No torture in this weeks new episode of 24. However, we are seeing for the first time in a long time the impact that torture has on the characters in the program.
Last weeks episode had Special Agent Walker pretend to hard a baby as leverage for getting information from a suspect working with Dubaku. The screams of the baby and mother were enough to get the suspect to give up the location where Dubaku's gang was holding the the First Gentleman captive. After the instant, Bauer asks her if she can continue, she says she is not, but she will not give up.
This weeks episode continued to show Walkers decline. She is clearly disturbed by what she did. After helping Bauer take out Dubaku's men, Walker falls back into a state of shock. She alternates from being responsive to distant. At one point Bauer catcher her staring blankly into a mirror. Bauer asks what she is doing, she comments that keeps seeing the face of the woman. The problem is made worse when Walker finds out that the woman has filed a report with the police. She was not identified in the report, but she is spooked by the whole thing.
I think this is a very interesting development in the life of the program. The natural of 24 does not really allow for character to deal directly with the consequences of their actions. Either character, like Bauer, seem to have a super-human ability to push beyond trauma of committing an act of torture.* Other times the consequences are pushed outside of the season's timeframe, placing them off camera. In neither case the emanational and psychological trauma is nonexistent.
I argue that this is a conscience strategy used by the programs producers. If the viewer sees the level emanational trauma that both the torturer and the victim of torture go though then the program's implicit pro-torture argument is undermined. This is just as important drawing a sharp contract between Bauer's motivation when he tortures and terrorists. Bauer tortures because it is the only way to protect America while terrorists torture for personal gain or vengeance.
To see this line blurred could mean two things. The best case scenario is that the programs producers no long believe they can make such a strong ideological argument for the use of torture. More likely however, this is evidence of shows messed up gender dynamic. Walker is freaking about what she did, not because she tortured a woman and her baby but because she is an emotional woman. After watching 24 for all these years, I am leaning to it being more gender dynamic then shifting ideology, though both are clearly in play.
The preview for next weeks episode features a clip of Walker repeatedly slapping Bauer's face while asking him if he can feel anything. So this will be a plot line I will keep on tracking.
*Bauer does drop the ball early in season 6. He right after being released from the Chinese he is unable to torture a mole in Al-Assad's gang. After the nuclear bomb goes off, however, Bauer is renewed.
Resent Seasons Total Torture: