[This is a review of 24: Live Another Day episode 1 and 2. There will be SPOILERS.]
It has been four years since Jack Bauer was last seen on television, and for a series that made its name by unfolding its storylines in real time it comes as no surprise that those four years are wholeheartedly felt here. At its heart, the world of 24: Live Another Day is still very much the world of 24, as it was last seen in season 8 (back in 2010). But things are different; most notably, the world has gone on without Jack battling it out on the frontlines. It has somehow endured without the relentless, near-super heroic efforts of one man constantly racing against the clock to prevent catastrophe. As the special 12-episode event series kicks off, it becomes clear that the ever-ticking clock counting down the seconds of each and every episode won’t be the only thing reminding the audience of time; those four years that the world treated Jack Bauer as a memory weigh heavily on the proceedings as well.
To its credit, however, 24: Live Another Day wants to use (and largely succeeds in using) that gap to its advantage, assembling the plot in such a way that it can utilize familiar faces from the past, while also putting them in situations it doesn’t necessarily have to explain in excruciating detail. For one, there’s a new president in office: former Secretary of Defense James Heller (William Devane), who is apparently suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Meanwhile, his daughter, Audrey Raines (Kim Raver), has recovered from her trauma, and is now Audrey Boudreau, wife of Mark (Tate Donovan), the president’s chief of staff. All told, those are small but significant changes to the narrative that might have taken place between any season of the FOX action-drama, but the first two episodes – which transpire from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm – make pointed use of the four quiet years by establishing several dramatic possibilities with regard to those who might be directly effected by Jack’s sudden reemergence.
That being said, the progression of time becomes important in terms of building a legacy – both for the series’ protagonist, and the show itself. It’s difficult to say who exactly was clamoring for a return from 24, but they got one, and the producers and writers manage to do everything in their power to use that first hour reminding viewers what made the show so popular in the first place.
So, after eight seasons of saving the world 24-hours at a time, Jack Bauer’s legacy is certainly deserving of some examination, and much of what happens in between ’11:00am-12:00am’ is Jack in full-on super-hero mode. Characters talk about him in hushed tones, reminding one another what he’s capable of, while Kiefer Sutherland does his best 1,000-yard stare before wreaking the kind of havoc only Jack Bauer is capable of. The kicker, then, is in how Jack demonstrates he’s still Jack, in all the good ways and even more so the bad. After all this time, Bauer is no closer to placing his trust in anything or anyone but himself. He’s a man without a country, without a job, and without friends (as he mentions to an accomplice who questions Jack’s decision to place a tracking device in Chloe O’Brian’s cell phone after he risks life and limb to extricate her from the clutches of the government). All that matters to Jack is the task at hand, and after four years of laying low, he’s finally found a task that’s worth poking his well-covered head out for.
That task welcomes Jack into the familiar, but increasingly complicated world of drone warfare. This time, with the added variable of hackers capable of hijacking the deadly military hardware for use against American and British forces. While jack is allowing himself to be apprehended and questioned at a CIA blacksite by Steve Navarro (Benjamin Bratt) and, later, the more levelheaded, but disgraced by association, Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski), a hacker by the name of Derrick Yates establishes proof of concept for his software by setting up drone pilot Lt. Chris Tanner (Jon Boyega) for what looks like the deliberate bombing of a superior officer in the field. In reality, Derrick is formerly a part of a WikiLeaks/Anonymous-like group run who’s looking to strike it rich by selling his wares to Margot Al-Harazi (Michelle Fairley). By the end of the second hour, Margot’s daughter Simone (Emily Berrington) has killed Derrick and run off to rejoin “mummy” and apparently use American drone technology to assassinate President Heller on foreign soil, theoretically igniting World War III.
With that kind of a set-up, Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) becomes the perfect representative for the post-WikiLeaks free information movement world of today. It’s the kind of place where those with the ability to do so – like Adrian Cross (Michael Wincott) the leader of her group – are forcing transparency on the government by actively releasing intelligence information to the public, an act that flies in the face of Jack’s pro-intelligence community stance. And while it certainly mirrors Jack’s “the ends justify the means” style of information extrication, and saving the world, the group’s methods also put a timestamp on his gun slinging, head butting ways – which, in the early part of the series paints Jack as something of a unique relic from the recent past.
That’s an interesting way of looking at a series that’s been resurrected after four years collecting dust. The juxtaposition of Jack and Chloe early on is both a callback to their previous efforts together, as well as a look at the ways in which they’ve moved on (or in Jack’s case, not moved on) without one another. Both are essentially fighting for ideologies and interests they are not interested in, nor have asked them to do so. In a way, it’s a lot like the show’s reemergence itself: No one asked for it, but we got it anyway, so we might as well hold on and let 24: Live Another Day do its job.
24: Live Another Day continues next Monday with ‘1:00pm-2:00pm’ on FOX.