24: Live Another Day
Season 9, Episode 1 & 2
“Day 9: 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.”
“Day 9: 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.”
It’s been a five year hiatus but Jack Bauer is finally back! Only now he’s a bit older so he only has half a day to worry about. That’s right, Season Nine of this venerable action show is only 12 episodes long, instead of the standard 24.
In the fine old tradition of shows that have run too long, the producers have arbitrarily changed the location again to ‘freshen’ things up. After stints in New York and Africa, this time, Jack is in London and he’s gone rogue (again) and is on the run from the CIA, desperate to stop an assassination attempt on President Heller from hacktivists who are protesting America’s use of drone warfare.
24: Live Another Day begins with a double episode and its surprising after a four year absence how quickly the show settles into its old groove. So much so that I don’t actually recall a single British actor in the first episode. Instead we get the usual cast of characters and tropes that we have come to know and love.
See if this sounds familiar: Bauer has gone rogue and is on the run, trying to bring down a conspiracy to murder
President Palmer President Heller. Heller is visiting London with his daughter Audrey Raines (who was Jack’s former lover) and confides in his assistant Mike Mark, who may or may not be planning to double cross him. Meanwhile at CTU CIA London, some hapless suits are trying to track down Bauer’s location. There’s a bright young woman in the team, Renee Walker Kate Morgan, who quickly works out what he’s doing but unfortunately the intelligent commander Bill Buchanan Steve Navarro is stubborn and won’t listen to her advice. She gets forced off the assignment and has to stealthily make phone calls to a nerdy, low ranking jobsworth named Edgar Jordan who helps her out. There’s a terrorist plot afoot. And a mole.
Does absence make the heart grow fonder? It does for me. I grew bored of 24 and didn’t see Season Eight so my itch for watching Jack Bauer yelling ‘dammit!’ and knocking out uncooperative intelligence officers hasn’t been scratched for some time. Long enough that when the digital timer for the show appeared and Kiefer Sutherland gruffly informed me that events occur in real time, I felt pretty pleased. And after two rigidly formulaic opening episodes, I felt right back at home thinking to myself ‘this will do nicely!’. Particularly if we’re getting just 12 hours which *should* force the producers to keep the action tight and not get waylaid with an extraneous kidnapping or mountain lion to stall for time.
24 has always been rather topical about the motivations of its terrorists and so it is with this season. The show previously explored Islamic relations in a post 9/11 America during Season 3, introduced ethical quandries about the merits of torture during interrogation in Season Five and now we are at Season Nine and we’re seeing the influence of drone warfare and intelligence whistleblowers like Edward Snowden being incorporated into the storyline. It’s a nice touch to reflect the real life political and military landscape but at the end of the day, its funny how little of a difference it all boils down to. No matter what the motivation, its still Jack Baeur wailing on some poor unsuspecting foreigner while he yells ‘tell me where the bomb is!’
It’s a well worn formula that runs like clockwork. We know exactly where the show is going.
On the other hand, if this is to be the last season of the show, the stage is set for something genuinely unexpected to happen. Part of the beauty of setting up the first two episodes in this fashion is that audiences will be so trained to expect a certain outcome that they could really have the rug pulled out from under them.