Idol Chatter

The hit Fox counterterrorism drama “24” depicts a universe where people rely on one of two things when faced with difficult decisions. Either they turn to the protocols, laws, and directives of the hierarchies in which they work, or they serve as their own moral compass. The show’s hero, Jack Bauer, uses the latter technique more often than not–acting on his own authority and flouting any rules that interfere with his pursuit of justice, even if those rules are also known as “international law.”

On this week’s episode, though, there was an unusual departure from these two sources of wisdom when tough-as-nails CTU operative Mike Doyle, played by Ricky Schroeder, confesses to being nothing less than a spiritual seeker. Doyle is turning out to be the only character in the show’s six seasons that closely resembles Jack–no matter the consequences to his interpersonal relationships or career, his one and only concern is stopping terrorist attacks.

But even the toughest of the tough guys sometimes need guidance. The season opened with Jack, who had always kept his own counsel with such focused confidence, experiencing a moment of profound doubt when a nuclear bomb detonated in Los Angeles. And the theme continued this week, when Doyle admitted to his CTU colleague Nadia, a Muslim who was wrongly accused of aiding the terrorists earlier in the day, that he envies the comfort and security that she finds in her faith.

Doyle quotes from the Qur’an, which Nadia notes with surprise. “You’ve read the Qur’an?” she asks. “And the Bible, and the Upanishads,” he responds, “You’re lucky you found your answers. I’m still looking for mine.”

Does Doyle’s confession reveal a kink in the armor of moral certainty that “24” has worked so hard to forge? Perhaps, but maybe it also hints at something that any soldier, police officer, or counterterrorism agent could tell you–that every human being has to come to terms with good and evil in their own way, even when that means relying on a source that’s bigger than any protocol.

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