Jack Bauer is back! The iconic TV character, whom one associates with the TV series 24 and the actor Kiefer Sutherland who played him for eight seasons on the hit FOX show, is as grizzled and determined as ever. For anyone who is a fan of the show, seeing Jack with gun in one hand and cell phone in the other is like going to a big reunion party.
24: Live Another Day comes with all the history we connect to Jack, who was first seen playing chess with his daughter Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) in episode one of season one. What a long strange trip it has been from that moment, with Jack going from super field agent, to head of CTU, to drug addict, to rogue agent, to wanted criminal. All along the way, the core audience has bought into Jack being a man more sinned against than sinning, but like Shakespeare’s King Lear, he has heavy baggage and there is no getting around that fact.
As we first see him in 24: LAD, it is in a video follow-up to the last image of Bauer captured by a drone in the sky in New York City. He is almost translucent, a ghost image that is caught on tape and defies the reality of those who wish he were dead. When head of London’s CIA office Steve Navarro (an excellent Benjamin Bratt) first sees Jack’s fuzzy image on the screen, he says “Bauer” in such a way that may be reserved for either a serial killer or the pope. It appears to be very intentional, as those who know Bauer’s work both fear him and worship what he is known to have accomplished.
Jack sets himself up to get caught in a London warehouse near the Thames River. The only one in the entire CIA office who thinks that Bauer got caught way too easy is outgoing agent Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski), who is being removed from her position because she didn’t see the signs that her husband was a traitor. Following in the footsteps of the infamous Nina Meyers, Kate shows smarts and grit as she tells her boss that Jack wanted to get caught and even thrown into “special activities” – the dreaded hole where he will be ruthlessly interrogated and tortured – but we all know Jack can take a licking and keep on ticking better than any wristwatch.
Jack indeed wishes to get caught because he plans to spring the intrepid Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), who is dressed in black and has enough Goth makeup to make Elvira jealous. Jack quickly dispatches the redshirts (like those dispensable Star Trek guys) and finds his way to Chloe and flees with her. Kate makes a valiant effort to stop him, but some Serbian dude with tattoos the size of Cleveland blows a hole in the ground and provides Jack and Chloe a quick getaway.
You can already see where this is going, for now Chloe will once again be Jack’s tech savvy geek one call away, who will help him slay dragons, avoid moats, and find his way to the castle keep. The true reason for Jack being involved is that he knows a plan is being hatched to assassinate the President of the United States on British soil. In essence it is a standard 24 storyline – but while reminiscent of the first season when he was trying to save Senator Palmer’s life, we get the idea that the plan may be way bigger than just the POTUS and could involve using American drones to decimate old London.
Besides the basic plot, 24: LAD is a bit different than its previous incarnation. For one, besides Chloe, all the usual suspects are not around anymore. The series is set in London, and the President of the United States is now former Secretary of Defense Heller (played with intensity by the great William Devane). Heller has brought his once looney tunes daughter Audrey (the beautiful Kim Raver) to London with him to get an agreement done with the British, but she has a snarky husband Mark Boudreau (Tate Donovan) who is cruising for a bruising from her former lover Jack (I predict Jack kicks his butt before the end of things).
Heller has lost some of his edge thanks to a battle with dementia that the husband plays to his advantage. He follows in the long line of sneaky varmints in the 24 presidents’ cabinet or inner circle, and he even asks one of his lackeys to find a way to give Jack over to the Russians, who are wanting to get their hands on Bauer even more than a dish of caviar and a bottle of Stolichnaya. Bringing back the familiar faces of Heller and Audrey makes sense symbolically for Jack, who is fighting to save Heller’s life because he “owes” him. We also know that anyone Jack ever loves dies or gets damaged, as Heller even had told him so long ago, so Jack knows the danger that follows him like his shadow.
The fact that there are only 12 episodes in this version of 24 ups the ante and changes the game, making things seem even more fast-paced than before (with little time for side stories that used to weigh down the old series). I don’t wish to upset true fans of the show, but I had been hoping that this new series would have dispensed with the “real time format.” Back when the show premiered in November 2001 (less than two months after the 9-11 attacks), I felt like 24 was the breath of fresh air television needed. The split screens, the constantly clicking clock, and the feel of following Bauer through a very bad day were truly fresh and exciting. Now, after so long, it seems more of a contrivance, and appears to actually hinder the storytelling more than enhancing it.
Still, to have Jack Bauer back is better than not having him. The topical issues that come into play here include the use of drones (scenes show people protesting their usage in the streets of London), the loss of classified information, clandestine agencies and their intrusion into people’s lives, and the political intrigue of American and British governments trying to work together to battle terrorism. So Jack is definitely back, but in an entirely different world than the one where he played chess with Kim and loved his wife Terri.
Jack utters the hardest truth when he says, “I have no friends.” We think of all those who died, those whom he failed, and those he had to kill. In short, Jack is not just a man without an identity or country – he is a pariah, a scourge of the earth, and yet there must be something good left inside because he still will not give up. He fights the good fight essentially because he can’t count on anyone else doing it. He stands on the principal that you have to do some very bad things – sometimes horrific and even criminal – to stop those who will do even more harm to society and possibly imperil the planet.
So we begin another very bad day with Jack Bauer. He has the clever CIA agent Morgan on his tail, a shadowy woman named Margo in the mix who has stolen the drone technology, and the looming assassination of a president with which to contend. The Russians and Americans want him dead, and he knows time is running out. Long-time fans of 24 know Jack is most dangerous when he is captured, his back is up against the wall, or he is trying to save someone’s life. All these things happen in the premiere episodes, so it would seem Jack is back with a vengeance, so sit back and enjoy the roller coaster ride that is 24 and savor all the turns, dips, and rising action because it will be over faster than Jack can say “Damn it!”
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