TV Review: 24: Live Another Day

Jack is back! How many times have you heard that phrase in the last few weeks? Even if you're a fan of the show 24 as I am, it got to be a little repetitive to the point of being annoying. Despite the over-aggressive promotional blitz Fox took to get the word out of the new season, I am truly happy that Jack Bauer, in the form of Kiefer Sutherland, is back on the air, fighting terrorists and and kicking all kinds of ass.

24: Live Another Day is a bit of a misnomer as the new season is only twelve episodes long, working out to be about twelve hours. It still follows the show's real-time format. This time, Jack is in London England, not ironically at the same time that the President of the United States is visiting to push the idea of a US-controlled drone base on British land upon the Prime Minister. Given what Jack did during last season, kidnapping ex-President Charles Logan and murdering Russian diplomats, he is a wanted criminal so finding him on-shore is a big success for CIA team station there.

The real-time format isn't the only part of the show that's rolled over into the new season. It seems the head of operations of the CIA team, Steve Harris (played by Benjamin Bratt) is just as inept as some of the people chosen to lead CTU in previous seasons. Numerous times during the first two hours did he refuse to listen to members of his team, leading to disaster for the CIA and complete missteps. Seeing this so early into the season got me a little annoyed as the clear idiocy of some of the characters was one of the most irritating things about the show. It's clearly meant to prove to the audience that Jack is just "that good" but fails to make anything exciting. Hell, if the CIA was really that incompetent, then I could be "that good".

One thing that I really liked was the strong female characters of the new season. Yvonne Strahovski plays Kate Morgan, a disgraced agent who is in the midst of being transferred back to the States after it's learned her husband was found guilty of selling secrets to the Chinese. She spends half of the first episode moping around as she packs up her things and has her clearance taken away from her but eventually steps into a role where her gut instinct outshines those around her. It was nice to see a new woman in the show that has the fortitude to lead a team that isn't Chloe O'Brian. Granted, 24 has never shied away from strong women in past seasons but most of them have still taken a backseat to the men. My only complaint about Kate is the backstory they pegged her with, making her an instant pariah because of what her husband did.

Michelle Fairley also makes a couple of brief appearances in the first two episodes. Best known for her role as Catelyn Stark on Games of Thrones, Fairley's character is mostly played in the shadows, pulling the strings of the nefarious plot against the American President (or so it seems up to this point). It's not at all clear just how she plays into the story but the fact that a woman is leading the evil side is pretty bold. 24 hadn't had a strong female antagonist since Nina Myers of seasons 1 and 2. And just knowing that Fairley is attached to the show gets me even more excited for what's to come.

But Jack Bauer isn't the only returning character this season. Chloe is back and with a pretty severe makeover. It's revealed that she served prison time for helping Jack escape custody last season and since her release, she's been working with an Wiki-Leaks-type organization, hacking into databases, gathering secret intel and dispersing it on the internet. Despite the new look, Mary Lynn Rajskub plays Chloe as she always has; curt, cocksure and intelligent. At this point, no season of 24 would be complete without her.

But also returning are Audrey Raines and James Heller (Kim Raver and William Devane). We last saw this pair back in season six when Jack, who was romantically linked to Audrey, left her after a grueling ordeal with the Chinese government. This season, Heller is the new President and Audrey is married to his Chief of Staff. Neither of them know about Jack's appearance in London in the first two episodes so it should be interesting to see how this plot plays out. (Question: Given that Devane plays a President here as well as in The Dark Knight Rises, does that mean the two exist in the same continuity?)

It was surprising that 24 was cancelled just after season 8. But clearly the show had a strong following and a tight-knit production team and was able to cobble together at least a half-season of story. And even though it's technically misnamed with just twelve episodes, I think that it could work better than a full season. One thing that marred a lot of the early seasons of 24 was senseless filler, subplots used to pad out the episodes (the scene with Kim Bauer facing down a mountain lion immediately springs to mind). By trimming it down to half the episodes, the show is able to really concentrate on the important storyline. And judging by the first two episodes, it looks like the writers have a good handle on it.

So, once again, Jack is back. Which is a good thing since prime time just wasn't the same without him.

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