Character: Renee Walker
Pairings Included in Manifesto: Renee Walker/Jack Bauer
Renee Walker. Before I get down to the specifics of Renee’s awesomeness, I need to dispense with one thing that I (unfortunately) can’t leave out of the discussion. By coming up with Season 7 Renee, the writers apparently created a character so awesome they ultimately couldn’t quite figure out what to do with her. Consequently, in a fit of unrivaled repetitive idiocy, they decided that having Jack’s significant other raped and killed within the space of 24 hours wasn’t excellent enough the first time around, and they should probably try it again. It sucked. Hard.
This doesn’t change the fact that Renee Walker is one of the only characters on 24 who routinely manages to keep up with Jack (she even outJacks Jack Bauer more than once). She’s the ultimate BAMF with marshmallow insides, and the numerous reasons for her awesomeness deserve a closer look.
Renee first appears on 24 in episode 7x01 as a determined but by-the-book FBI agent who will disregard her boss’s orders but still feels guilty about doing it. Renee Walker is smart, sarcastic, intolerant of stupidity, proficient with guns, and skilled at hand-to-hand combat. She’s courageous but not foolish. As one of the men working under her says, “She knows what it takes to get the job done.” Still, she’s not in-your-face with her badassery. She has nothing to prove (unless she thinks she’s made a mistake) -- she just wants results. Renee doesn’t tiptoe around the issue -- any issue. She says what she thinks, whether she’s addressing her boss or someone she believes is about to execute her. She wears sensible shoes that enable her to outrun Jack Bauer when she’s on a roll;)
dealan311 labeled one S7 theme “The Battle for Renee’s Soul,” and the title works. Pulling her from one side is Larry Moss, her boss and friend (and probably ex-lover -- it’s left ambiguous in typical 24 style), who respects the hell out of her abilities but wants her to play within the established rules of the law. Pulling her from the other side is Jack, who also respects the hell out of her but who long ago gave up trying to operate by within the law’s established ‘rules.’ Jack effectively ‘wins’ (if you can call it that) this battle. The last time we see Renee in S7, she’s laying down her badge, wearing an expression of bitter determination that rapidly wipes the smirk off Alan Wilson’s (the season’s uber-villain) face. When she reappears in S8, we discover that she almost killed him during his interrogation.
A lot of fans (including me) had trouble with the huge shift between S7 and S8 Renee. I’ve dealt with that in fic, so I won’t go into it here. Regardless of the shaky back-story leading up to it, S8 Renee has her share of badassery, even if a lot of it is more complicated and problematic than it was in S7. She spends most of the season confronting the demons of her past, beginning with her decision to go back undercover with the Russian mob, which is led by a man who has a history of violently abusive obsession with her. The moment she cuts off a guy’s thumb to get information and keep her cover intact jumpstarts an otherwise slow S8 premiere, and her rape in order to preserve her cover remains one of the most disturbing moments in the series. Damaged but not broken, Renee (often with Jack’s help) finds her moments of revenge and redemption, whether she’s stabbing Vladimir until he is very very dead or saving Jack’s life and taking point with him on the assault team tasked with recovering President Hassan before he is executed.
The fandom has a multiplicity of opinions on Renee’s death and the ensuing fallout, but given that this is a Renee Walker character manifesto, I feel compelled to mention one thing that is 100% canon. Renee died outJacking Jack. She went out wearing a bedsheet, after answering Chloe’s call when Jack told her to let it ring. As much as I loathe it, there’s a sense in which Renee’s death encapsulates her character. She was still trying to do what she thought was right when Jack had fully turned his back on the job and was just rehydrating in preparation for Knocking Boots, Round Two.
One of the most refreshing things about Renee’s relationship with Jack is that it’s never one of those ridiculous “will they or won’t they?” propositions. The two of them spend the better part of two seasons building trust and friendship under horrifying circumstances. When you’re busy saving the world (again), there’s no time for silly games, mixed messages, or miscommunication.
