All the talk about technology and its importance in communication in The Wire carried over with me when I watched season 5 episodes 3 & 4. In these two episodes, technology-enabled communication was paramount in connecting all the characters – when Jack is taking pictures of the terrorists through his cell phone to CTU, how the President’s right hand man stays on the cell phone so he can immediately tell him when the rescue has been successfully carried out, how Jack is able to set off a bomb via a cell phone signal, how CTU tries to negotiate with the terrorists, and how the terrorists use the mass media to send a message to the President. Without a doubt, technology is what drives the narration in a show like 24. That is why most of the shots in these episodes are not of someone just gathering information, but it is always the relaying of information over technology that is shown – for example, the dual split screens with people on both ends of the line, and how we always see shots either from the camera screen or the TV screen during the terrorist shooting scenes. Technology is what connects all the characters to a single piece of information, and we see how they react to it.
However, communication cannot always be received so easily. Technology is also used to impair communication. The terrorists force Jack to call the CTU team and give them false information in order to set them in a trap. Technology cannot always extract the truth – just relay information. Similar to the codes used by the drug lords in The Wire, Jack uses the code “flank 2” in his message to convey a distress signal. Once again, some can only understand Jack’s message at face value if they do not recognize the code- thus, the terrorists suspect nothing. To others, the message has hidden information that needs further extraction and understanding. Communication is extremely complex, especially in 24 because of the twists and turns of the plot. It uses “rapidly unexpected and changing narrative states [to evoke] an informatics pleasure” (Galloway, “24/7, 16.8”). You never know when information is true or if there’s a double meaning, but this also lends to narrative, and is also what keeps the audience engaged with every piece of new information. A show like 24 is as much about the action scenes as it is about gathering information, monitoring communication, and deciphering its meaning.