“The following takes place between 11:06 AM and 12:00 PM.”
“Events occur in real time.”
Funny how just a few simple phrases can send chills down your spine, when the right gravelly voice says them.
Last night marked the completely expected return of 24, a show that went off the air after nine seasons on an anticlimax, clearly meant to transition into a movie to end Jack Bauer’s tale.
We got a miniseries instead.
In all honestly, 24 deserved to die after nine seasons. No matter how good the first few years were, any good concept can be run into the ground, and that’s exactly what happened with 24. The show, by nature, was forced to air bloated 24 episode seasons, which required so many twist and turns and threats to stay interesting, all of their value was lost.
So, at this point, what does 24 have left to do? How is this in any way a good idea?
Fair questions, but I have to admit 24: Live Another Day has resurrected the show at just the right time.
24 is now far enough away where I no longer am thinking about those last few rather mundane and muddled seasons. The nostalgia factor associates all those beeps and boops and “damnits!” with my early, unbridled love for the show. Now that I haven’t been watching 24 episode seasons year after year, my mind is ready for the return of 24, and I thoroughly enjoyed the two hour premiere last night.
The only thing to really compare it to is the “I can’t believe this is happening” season four of Arrested Development. But the problem with AD’s return was twofold. First, the show ended on top of the world, and achieved godlike cult status in the years after. That made it almost physically impossible for season four to live up to expectations. 24 on the other hand had a few years to go downhill, so when it came back, it had more wiggle room in terms of quality. Anything other than a complete botching would likely be seen as a victory by fans.
Second, try as they might, Arrested had to half-ass their season with a huge ensemble cast that almost never could all be in the same place at the same time. The results were confusing timelines and a somewhat mangled plot hampered by actor availability. 24 has absolutely no issues like that. It require Jack alone, with a side of Chloe, and returning characters like the Hellers are just bonuses. And 24 is such a storied show, its recruited a hugely talented cast of supporting actors who wanted to be a part of the show’s return.
All of this leads to the kick-off for what appears like a rather interesting half-season. I for one am hugely grateful they didn’t make a movie, or do a new full seasons. 24 episodes is too much for any damn show, I don’t care how good it is, and a movie would have felt crammed and would be over already. This miniseries is a happy medium.
The new season takes place entirely in the UK, though it’s mostly populated by Americans including Bauer and Chloe, the Presidential entourage, a CIA branch office and a US military base in the country. Brits have only been bit players so far, though they do seem to be the eventual bad guys with Game of Thrones’ Michelle Fairley revealed as the possible Big Bad already.
The plot pulls global drama from the headlines, infusing a main plotline about drones with bits of undocumented torture and Wikileaks, which Chloe essentially works for when we see her (now with a Dragon Tattoo makeover). 24’s politics have always been interesting. Here, Jack lambasts Chloe for leaking classified intel to the press as it “kills men in the field,” but the entire premise of the season seems to revolve around the problem of drone strikes. Jack saves Chloe from being tortured by Black Ops agents, yet he’s done the exact same thing to a zillion other suspected terrorists “for the greater good.”
Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer simply exudes a presence unlike any other character on TV. When he’s on screen there’s just a weight to him. I’d rather be staring into the face of C’thulhu than staring down a barrel of a gun being held by Jack Bauer. Seeing him stalk through the halls, pistol raised, just like old times was one of the many spine-tingling moments of the evening.
There’s really no way to compare the season to others so far, given how little we’ve seen. The drone plot certainly seems both timely and relevant, and though he’s no David Palmer, President Heller is someone we can root for Jack to save. I think the tight 12 episode format will work in the show’s favor, as even in good seasons, 24 always had a problem with pacing given how massive the seasons were. And it’s already fun to play the eternal 24 guessing game about who will double cross who, and which characters are moles and which are playing it straight.
The return of 24 was probably the most gripping, enjoyable thing I’ve seen on network TV in a long time. There’s a reason the original show ran for so long, the problem was that it simply wore itself out. Now, it’s rested and ready to go again. And you can bet your ass that if this season does as well as I think it might, Live Another Day won’t even been Jack Bauer’s farewell tour, and there will be more to come.