Here is the blog post I promised on Friday to deliver on Monday knowing full well it is now Wednesday. I boasted last week that I’d share this week why I don’t like the new girl on “24,” but I did feel like I owed her a viewing of the episode that aired Monday, which I just watched on Hulu today. My impressions of her character haven’t changed – I still have no respect for her, and I find myself wanting to sit down with a cuppa with the script writers and ask them how much reality do they expect we viewers can suspend in order to participate in the fictive world that is Fox’s “24?”
I am speaking of Dana the Data Analyst. If you don’t watch the show – and I’ve only just started watching it the last two seasons because my teenage son enjoys it and I enjoy being a part of what he enjoys – let me describe her. She works at the Counter Terrorism Unit, or CTU, which is a made-up, high octane intel arm of the government. They know everything, they see everything, they have a satellite feed everywhere, can change a red light to green on any street corner in America, and can create a past for a someone’s cover in nanoseconds. They have to be fast and all-knowing because they have to save the world three times in the span of twenty-four hours.
Dana, the new pretty computer nerd, is NOT a federal agent, not a spy, not a female version of James Bond. She has the proverbial desk job in a underground compound with no windows, yet wears a black cocktail dress, diamond studs in her ears, and continually wears her long blond hair off to the side like she’s a contestant on America’s Next Top Model.
On a show that is already hard to embrace as real, did they really have to put her in a cocktail dress?
Then we find out, by the entrance of Jerk From The Past, that she is not really Dana. She is Jenny. This guy is bad news. He knows her past. He knows she’s an ex-con. That she was an accessory to murder. He calls her on her cell phone while she’s on duty at the CTU and tells her he’s not only found out where she is, but he’s threatening to spill her past to her fiance, a CTU field agent, as well as to her new employer, the mind-numbing, we-know-everything CTU. He shows up in the CTU parking lot with snarky threats, asks for the keys to her apartment because he needs a favor and a place to stay. Just for the night.
And what does she do? She gives him the keys.
Two things that just make the storyteller in me writhe. Please. No dumb blonds. No dumb protagonists period. None! Ever again. If you want a character to end up in a tight spot, don’t make her stupid. Make her fight to stay out of the tight spot but she ends up there anyway. It’s like the really bad scary movie about a psycho ax murderer on the loose, and a young woman alone in a house in the same vicinity hears a strange noise at midnight, decides to go outside with a flashlight and check it out. In her nightgown. And it’s raining. Puh-lease. Just don’t do that.
Second, it’s just not believable that Dana the model could fool the Fact-Checkers at CTU. If she stole someone’s identity to become Dana so that she could get the job at CTU, then the script-writers need to have some respect for the viewers and reveal that detail way up front. Every scene that we’re expected to believe – while not knowing how in the world the Great and Powerful CTU doesn’t know Dana the Data Analyst is really Jenny the Excon – suffers. If this was a book I’d stop reading.
The basic rule of storytelling is this. The characters have to be believable or we won’t care what happens to them. We have to empathize with them or we won’t care what happens to them. It’s pretty simple.
I am hoping there will be some significant character development for Dana in the weeks to come. If there isn’t, expect more Monday posts on Wednesday.
Coming up Friday, an interview with one of my favorite people, the wise and wonderful Susie Larson. See you then. . .