The most exciting entertainment event of 2014 isn’t happening at your local cinema. No, it’s happening right on your TV screen, as Jack Bauer makes his triumphant return in ’24: Live Another Day’, a brand-new season (albeit condensed to 12 episodes) of Fox’s former hit series. The biggest question going into this week’s two-hour premiere (two back-to-back episodes) was whether, after all this time, ’24’ would still be appealing and relevant. Well, the great news is that you can go home again. The new revival is as fast-paced and action-packed as the series at its prime.
The new ’24’ takes place in London (yes, it was all shot on location), and the opening scenes have the CIA (the former Counter Terrorist Unit of the series now seems defunct) raiding a warehouse where they believe a major terrorist to be hiding out. That terrorist, of course, is none other than Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), who has been in hiding and on the run since the events that ended Season 8. Bauer springs into action like the Jack of old and gets out of the warehouse, but is cornered by agents – led Erik Ritter (Gbenga Akinnagbe) – who take Jack back to the CIA station in London.
As it turns out, the President of the United States, James Heller (William Devane), is in the city trying to negotiate a deal with the Brits for an American drone base there. Heller is an old on-again/off-again friend of Bauer, whom we last saw at the end of Season 6, when he demanded Jack stay away from his then-catatonic daughter, Audrey (Kim Raver). Audrey is back as well, now fully recovered and married to the President’s Chief of Staff, Mark Boudreau (Tate Donavan). Early in the first episode, Boudreau learns that the CIA has Bauer in custody, but he does everything in his power to keep that information from both the President and Audrey, hoping to turn Bauer over to the Russians (Jack is accused of killing some Russian diplomats) before they find out about him. First, however, he arranges for Jack to be taken out of CIA hands and turned over to their “Special Activities” division. As it turns out, that’s code for the torture arm of the American government.
The head of the CIA in London is Steve Navarro (Benjamin Bratt), who tries to question Jack when he comes in, but Bauer just looks at him stone-faced. Agent Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski) is working her last week with the CIA when Jack is brought into custody. Kate is being dismissed from the agency after her husband sold government secrets to the Chinese. Although Kate herself has been absolved of criminal activity, she’s being replaced by Erik Ritter. However, Kate is suspicious about why Bauer allowed himself to be captured so easily. After a little research from CIA tech guy Jordan Reed (Giles Matthey), she discovers that Bauer himself tipped the CIA off to his location. He wanted to get caught… but why?
Kate tries to express her concerns to Navarro, but – in true ’24’ fashion – he doesn’t believe her and sends her packing early. The order comes in saying that Jack is to be turned over to the Special Activities division, but in the process (even though he’s handcuffed), Jack manages to knock out the guards escorting him, including Agent Ritter. We quickly learn that Special Activities has detained and has been torturing Jack’s old friend and CTU colleague Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub). It takes a shot of adrenaline to revive her, but soon Jack and Chloe make their escape. Just when it looks like the coast is clear, Jack is held at gunpoint by Kate. However, Bauer sends a signal to a Russian colleague named Belcheck (Branko Tomovic), who has been waiting for him outside. The Russian blows a hole in the building, knocking out Kate and allowing Jack and Chloe to escape.
Jack and Chloe split up, and he tells her to go somewhere safe. What she doesn’t know is that Jack is tracking her back to her place of work. Chloe has been working for a Wikileaks type of underground organization that steals government secrets and releases them to the press and other public sources. When he gets there, Jack demands to know where a man named Derek Yates is. The leader of the organization, Adrian Cross (Michael Wincott), tells Bauer that Yates used to work for them, but was dismissed when he was caught selling information. Even though she’s upset at Jack for using her, Chloe convinces the group to help him locate Yates.
As it turns out, Yates is holed up with some drug dealers that he’s paying for protection. He has a little set-up in the back room of an apartment with his girlfriend, Simone (Emily Berrington). By the end of the first episode, Yates is responsible for hacking the controls of an American drone in Afghanistan and attacking an American unit with it – killing four men, including two British soldiers.
President Heller gets word of the drone attacks as Episode 2 gets underway. He immediately wants to get the news to the British Prime Minister (in a nice bit of stunt casting, played by the popular British comedian/actor/writer Stephen Fry), but the PM gets the news from his own men before Heller can get to him. The President is worried that this drone attack will ruin negotiations for the drone base in England, and wants to go in front of Parliament to plead his case to the British government. However, the President is showing signs of early-stage dementia, and Boudreau worries that he’ll make factual errors under the stress of questioning. He sets up a mock debate with the President (which Audrey also sits in on) and catches Heller not only misquoting the number of men that got killed, but also not being able to remember the name of one of the Brits who died in the attack. Although Boudreau insists that he’s just trying to save the President from any embarrassment, Audrey storms away angrily.
Still holed up in the drug dealers’ apartment, Yates makes a call to his buyer, Margot Al-Harazi (Michelle Fairley from ‘Game of Thrones‘), and lets her know that the drone test was a success. She overhears Simone making noise during the call and wants to know if Yates has anyone else with him, but Yates insists that he doesn’t.
Jack and Chloe make their way to the apartment and Jack heads up to it, with Chloe staying in the back of a van to provide tech support. When Jack bursts into the apartment, he grabs one of the dealers and holds him at gunpoint, telling the others to surrender if they want to live. Sadly, these bad guys don’t know Jack about Jack, and laugh when he claims that he has the advantage. A few seconds later, Jack has either shot or disabled all the men in the room, but not before Yates and Simone escape.
While all this is happening, Kate (who has been officially reinstated by Navarro), Erik and a CIA team also make their way to the location. Chloe slips out of the van, but they get the drop on Bauer as he pursues Yates and Simone. Jack surrenders and drops his gun, begging Kate to go after Yates before he gets away. Out of nowhere, Jack gets shot in the arm by one of the drug dealers who has made a recovery, and all hell breaks loose. Jack is able escape, but not before he comes face to face with Kate Morgan, tells her that she’s slowing him down, and promptly knocks her out with a head-butt. Jack still has a way with the ladies!
Chloe arrives in a car (yes, she stole it!) and picks Jack up, although Jack insists on driving. Chloe inserts a flash drive that Jack was able to find in the apartment into her laptop and learns that it’s full of schematics for America’s drone weapons. Before she can learn more, the file erases itself. Yates programmed a deletion process should the drive get into the wrong hands. “Dammit!” Jack yells. Thanks, we were waiting for that.
Yates and Simone make their way to a pub, where he confesses to her that he’s not sure he trusts Margot. He mistakenly believes that she sent Bauer to kill him and steal his drone access program/device. He goes to the bathroom, taking the drone device with him. Simone follows him in, but she’s not there to make out. Instead, she pulls a knife and stabs him through the side of the head – killing him instantly. She then exits the pub with the drone package and makes a call to Margot, pulling off her blonde wig in the process to reveal red hair. She tells Margot about Bauer and that she also had to kill Yates. “Come home as soon as you can,” Margot replies. “Mommy’s waiting.” Tick-tock, tick-tock!
As always, ’24’ packs more into a couple hours of television than most series do in whole seasons. Those wondering if the show would seem stale or outdated after four years off the air need not have worried. The series doesn’t seem to have lost anything after the long break. It actually feels like everyone involved is refreshed, full of energy, and ready to ride the rollercoaster one more time. Remind me why Fox cancelled this show. In one night, it’s instantly become the best thing on network TV once again.
Welcome back, Jack. We missed you.