoid of family photos and artwork. It is meant to be green (eco-friendly), harboring hardly any paper at all.
On the tech side, CTU’s massive 24-foot command and surveillance screen is the show’s “window on New York”, echoing the interior design meant to be a “world of reflections and reflections and reflections”. In the closing scene of the series, it’s on this screen that Jack says his last “thank you” and bids his farewells. He confesses to a teary Chloe O’Brian, “When you first came to CTU, I never thought it was gonna be you that was gonna cover my back all those years.”
Otherwise, the extras are rather light—a few extended episodes, some brief commentary, and deleted scenes that almost never should have been included. Personally, I prefer the full walkthrough commentary on selected episodes that accompanied previous seasons, so I find the short discussions (called “Scenemakers”) too disconnected from the action.
As Dalia Hassan, Necar Zadegan is captivating. Viewers go into a season of 24 knowing that a lot of people are going to have horrible experiences but, relatively speaking, Dalia Hassan’s day was truly awful.
First she discovers her husband’s affair with American news reporter “Meredith Reed” (Jennifer Westfeldt, who played the titular character in Kissing Jessica Stein). Then she learns of the death threats against her husband, along with the understanding that Omar Hassan’s brother participated in the coup. An adulterous husband, a treacherous brother-in-law—could it get worse?
Yes. In horror, she watches her husband impose martial law in retaliation for the attempt on his life, compromising his pledge to build a revitalized Kamistan governed by the rule of law. Next, her daughter gets kidnapped, followed by her husband’s actual assassination. To keep the peace treaty intact, President Taylor and Omar Hassan’s aide “Minister Jamot” (Navid Negahban) persuade Mrs. Hassan to assume the presidency, which she agrees to do. Unbeknownst to her, she’ll be partnering with the forces that, behind the scenes, orchestrated her husband’s murder—the Russians.
When President Allison Taylor and Dalia Hassan share screen time, they are as natural together as they are dynamic, portraying resilient women motivated by the power of their convictions but undermined by the people upon whose counsel they rely. As she urges Dalia Hassan to carrying her husband’s ideals forward, President Taylor communicates her own shortcomings, “I know only too well how difficult it is for a marriage to survive a life in politics.” Mrs. Hassan responds with her love for her husband, despite his imperfections, and the belief they shared that peace might be possible. In this way, President Taylor and Mrs. Hassan bonded, not only as heads of state but as women.
That’s why, when Mrs. Hassan realizes the truth, that President Taylor withheld from her the Russian involvement in her husband’s murder, she’s absolutely disgusted. As Dalia Hassan refuses to participate in the treaty, President Taylor turns on her and threatens to attack her country under pretense if Mrs. Hassan steers Kamistan away from the conference. Outraged, Mrs. Hassan is forced to sign a document with her enemies, only to have President Taylor’s attack of conscience bring a halt to the proceedings. Dalia Hassan’s day was a rollercoaster, with little, except maybe the truth, to show for it.
Zadegan fully immerses herself in her character’s cycle of emotions, from apprehension to fear to sympathy to loathing and shock. Her strength resides in her ability to absorb pain, even as it ripples through her posture and facial expressions. Dalia Hassan’s firm stance provides the perfect foil to President Taylor’s shifting principles, her voice crumbling with each new deceitful word as she strains under the weight of her many secrets. And Taylor’s betrayal of Hassan, not only as Commander-In-Chief but also as a woman, is gut wrenching. Dalia Hassan’s grace under these extreme circumstances segues so perfectly into Jack’s final moments before he is forced into hiding, the world’s lone protector once again banished into exile as the 24 clock fittingly counts down 00:00:03…00:00:02…00:00:01…and 00:00:00.