Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Shot Through the Heart

Jack Bauer and Wayne Palmer have now teamed up as action hero partners on "24", moving in to take out the bad guys who have kidnapped the daughter of their only lead!!!.

Before she'll tell them who's behind all of this, she demands Jack and Wayne rescue her little girl, who's behind held by Jack's former mentor Christopher Henderson.

As we all know, Jack's a seasoned military, intelligence and tactical operative. He knows exactly what to do in these situations. However, ex-presidential brother and ex-Chief of Staff Wayne - while being a former Marine - has no real combat experience. Training, yes, but he's apparently never actually killed anyone in a firefight.

But he's all Jack has, so they go in. Infiltrating the nameless factory where Henderson is holding the little girl, Jack takes out the first minion with a sneak-up-strangle-from-behind-two-shots-in-the-back and he's down. They move on and Jack sees movement, taking out a second minion. Wayne's assignment is to remove another baddie from their flank while Jack secures the roof and a sniper that's waiting up there. While Jack climbs, Wayne comes around a corner face-to-face -- or rather, face-to-back -- with his target.

What's interesting is Wayne appears to freeze - although as the bad guy turns around, Palmer finally fires, killing him. I watched the sequence in confusion, wondering why even a Marine who'd never seen combat might hesitate in this crucial a situation, but then it occured to me...

He didn't want to shoot the guy in the back.

There are lots of people who find shooting someone in the back dishonorable. I would tend to agree, but I'm not sure it's always wise.

Still, I found it interesting that there was a character on a show like 24 who showed that kind of honor.

Those of you who watched, what do you think? Was it honorable? Necessary? Does that kind of fair-play just increase the risk of his getting killed and failing the mission (after all, an 8-yr-old girl's life was at stake, not to mention National Security and discovering who was the traitor in the White House)?

I think it's an important question to ask, especially in light of the Abu Ghraib and Guantanoma scandals (or should I say "scandals" since a lot of the torture allegations were overblown). In fact, the use of torture to extract information from people is a big think in the "24" universe - it's used fairly liberally, with varying success.

At what point do we find he have to sacrifice our honor for the greater good? Wayne could've easily shot the bad guy in the back with no risk to himself, but he stood his ground until the guy turned around and then shot him - at much greater risk of failing. All for the knowledge he was being honorable to the guy. Is it better to be smart than good?

Figuring out who we are as Americans and humans isn't easy, but it's necessary.

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