After season five 24 became nothing more than a show with great action and uninspired and redundant stories. The show and Jack Bauer were running on fumes. After season 8 ended, the cast and crew of the show talked for years about a possible movie. But what was finally decided was a 12 episode limited series that would still cover 24 hours but set in London. Maybe it was the long break, maybe it was the shorter episode order, maybe it was the change in location or maybe it was all of those things but 24: Live Another Day was an enjoyable season of 24 that made me want more seasons of 24 in the future.
Last we saw off Jack, he was accused of being a traitor and was practically hated by everyone. This season picks up four years later in London and we find out that those years have been extremely brutal for both Jack and Chloe. Chloe lost her family and joined some self-righteous hacker group called Open Cell, and when we first see her, she’s being tortured by the CIA. Meanwhile, Jack has done everything in power to turn off his humanity. He even told Belcheck, “I don’t have any friends.” That is until his emotional walls completely collapse in the finale.
It’s this kind of attention to it’s lead characters that makes 24 much more than your run of the mill action thriller. The opening episodes laid out how damaged both Jack and Chloe were, with the closing minutes involving the Russians becoming a moment of triumph instead of defeat. Jack’s no longer the machine he was at the start of the season, he managed to save a dear friend and insure that his estranged family is looked after. That closing scene was well earned because the creative team had taken the time, bit by bit over the course of the season to thaw and change these two people.
But this wasn’t just the Jack and Chloe show, actually, this season may have had the best batch of supporting characters the show has ever had. Tate Donovan, Yvonne Strahovski, Benjamin Bratt, Stephen Fry, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Michael Wincott and Michelle Fairley were formidable additions, with Kim Raver, William Devane and Tzi Ma the only supporting cast members returning from the show’s previous seasons. All the newcomers made great contributions this season, especially Tate Donovan and Yvonne Strahovski.
Donovan as the son-in-law/advisor Mark Boudreau. The inner circle schemer has been a 24 staple, but Boudreau took the role to another level; a character who was sympathetic, repellent, and, ultimately, tragic.
Then you have Yvonne Strahovski, who plays Kate Morgan. The CIA agent who for me, was one of Jack’s best partners to date. Strahovski brought great physicality to the role; allowing Kate to be on the same level as Jack and actually mirroring him in many ways. They both were betrayed by people who were close to them and that betrayal resulted in the death of their loved ones and she even went through some good ol’ torture, which Jack usually goes through every season.
Boudreau and Morgan are not the only new characters that are great. Almost all of these new characters had believable motivations and agendas as the day’s plot hurtled forward. However, there are two exceptions to all this praise, it’s Margot’s daughter and son-in-law. They filled the time-honoured roles of characters on 24 who aren’t interesting and make stupid decisions just to keep things moving. But fortunately they were minor characters and were dispatched quickly.
The biggest problem I had this season was the way they set-up and handled Heller’s supposed death. After an incredible hour of TV the stage was set for a long running character to go out in heroic fashion. It was a devastating episode with a gut-punch ending, only to have him appear next episode without a scratch. I don’t have a problem with his last second reprieve, on a show like 24 that is to be expected, it was just a sour note for a show that usually takes pains to play it straight with its audiences, and it almost voided a standout episode in retrospect.
Also disappointing was the show going back to the mole story yet again. It’s a gimmick that stopped being effective long ago, and given how little time was spent on it, it felt like the producers felt the same way.
But those were just small speed bumps in a season full of extraordinary moments. A season which barrelled through suspense and action with reckless abandon. 24 has always had exciting set pieces that were expertly staged from start to finish. One of my favourites, this season, was when Jack broke in and out of the CIA station, as he rescued Chloe and Belchek blew a hole in the street for an exit.
I thought there would have been more skipping ahead involved as the 12 episodes covered a 24 hour period. Instead, we got the real-time format for approximately 11 hours and 45 minutes before an extended epilogue jumped ahead 12 hours. The epilogue paved the way for another bad day in Jack’s future, although there’s been no official renewal yet. I really wouldn’t mind if the show wasn’t in real-time because it doesn’t have to be. At the beginning of the series that may have been a reason for viewers tune in but 24 has always been the Jack Bauer show and his stories just happen to take place within 24 hours.
This definitely won’t be the last we see of Jack Bauer and I do hope that when he does return the creative team and FOX decide to stick with the shorter episode format. It gave 24 one of it’s tightest and action-packed seasons’ in a long time. The writers were able to switch gears going from moments of quiet intensity and blown-out action sequences without missing a beat. And while things were blowing up real good, Live Another Day gave us characters to care about; it’s no wonder this season was extremely satisfying and enjoyable.
Score: 9 out of 10.