MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!
From the moment the description of 28 Hours was released online, there was immediate fan interest and wild speculation. The description was unlike any other album in recent memory and extremely dramatic and grandiose. As is usual when new sagas and mysteries are introduced, fans instantly started clamoring for the Chairman’s return. Others took interest in the line that appeared to lend credence to the “Jillian-is-evil” jokes and theories.
And, as Connie asks with frustration, “Is anyone in this town really who they say they are?”28 Hours Description
Although fans have only heard a third of 28 Hours, the album is already proof that the writers are still capable of planning out story arcs in advance and keeping secrets from the audience. The show and writers have garnered recent criticism for lack of planning, vision, and storytelling coherence in their most recent saga, the Rydell Saga. From the story’s first episode to its main conclusion, it was quite obvious that the writers struggled to wrap up the four-year-old story. It left fans to question if it were still possible for the writers to plan longer, narratively cohesive stories ahead nowadays with the oddity of the album and club episode releases. The second criticism fans ledged against the show and its creators is that nothing is a surprise anymore. For example, Tasha’s reappearance in the Rydell Saga was written to be a grand reveal, but many fans were already aware she would appear because of a cast photo with Tasha’s actress that Phil Lollar posted prior to the episode’s release. In addition to that, during official Q&As, the producing crew was always careful to not specifically answer questions asking for spoilers. That is to be desired for the sake of the listening experience, but sometimes the way the crew would dance around the questions was almost as telling as answering the questions directly.
Within two episodes, 28 Hours has paid off what Kathy Buchanan had set up with four years of the character of Jillian Marshall, started a new and intriguing story, and shocked fans with the biggest reveal in years with the Chairman’s return. The best part? Fans have known next to nothing besides the official description and their own speculation. This album was something that was desperately needed to reinvigorate fans’ enthusiasm and interest in the show’s ability to do long-form stories and arcs.
The first episode of the album opens with a conversation between Connie and Jason where Connie not-so-subtly hints to Jason that he and Jillian would make a good couple. The scene functions in the show in two different but equally important ways. For one, it sets up within the episode Jillian’s supposed flightiness and irresponsibility that comes directly into play when someone breaks into Triple J Antiques. The conversation brings all of the cartoonish traits fans despised to the forefront and addresses Jason’s opinion of her which is essential within the context of this album. Secondly, in directly addressing all of Jillian’s eccentric traits, it touches on the widespread fan criticism of Jillian and affirms the writers are very intentional with the choices they are making. It was an immediate signal to what the quality of writing would be ahead for the next two episodes.
While fans joked about it, I find it to be pretty unclear how many of those fans actually believed there was anything truly dubious about Jillian. I’ve already touched on how Jillian dropping her fake persona flips prior criticisms on their heads but even on the most basic story level, the concept (and execution!) of her character is so interesting. I’ve always wondered how Jason could try to settle down so easily without the government keeping a close and study eye on him. Well, as it turns out, the NSA wasn’t about to let Jason live without protection or a close eye on him when they stationed undercover Jillian to be near him. Her angle was clearly “act so ridiculous that Jason couldn’t suspect anything” when she introduced her frequent misuse of the word “literally” into her vocabulary amongst other quirks. And her deception worked marvelously. Now that her cover is no longer a secret, there is now an interesting conflict between Jillian and Jason where he struggles with whether or not she is deserving of his trust. The conflict was introduced in part two when Jason learns of her identity and I believe the conflict will come to a head when Jason makes a significant decision about his loyalties to Jillian and the repercussions will follow. I have written this section assuming Jillian is, in fact, being truthful about being an agent of the NSA instead of an agent of the Chairman. I still believe that there’s more to Jillian’s motivations that has yet to be revealed but that she is still vaguely truthful about her mission.
The extroverted kidnapper of Jason isn’t entirely unrealistic but a little bit over-the-top. The hiring of those goons calls into question what the Chairman’s true intentions are. His henchmen hires are extremely questionable for safeguarding someone as valuable as Jason. Why did the Chairman kidnap Jason and seem so nonchalant about losing him? What purpose did it serve him? He did it in such an unsubtle manner as well. What did he want with Jason’s contact at the Pentagon? Once again, these aren’t complaints but instead questions to which I am curious to hear the answers.
With four more episodes still to go, it’s still unclear where the story is headed. But if the first two episodes and their clever setup are of any indication of what’s to come, this album will long be remembered and beloved for years to come. Part three of 28 Hours releases tomorrow on the club. Don’t miss the continuation of this epic album.