If last week’s season premiere reminded fans of everything great about ’24’, this week’s entry reminds them of everything that often goes wrong with this series. Although the episode count this season has been cut in half, it’s hard to view the latest hour in Jack Bauer’s life as anything but filler to get us from one action piece to the next.
Hour three picks up right where we left off (we’ve been told that some hours will get skipped this season, but none have been yet), with Jack and Chloe trying to track down computer hacker Derek Yates. Jack enters the bar where Yates was killed last week by his girlfriend (who turned out to be Simone Al-Harazi, daughter of Margot – the woman leading the terrorist plot… so far) and finds his body in the men’s room. Quickly assessing that they’re now looking for the girlfriend, Jack – with Chloe’s laptop assistance back in the car – follows Simone through the London Underground. He manages to get on the same train as Simone, but she spots him. To get away, Simone cuts a gash in her leg and then spreads some of the blood on her face. When she gets off the train, she yells that Jack is trying to kill her, which gives her the few seconds she needs to run away.
Simone sneaks through a construction area to get back outside again. Meanwhile, Chloe gets distracted by a family whose father and son remind her of her old beau (husband?) Morris and their son. When Jack gets back to the car, he demands to know what happened that caused Chloe to lose Simone. She tells him that Morris and her son were killed in a hit-and-run car crash when Morris was taking the boy to soccer practice. Chloe lives with guilt because she usually drove him to practice. She believes that she was targeted for death because she knows what happened with Bauer. Jack gives Chloe a hug, proving that he still has a soft side. This was easily the best moment in an otherwise forgettable third episode.
Meanwhile, back at the apartments where Jack tracked down Yates in last week’s premiere, CIA agents Kate Morgan and Erik Ritter question the drug dealers who provided safe haven for Yates. Kate gets a call from Navarro back at headquarters instructing her to let the dealers go. If the London police catch the CIA illegally detaining British citizens, there will be hell to pay. Kate, however, insists on keeping the leader of the gang, whom she and Ritter throw in the back of their car and then drive to a shady part of the city, where they pull up alongside a rival drug gang. As it turns out, Morgan knows the other gang wants to kill the leader. She tells him that if he doesn’t start coughing up information soon, she’s going to let them come over to the car and take him. The dealer confesses that he was paid to provide protection for Yates, but doesn’t know much else – other than that it had something to do with drones and he heard the name “Tanner” repeated several times.
Chris Tanner, of course, is the pilot of the drone that went haywire (when Yates took control of it) and killed a bunch of American and British soldiers. He’s been transferred to the American embassy in London for both questioning and for security reasons.
Simone returns home to greet her mother Margot. We’re also introduced to her brother Ian (Liam Garrigan) and her husband Naveed (Sacha Dhawan), who are both in on the terrorist plot. Ian seems to be the computer expert of the group. Naveed is standoffish toward Simone. She and Margot both think he’s upset that Simone needed to sleep with Yates as part of her cover, and Margot even has a private talk with him over it. However, we learn later that Naveed is much more concerned about the innocent people he’s about to kill. Yeah, I don’t see this guy lasting much longer. The only question is which character will wind up offing him, his wife or his mother-in-law. In fact, Margot watches her daughter and Naveed have sex via a hidden camera at episode’s end. Creepy.
Audrey still isn’t very happy about the mock debate where her husband Mark grilled President Heller, and lets him know about it. Mark insists that he’s trying to protect her father and his legacy. Without Audrey’s knowledge, Mark gets a document from one of his aides that will approve Jack Bauer (when found) being turned over to the Russians, but it needs the President’s signature. When no one is looking, Mark forges Heller’s signature on the document. Uh oh, this isn’t going to end well for someone.
Audrey tries to talk her father out of speaking in front of Parliament, but Heller still thinks it’s the right thing to do. The end of the episode will find the President finally addressing Parliament, but being shouted down with rude questions and comments before he can begin his speech – just as Mark predicted.
Thanks to Chloe, Jack learns more about Margot’s background, including the fact that her husband was killed in a drone strike that President Heller approved (making her motives clear). Jack wants to get into the American embassy so he can tell the U.S. government about the technology that Yates created and Margot now possesses, but to do so he’ll need the proper credentials. He convinces Open Cell leader Adrian Cross and his team – including Chloe – to create a new identity for him. However, unbeknownst to Jack or Chloe, Cross intentionally screws up the ID so that Jack will be detained at the embassy gate.
Chloe figures out what’s going on and warns Jack right as the ID is being checked. Jack still needs a way inside, so he goes into the crowd of protesters, obtains a gun from an embassy security officer (after knocking him out) and then fires a few shots into the crowd. (I don’t think he shot anyone, but it’s hard to tell as a couple people do fall down.) Jack then screams that the guards are shooting at the protesters. The panicked mob runs in every direction, including through the gate into the embassy, allowing Jack both the distraction and pathway he needs to get inside. Not far behind him, Kate and Erik – who have come to the embassy to question Tanner – spot Jack, and Kate chases after him.
Although this episode opens and closes with action sequences, a closer observation shows that the plot doesn’t advance very much. Yes, it’s great to see Jack Bauer running through London’s tube system, but the scene proves little more than a time killer to extend Simone’s escape. Also, a man like Jack Bauer probably has a million ways to sneak undetected into the American embassy, but the writers felt that they needed another action beat in this otherwise very talky episode, so we get a scene with protesters crashing the gate.
One of the biggest problems with past seasons of ’24’ was that they too often got bogged down in soap opera-like subplots that didn’t really go anywhere or have much impact on the overall storyline. With half as much time to tell this season’s story, fans hoped that this revival wouldn’t fall into the same habits. Unfortunately, with Audrey and Mark’s continued relationship bickering and now the terrorists’ family issues (Attention writers: we don’t really care about the social lives of the bad guys), it looks like ’24’ has brought back some of the bad along with much of the good.
This is by no means a horrible episode (the stuff between Jack and Chloe is great), but it’s a letdown after such an impressive start. Hopefully, next week will ramp things up once again. Tick-tock, tick-tock.