By the time the opening six minutes were through, the audience was immediately reminded what Jack Bauer was and still is capable of. It was a tense reveal to an old friend. 24 has been gone for four years and made sure to let us know that physically, Jack hasn’t lost a step. It was over the course of the two episodes (2-hour premiere) that we learn what was left of the Jack we used to know. Jack is definitely back.
When 24 premiered in 2001, it was a risky endeavor on all fronts. FOX took a chance on a heavily serialized, espionage/action show that would follow the events of a twenty-four hour day in real-time. Each episode taking place over the course of an hour, with Jack Bauer trying to stop whatever terrorist event is happening that day. For a time, it worked. 24 ushered in a style of action and storytelling that would be imitated and expanded on for the next decade, and due to its cinematic feel, the lasting effects were felt more in in theaters. The Bourne and Taken franchise come to mind. The eighth and “final” season of 24 aired four years ago, and left something to be desired. It was clear that the creative team was running on fumes, and the format that had made the show so spectacular to begin with was working against itself. What we have here, at least in the early goings is a return to form, and the new 12-episode format will allow the writing team to cut some of those filler hours out of the day. Gone will be the days constantly watching Jack drive while frantically talking on the phone, or mountain lions, hell, he may even be able to sneak a nap in.
Early in, we find out that Jack is a man alone. Despised and considered a traitor by pretty much everyone due to the events that closed out Day 8, Jack has been pretty much off the grid until popping up in London. Jack is broken. At one point mentioning “I have no friends”, Jack is a man without a country but yet he still feels a duty to do what is right. That means he first has to break out his right-hand woman, Chloe from the London branch of the CIA. In what has become a recent trend in action, Jack has himself captured and purposefully brought to a special wing of the compound. It is in this time that we meet many of the (potential) major players. The only person on to Jacks true intentions is Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski, Chuck) but she’s not exactly in good standing with the agency after it was discovered that her husband was selling information to the Chinese right under her nose. Ashamed, she is working out her last week with this branch of the CIA. Her direct foil, the Doakes to her Dexter in some ways, is Agent Erik Ritter (Gbenga Akkinagbe, The Wire). Then there is her direct supervisor Steve Navarro, who may have a bit of a sympathetic ear at first but eventually plays into the action trope of being doubtful to the point of willful ignorance.
It’s moments like that, which are peppered thoroughout the 2-hour premiere that we are reminded that as much as we love 24, it is and always has been a big, dumb, action flick. That is meant with all of the endearment in the world. 24 has always played into our collective knowledge of action movie traits, and either plays into them, or turns them on their head. When we meet the leader of Chloe’s hacker coalition, Adrian Cross (Michael Wincott, The Crow), he just oozes potential villain, even if he is on “our side” at first. Then there is the military Drone Pilot, Chris Tanner (John Boyega, Attack the Block, Star Wars: Episode VII), who had all the signs of “fall guy” painted on him from the moment he stepped on screen. Between the wedding ring, and his insistence that he get his weekend pass, we just knew bad things were ahead for poor Chris. Turns out, the military drone would be hacked, and attack his commanding officer out in the field, that low and behold, Chris had issues with. So now Jacks mission has a few faces.
The first two hours in what is sure to be a terrible day for Jack delivered in big and familiar ways. We got to see a reunited Jack and Chloe, and how their lives have gone without each other. Their back and forth moments in hour two hit on many emotions for them. Chloe calling out Jack for not just asking for her help, and Jack checking Chloe for regurgitating counter-culture propaganda under the guise of civil freedoms. It’s obvious that these two need each other in a bad way after his four years of exile and her prison time.There is also the relationship between President Heller, his head of Staff Mark Boudreau (Tate Donovan, Damages) who is also Audrey Heller’s husband and Audrey herself, the President’s daughter and Jacks ex. Mark is playing things close to the chest in the early going, especially regarding Jack’s return. While his actions do setup some familiar 24 trickery later, when we see the mental state the President is in, clearly an older man who isn’t nearly as sharp as he once was, Marks actions make more sense. President Heller even had trouble remember the names of the four soldiers killed by the drone strike, making for a tense scene between Heller and Boudreau.
It’s fun to see all of the early moving parts since there will only be ten more episodes. We’ve already had one villain killed off via knife to the ear by his seemingly, ditzy girlfriend *What a twist*, and we got a glimpse of the potential “big-bad” for the season in the form of Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones). With less filler in this day, things should move at a good clip. The odds are already stacked against our guy, but this is 24, and as Jack already pointed out in an early standoff “You may think I’m at a disadvantage, but I assure you I am not”. Jack is most definitely back.