The star of Fox's groundbreaking drama "24" is Jack Bauer. This much is obvious. Jack is a one-man-terrorist-wrecking-crew and a pantheon-level TV character. However, as much as I love Jack, he is not my favorite character on "24". That would be Agent Richards.
Maybe you consider yourself a fan of "24" and claim not to remember who Richards is. But you're wrong. You know who Richards is.
And, believe me, you want nothing to do with him.
Richards made his first appearance at noon in Season 2, but the amount of times he's been referenced simply by name trounces his actual on screen appearances. Jack Bauer repeatedly threatens to invoke the wrath of Richards, but only rarely must Jack resort to such tactics.
Who is he? Richards is CTU's resident torture specialist and, possibly, the most feared man on the planet. As we all know, Jack Bauer is himself an adept torturer of miscreants and is never shy about putting his abilities to use. Hell, Jack once electrocuted the nipples of his girlfriend's estranged husband with a ripped apart lamp cord.
The guy turned out to be innocent.
Jack has broken fingers, burned flesh and ripped out teeth, doing everything necessary to acquire the information he needed. However, in those times when there is a terrorist at CTU that Jack is unable to break, the phone call is made and Richards is summoned. Armed with a small metal briefcase that contains unspeakable horrors, Richards enters the interrogation room and, silently, unpacks what needs to be unpacked.
For the poor soul on the receiving end, Richards' demeanor adds to the horrific experience, for he shows no emotion, going about his business with an exacting precision, immune to whatever cries of pain are coming from the tortured. Richards doesn't need the information, he could care less. That's why he's so good. While Jack Bauer gets emotionally involved with whatever crisis he has been charged with thwarting, Richards remains unattached and gets the job done.
Some have theorized that Richards is, in fact, a cyborg. I can see where these theorizers are coming from, considering his lack of discernible emotion, but it is a rubbish argument. Richards wears flannel shirts and we all know robots don't wear flannel.
Richards always gets the information CTU needs, then quietly exits the interrogation room, disappearing for lengthy stretches. Herein lies the mystery: Where does Richards go? When summoned, he appears within minutes. Therefore, we must assume he is on-call at CTU. Richards has also appeared at all hours during the day, so we must then assume that he is on-call 24 hours a day.
So, Richards lives at CTU, at least most of the time. But where? Does he have a room upstairs? Why is he wearing that flannel shirt? I thought that maybe Richards lives within close proximity to CTU, but this seems unlikely. CTU is located in downtown Los Angeles, where the only residences are expensive high-rise apartments, places certainly out of the price range of a Professional Torturer (torturist?).
Perhaps he lives on the roof of CTU, tending an opulent garden while wearing his flannel and listening to Vivaldi. Who knows? All we do know is that Richards, given his lack of screen time, remains an interesting, mysterious and frightening television character, one whose name strikes fear into all those who withhold information from Jack Bauer.
Unless he's a robot. Then it's just weird.
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