Jack and Renee’s entire relationship can be broken down to what dealan311 has dubbed “the altruism Olympics.” Their ship works for so many reasons (they’re scorchingly hot, they have no personal space rules with each other, they don’t bullshit about anything, and they both understand the necessity for suppressing pain because you have a job to do), but primarily it works because they are both epic in their selflessness, in their insistence on thinking of the other person first.
When Renee meets Jack in 7x01, he’s effectively shut down as a human being. She spends the season inexorably prying him open again, and for some reason he lets her do it. She gets away with things that no one else could -- pulling a gun in his face, hitting him, challenging him to defend his actions at every turn. For some reason, what she thinks matters to Jack, and consequently he asks for rather than demands her cooperation. By the time the season ends, she’s one of the only remaining people he trusts, and when he’s unable to do it himself, he tasks her with making sure his daughter is safe. She comes through here too, and in a particularly satisfying inversion of TV tropes, Renee’s the one riding (literally -- first in a helicopter and then on a Black SUV) to Jack’s rescue.
If S7 is about Renee ‘saving’ Jack (literally and figuratively), then S8 is about Jack saving Renee. Howard Gordon (I hate the man; don’t get me started!) even says that of all the characters in the 24verse, Renee is the one who “knows Jack’s soul.” When they see each other for the first time in the shiny class CTU NY, it’s clear (despite Renee’s desperate attempt to be cold to him once he calls her out on her attempted suicide and the probability that going back undercover with the Russians might not be the best plan) that something in their relationship has shifted. Almost everything Jack does in Season 8 (even the controversial killing spree at the end, which I’m not getting into here) is motivated by Renee – first by his desire to protect her and then by his desire to avenge the injustice of her death. There could be any number of reasons for his determination to ‘save’ her, but it’s almost certain that he sees aspects of himself in her -- that he wants to do everything he can to keep her from repeating all of his mistakes and from suffering the pain he knows those kind of mistakes cause.
****Everything I’ve said so far encapsulates the cerebral, canonical, “Just the facts, ma’am” reasons to love Renee Walker. If you want to read the paragraph where I geek out about why *I* love her so hard, why she’s my favorite female television character of all time, see the asterisks after the fic recs.
Top Ten Reasons To Love Renee Walker:
1. She can run faster than Jack Bauer.
2. She’s personally responsible for every hilarious hallway/office/around the corner-ducking move Larry Moss ever makes.
3. She always washes her hair after swimming in the Potomac.
4. If you’ve tried to kill Scully, Renee will kill you.
5. She can go from emo to badass faster than you managed to read this sentence.
6. She’s not even a little bit scared of Jack’s growly voice or his attempts to intimidate her by getting all up in her grill.
7. She can swim the freestyle while wearing a leather jacket.
8. When she says, “I’m not gonna cut the bracelet,” what she means is, “I’m going to cut off your thumb.”
9. She makes sure to get a pedicure before heading out for risky undercover ops, on the off chance she might bump into Jack and decide to hit the sheets with him.
10. She can executive a perfect dive-roll off a moving SVU without dropping her gun, and still pop up shooting.
Not convinced? Have a video!
Well, and no post about Renee and/or Jack/Renee is complete without the ultimate complete .gif of hot, so:
A quick preface to the fic recs: Finding good Renee Walker-centric fic is hard. For such an excellent character, there is surprisingly little fic, and much of the fic there is has Renee there primarily as Jack’s sidekick/love interest/whatever, which is why some of my choices are short but amazing.
Fic Rec #1: [future imperfect]
Pairing: Renee Walker/Jack Bauer
Rating/Warning(s): R/adult content
Why This Must Be Read: Because sardonicynic writes poetry and calls it fan fiction. Her Renee characterization in this ficlet is perfect given what we learned about Renee’s backstory in S8. She’s the walking wounded, but she’s still walking. Gorgeous, spare prose that sneaks in the Jack/Renee mind meld I love so much.
