24: Tactical Espionage Action

As early as the first season, I noticed that there were some similarities between 24 and one of my favourite game series of all time, Metal Gear Solid. At first these were merely superficial, as Jack Bauer had to sneak into an enemy base to rescue his wife and daughter, which is pretty much exactly what happens in each MGS game. Well, minus the ‘wife and daughter’ part.

24-01Now back then, MGS2 had just come out, and since then we’ve had five more full seasons of 24 and two more Metal Gear Solid games, and as both series have progressed the similarities have as well. Let’s start by taking a look at our protagonists, Jack Bauer and Solid Snake. When Day 1 took place (which in 24 continuity was well over a decade before this year’s Day 7), Jack was already getting pretty old for his line of work. He’d settled down and raised a daughter who was now a teenager, and while he still took the occasional covert ops mission, he actually had a desk job as director of CTU. Since the series began, he has, either of his own accord or due to a mandate from higher-ups stopped doing field work only to be pulled back in again and again through necessity.

mgs-01Solid Snake had been an active member of the special forces unit FOXHOUND in the past (during the Metal Gear series), but at the time of the first Metal Gear Solid game he had retired and moved to Alaska. He’s called back into service to deal with the FOXHOUND rebellion, due to his familiarity with the unit. Just like Jack, Snake keeps getting forced back into the field for years after he first attempted to settle down to a more peaceful life (MGS4 takes place nine years after the first MGS).

While both characters have attempted to move on, to start new lives, they always end up back in the same situation: risking their lives on an extremely tight schedule to save the world. Not only that, but they both continue to deal with heartache and loss that keeps beating them over the head with one simple fact: this is what they’re meant to do, this is the only thing they can do well, and it will kill them in the end.

24-02The similarities don’t end with the main characters though. Let’s look at the characters who are the closest thing to best friends they have. With Jack that would be Tony Almeida, who starts the series as more of a thorn in Jack’s side, someone who prefers protocol and doesn’t like how Jack does things.  Over the years they’ve grown to respect each other, and eventually trust and depend on each other. Tony often worked at CTU providing intelligence and support for Jack, though he has gone into the field on occasion. On the MGS side there’s Otacon, an engineer who was working on the Metal Gear REX project without knowing it was a weapons system. After helping Snake deal with the Shadow Moses incident he continued to work with him, providing support and intelligence when Snake was in the field. He’s pretty much avoided field work, however.

mgs-02Both have been forced to deal with pretty much continuous loss, though in different forms. Tony’s has been personal, professional and even political while Otacon has had every person he’s ever cared for die, often right in front of him while he’s powerless to stop it. They also deal with their loss in different ways: Tony has progressively darker, while Otacon cries a lot but manages to keep a fairly optimistic outlook. Which probably speaks to the benefits of expressing your emotions.

Through both main and secondary characters, both series deal with the ramifications of spending your lifetime in the espionage/counterterrorism field, as well as aging and growing old, and how that effects soldiers. 24 tends to focus more on the first part, while MGS, especially three and four, are more about aging. All of this of course is more subtle and in the background, behind the layers of politics, double agents, personal agendas, and flat-out action.



But it’s not just characters and themes that these two series share in common, they also share a weird… I don’t know if it’s the right word, but almost a goofiness. Both series exist within a heightened reality and feature events that are just completely crazy if you stop to think about them, yet completely work in their respective universes. In 24 I think the best place to look for this is the Kim Bauer subplot from season two, which involved: A very angry rich guy, Kim’s kung-fu powered record producer boyfriend, the worst escape plan ever, a cougar, a creepy yet hilarious hermit, and the best/worst parenting advice ever. In MGS4 we get an arms dealer who looks like Chris Tucker who keeps showing up regardless of the continent you’re on, along with his pet monkey in a diaper. And they both constantly drink cola. You may at one point team up with him to fight zombies.

This all isn’t to say that there aren’t many differences between 24 and Metal Gear Solid. For one, 24 has always been far more political, while MGS has a tendency to become quite philosophical. MGS also tends to have incredibly outlandish villains while 24 has kept them far more grounded, even if they have included The Mummy and Robocop.

I highly doubt that these are more than coincidence, despite the number of similarities I’ve listed here. I think most stem from the genre, though it is cool that both series chose to delve into some of the same themes. I guess this brings us to a very important question: Who is more awesome, Bauer or Snake?




~ by Jerk on January 22, 2009.

6 Responses to “24: Tactical Espionage Action”

  1. i will have to say…. snake….

  2. Yeah I agree, it just seemed like a good way to end the article. There really isn’t any way the events of a live-action TV show, no matter how awesome, how large the budget, or how well produced could match what Snake has done.

  3. I’ve noticed also that this 7th season of 24 has gotten into something that made me immediately think of MGS: the conspiracy/corruption theory and how the “good guys” are putting on a grassroots effort to uncover it. Bill Bucannan in particular made me search to see if anyone else had noticed how MGS-like 24 was becoming, to which I found your comparison. He seems like a Roy Campbell or… Major Zero! That’s who he reminds me of! Geez, now that I think about it, they are about the spitting image of each other, huh? LOL, gotta love it.

  4. Oop, Bill *BUCHANAN*. Sorry

  5. Yeah, I noticed that too with Bill this season. I’m always amazed at how pretty much every character, no matter how lame they are when they’re introduced, ends up being completely badass later on in 24.

  6. it’s interesting that now Jack has to take injections to suppress the effects of the nano-machines oops! I mean the biological agent in his body.

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