“24” returns to Fox this Sunday after a loooong lay-off, and it’s about time. “24” is the kind of dynamic and necessary post-modern good vs. evil story that we need, because most of us have little tolerance for easy feel-good answers. Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer is neither perfectly good nor dastardly evil, making him a strong and current anti-hero. He has struggled in marriage, family, and love through each of the series’ first four seasons. He has offended, blamed, fired, or killed just about everyone he’s worked with. He has made ethical choices that none of us could ever get away with, and he constantly obstructs authority while blowing holes in the ethical boxes of his colleagues. He religiously believes he is fighting in a world others can’t see, according to ground rules they don’t recognize. He fights for a victory that, while great, does not pretend to solve every problem in the human condition, at least not immediately.
I appreciate this character’s perspective because I—like many people I know—struggle not with obvious black-and-white character virtues and ethics choices, but rather with that gray world of slight lies, half-truths, and razor-thin indiscretions, which we would never try to get away with if we weren’t, well, trying to get away with them.
It is also through Bauer’s lens that we can perhaps see into the more human side of what it is like to be a hero when others don’t even know they need one, which is similar—if you buy the story—to the story of Jesus Christ himself. Imagine the patience He must have had as He tried to make people aware of a spiritual world they couldn’t see, realities they wouldn’t fathom, ground rules that didn’t seem to apply, an enemy they failed to acknowledge and a battle they denied was existing in the heavenlies. And He didn’t fix everything wrong with the world, either. At least not then.
“24” will hit full stride by Easter season, and while it’s obviously not quite “The Passion of the Christ,” it does offer a fair window into the life of a hero who doesn’t ask for credit, doesn’t get headlines, offends those in authority, and offers a sacrifice that goes largely unnoticed by most of those who benefit from it. Perhaps we all can benefit from a retrospective look beyond the blue-eyed, blond-haired Sunday School shepherd we may have heard of as kids, and re-discover a hero from another time and culture who changed the world by acting according to instructions, reality, and a code that few around him could understand.
And, of course, we may gain an insight or two that helps us in that razor-thin world of discretion and temptation that lies at the root of every character decision and ethics choice we have in front of us every day, as we seek to be something of a human hero to those we love in our own world.