Fic Rec #2 [Great Expectations]
Why This Must Be Read: This is a short but perfect glimpse of what might have been going on inside Renee’s mind just before and after she yanked Jack from the Senate hearings in 7x01. The story may seem as if it’s about Jack (and in a way it is), but mostly it’s a look at S7 Renee and the reasons for her unrelenting awesomeness. dealan311 puts all the pieces in place so that the relationship that develops between Renee and Jack makes undeniable sense.
Fic Rec #3: [Art of the Fall]
Pairing: Renee Walker/Jack Bauer
Rating/Warning(s): T for language, sexual situations
Why This Must Be Read: If you want an epic fic that offers a happy place where S8 never existed, this is the one. In a mind-smashing feat of literary gymnastics, dealan311 manages to write a 10,000 word epic in 100 word segments without it ever feeling choppy. Renee (and Jack) are pitch-perfect in all their shattered loveliness. My favorite thing about this fic is the way it makes their relationship inevitable. As the author says, they’re a beautiful disaster.
Fic Rec #4: [Leaves Falling Like Embers]
Pairing: Renee Walker/Jack Bauer
Rating/Warning(s): NC-17 for sex
Why This Must Be Read: Because there’s nothing better than Jack/Renee sexytimes written in words so beautiful you want to snuggle up with them. This is S8 AU fic where Jack and Renee run away together and . . . have sex. But beyond the smoking hotness, this fic also offers Renee one of the ways I love her best – broken and hurting, but still fighting like the soldier she is.
Fic Rec #5: [Coming out]
Rating/Warning(s): PG, rape triggers
Why This Must Be Read: This fic does a fabulous job of explaining what the writers never did – the wild change between S7 and S8 Renee. cybertoothtiger’s Renee is so dark and damaged that reading this again made me flinch, but the characterization is flawless. This is the Renee we saw in 8x04; she has nothing to lose, and this fic explains why. Extra bonus to this fic – backstory on Renee’s relationship with Larry Moss. I certainly never shipped the two of them, but he’s a character I love so much it hurts, and his death was one of the central reasons for Renee’s self-destruction.
Fic Rec #6: [Awake My Soul]
Pairing: Renee Walker/Jack Bauer
Rating/Warning(s): Probably hard R for sexual situations
Why This Must Be Read: Where do I even start? This is a collection of ficlets, all of them AU (What else do I read now?). If I listed everything I love about them, we’d be here all day, so I’ll try to pick a few highlights. First, these stories capture the ache of Day 8 – the way in which all that gut-wrenching horror only made the connection between Renee and Jack more tangible, more alive. Second, the ficlets are full of fun sexy banter, and if Jack and Renee letting down their collective walls enough to enjoy each other physically and emotionally for a short time doesn’t put a smile on my face, I don’t know what will;) Finally, the Renee characterization is fantastic. She’s broken but not beaten; reading her like that hurts so good.
Fic Rec #7: [Twenty]
Pairing: Renee Walker/Jack Bauer
Rating/Warning(s): R, possible rape triggers
Why This Must Be Read: Although this is one of the longer fics on my rec list, it’s a snapshot of Renee trying to handle (with Jack’s help, of course) the fallout of her rape. Reading this hurts, because this isn’t S7 Renee at her toughest; it’s S8 Renee hovering barely above her most broken. However, the beauty of this fic is the way Renee’s strength sneaks out in flashes. She’s brittle and angry and broken and confused, but she doesn’t want to be any of those things, and irony_rocks does a lovely job of showing that conflict without throwing it in the reader’s face. Plus let’s be real -- the adorable (and kind of indefinable) kiss sealed my love for this story. If you’re looking for more in this universe, check out Eastern Hospitality. Wonderfully plotty (and all Renee POV), but I didn’t include it in the official list because I’m not reccing WIPs.
Fic Rec #8: [Trial by Fire]
Pairing: None really, although the story is Jack/Renee-centric
Rating/Warning(s): R, language
Why This Must Be Read: Again, this fic is more of a ficlet, but I chose it because it shows one of my favorite parts of Renee’s character – the fact that she’s a total BAMF and a complete marshmallow at the same time. dealan311 has Renee in all her perfect imperfection, struggling with grief over the loss of her friend/boss/possibly former lover, trying to hold herself together because everyone’s looking to her for orders now, and lashing out at Jack despite his good intentions because she’s human, and that’s what humans do.
