Ok, I can breathe again.
24 is the only show on television that can get my heart pumping while sitting on the couch. It is, to use a word I don't believe I've used on this site before - exciting. I thought that the first two hours, although good, were relatively low on the viewer adrenaline scale compared to what's come before, but hours 3 & 4 of the show made up for it and it's back in the groove.
There will be spoilers here, so if you haven't seen it, don't read on. Oh, if you missed the first 4 hours, you can actually buy them on DVD today! Talk about striking while the iron is hot. :-)
The thing that's really riveting this season (as Stephen King has pointed out) is how close the events on the show seem to being possible. Once again (and appropriately, considering the background of the show) the terrorists are Islamic extremists. Although the show has served as a whipping boy by the Left, I found it interesting to see these first few episodes addressing some of the concerns that folks are having in regards to our civil liberties being eroded. I didn't expect to see so much time given to that side of the equation in the show, but I actually like it because it reflects reality that much more closely when it comes to what may happen in the fight against terrorism.
In typical 24 fashion, a Middle Eastern teenage neighbor who is being harrassed by a full grown man in the neighborhood (known to be a hothead) is protected by the teenager's friend's father, who steps in to talk sense to the brute. Of course what we come to find out is that the teenage boy is in fact working with the terrorists.
In a similar vein, Muslims are being detained in "internment camps" for questioning, the vast majority of them innocent, but of course one of the innocent men recently brought to the camp overhears two men who are involved in the plot and happen to be in custody. When he tells his girlfriend (wife?) who happens to be a lawyer and the President's sister about it, her response is that it will never be admissable in court. He yells at her "Can't you stop being a lawyer for a minute? This information could save hundreds of lives!". And there lies the debate.
It will be interesting to see how they counterbalance these two sides: racial profiling and erosion of civil liberties against the need to stop the attacks that are killing hundreds (and by the end of the episode, many thousands) of Americans.
As hinted at on The Drudge Report, yes, the terrorists on the show did set off a nuke in the final minutes of hour four. In Los Angeles, no less. I thought the random suicide bombings across the country were scary, but man...
As to the characters, Chloe has evolved quite a bit - she's still snippy when dealing with people but her social skills have grown immensely. They're also glamming her up a bit as she looks much more attractive this season. They've brought in a character we saw only briefly last season as her boyfriend, who now has the title of most anti-social CTU employee.
Jack Bauer is where I had a little trouble considering this is supposed to be taking place real-time. By the mid third hour he is back to his tough physical self, when only three hours earlier he came shuffling off a plane looking like a Vietnam P.O.W. I guess he bounced back pretty quick. Of course they are definitely dealing with the mental and emotional anguish that he's gone through and is still experiencing (especially when he shoots a co-worker to defend a now-cooperating terrorist).
My worry with his character is that as he goes through more and more trauma, he will reach a point where frankly he just won't seem human any more and it will be difficult for the audience to connect with him.
Regardless of that, I'm riveted. It's the fastest hour on TV and I can't wait for next week!