Monday, 12 May 2014

The Clock Is Ticking...Again: Some Thoughts on the Premiere of "24: Live Another Day"

I have a nostalgic attachment to the series 24. It premiered when I was just entering Junior High and ended- after 8 seasons- when I was in University. 4 years later 24 returns with a limited series event called Live Another Day. I’m 25 years old now so 24 has been around for about half my life. 24 hit airwaves in November of 2001, only months after the terrorist attacks in New York City on September 11. And in that first ground-breaking season- and even more so in later seasons- 24 became the show that defined the post 9/11 years- a series that tapped in to the fear and uncertainty which arose from that day almost 13 years ago.

And Jack Bauer-played by Kiefer Sutherland- became the hero for the post 9/11 world, a guy we all wanted on our sides and knew we could trust. We may not have agreed with Jack’s methods- the show received heavy criticism for being arguably pro-torture- but I think secretly, whatever our moral views, we sided with Jack. Moreover, I don’t think Jack was ever a representation of any one political ideology. In fact, Jack didn’t appear to have much use for politics or bureaucracy. His “by any means necessary” approach always had to do with his psychology- he was a man who was constantly put in situations where there were no easy options.

The problem with the end of Season 8 was it felt more like a season finale than a series finale. I think this was due to Season 8 not being designed as the final Jack Bauer adventure. Rather, it was the final season due to being cancelled.  The creative team also didn’t want to completely end the series. Instead they wanted to leave things open for a possible resurrection. For several years there had been talk of a feature film. But it appears that plans for a film fell through, with compensation to fans being the return of 24 to TV.    

The best thing about 24: Live Another Day is it feels like 24, with all the good and bad that implies. Another important thing about Live Another Day is it’s definitely not for new viewers. If you haven’t watched most of the previous seasons you’re not going to be lost. And even as a long-time fan of the show I’ve also forgotten certain events of Season 8. And to be fair, with such a dense mythology I think it’d be hard to have an accessible entry point for new viewers.  

It’s been 4 years since the events of Day 8 and former CTU agent Jack Bauer has been labelled a terrorist. He shows up in London and is apprehended by CIA agents based in the city. But it appears that Jack has allowed himself to get caught so he can rescue former colleague Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), now a free information “hackivist” and looking like Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

The only one who suspects Jack allowed the CIA to catch him is field agent Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski). Her husband was another CIA agent who sold secrets to China and then committed suicide when he was found out. Kate’s boss Steve Navarro (Benjamin Bratt) believes that because she didn’t know her husband was a traitor she’s overcompensating by thinking Jack has an ulterior motive.  Her colleague Erik Ritter (Gbenga Akinnagbe) is set to take over Kate’s position at the end of the week and believes Kate knew about her husband’s treachery. Erik is a one note character so far- a “jerk” character that 24 likes to have on board. Ideally Erik will gain a little more depth as the series progresses.  

We eventually learn that the reason Jack is breaking Chloe out of the CIA has to do with Jack needing information on a former fellow hacker of Chloe’s, Derek Yates, who is part of a plot to kill American President James Heller (William Devane), whose daughter Audrey (Kim Raver) once had a romantic relationship. Heller is in London to negotiate the lease of a military base in London which deploys drones. He’s set to meet with the British Prime Minister Alastair Davies (Stephen Fry).

One criticism I have so far in regards to the first 2 episodes is that Jack takes a backseat to several of the other characters. Jack actually doesn’t speak for most of the first episode. It’s a risky move but they mostly pull it off.  The 24 universe is also so fully realized that even without a heavy Jack presence I enjoyed being back in this world.

However, I still hope Jack becomes more of a central figure in the story rather than just a supporting player. One thing’s for certain, Sutherland slips back in to the Bauer role effortlessly. Sutherland was a well known actor before 24 but the role of Jack Bauer was a career redefining role for him- and Jack has become Sutherland’s signature role. Sutherland carries the weight of all Jack’s adventures and the tragedies he’s witnessed with conviction. It’s been thrilling to see the transformation of this character over the years. The Jack/Chloe relationship is still the most surprising one that evolved out of this show. The Q to Jack’s James Bond, Chloe had as fascinating a character transformation as any in the show’s history. I do like that Jack and Chloe are now at odds, regarding Chloe’s hacker activities- but since they’re both criminals Jack still has to rely on her. I’m really intrigued to see where Jack and Chloe end up at the end of the series.    

The first two episodes introduce several intriguing plot lines, including the framing of drone pilot Chris Tanner (Attack The Block’s John Boyega), whose drone is taken over by Yates and kills servicemen in Afghanistan. Heller is showing signs of dementia, which adds tension to his visit in London. I’m also interested to see what comes of the marriage between Audrey and Heller’s Chief of Staff Mark Boudreau (Tate Donovan) - Boudreau doesn’t want Audrey to know that Jack’s in London but I think Audrey is definitely going to discover that Jack's back. There’s also the appearance of Michelle Fairley from Game of Thrones as a mysterious villain- and I’m excited for her and Jack to meet face to face.

24 has returned and it continues to be the oddest form of comfort food TV that the medium has ever seen. The show hasn’t changed that much- even with a four year hiatus- but I’m okay with that. There’s a certain comfort we take from familiarity in regards to TV shows, and 24: Live Another Day seems poised to give us that sense of comfort.

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