Fic Rec #9: [three ficlets]
Pairing: Renee Walker/Jack Bauer
Rating/Warning(s): R, adult content
Why This Must Be Read: I love these three AU ficlets for many reasons, but I’m reccing them here because although they are wildly different in content, all three share one of my favorite Jack/Renee kink smashers, which is the way that the two of them are the same. He gets to her, she gets to him, neither of them knows why, and they can’t change it. Of course there is also the stunning spare beauty of sardonicynic’s writing. What else do you need?
Fic Rec #10: [Our Last Memory]
Rating/Warning(s): R, none
Why This Must Be Read: In case you haven’t noticed yet, my fic taste doesn’t usually run toward hardcore angst, at least not taken straight, no chaser. This fic doesn’t have a drop of chaser, but it captures (and heartbreakingly) a pivotal moment for S7 Renee. Just when she receives full confirmation that her first instincts to trust Jack were 100% correct, she also finds out that he’s dying. She has to watch this happen while coping with the knowledge that even if she makes it through the current catastrophe, no one who understands what she’s been through will be left to hold her hand.
Final Note of Credit:
I made the caps, but credit for the gorgeously creative design of the before-the-cut banner, all three photo collages, and the .gif of hotness all goes to dealan311. Kay, you rock (for the pretty and the fantastic help with organization), and the only reason your credit is down here and not at the top is because you said it looks better that way:-P
adrenalin211, thank you for not killing me while I worked on this:) Nobody but you knows how hard that was.
The Paragraph In Which I Geek Out About Why *I* Love Renee So Hard:
****I love the way she saunters into the courtroom in 7x01, catches Jack’s eye in half a second, and tells Senator Mayer to shove it with a smile on her face, without ever raising her voice. I love the way she rolls her eyes when she thinks you’re stupid. I love her fierce, fearless indignation when she thinks Jack has betrayed her, the way she stands there, unashamed of her tears, and tells him, “You’re gonna have to look at me when you pull that trigger.” I love the fact that her word means so much to her that she’ll draw her weapon on a fellow agent before she’ll consider breaking it. I love how she fights Jack when he chooses not to try experimental treatment, slamming her hand into doors and getting in his face over and over again. I love the way she smacks back at him, hard, when he falsely accuses her of using his daughter as leverage. I love the way she always does the right thing, regardless of the personal cost to her. I love how you can watch her heart break all in her eyes, how she’s tougher than hell but not afraid to cry. I love her face when she finds out that Larry’s dead and she’s suddenly in charge – the wash of devastating sadness, transient moment of terror, settling into ass-kicking determination that she’s going to punish those responsible. I love that Jack leaves her seven phone messages between seasons and she never picks up because she cares so much that doesn’t want to drag him down to where she is. I love how it cracks her in half to discover that Jack doesn’t quite trust her to do her job at the beginning of Season 8. I love the fact that when she’s been raped and beaten, she can still look puzzled when Jack gets her on the phone and asks, “How are you?” because this question doesn’t even occur to her – all she cares about is him and what he’s been though. I love that when she discovers nobody knows where Jack is, she pep-talks Chloe into action, takes off after Jack herself, finds him (highly improbably), kicks ass, and still uses her soft voice when he comes to so that he won’t freak out. I love that she tells Jack, “We’re not going through this again. I’m coming with you. End of discussion,” when he tries to leave her behind (for her protection) on an op. I love that after they’ve both been through hell and Jack’s making her coffee, she’s still trying to let him off the hook because she doesn’t want him to feel responsible for her. I love that the one full-blown smile we ever see from Renee breaks over her face when she’s in bed with Jack, his hand on her shoulder, and he says, “You okay?”
She smiles and says, “Perfect.”