It’s been only four years since action man Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) departed our screens, disappearing off the grid after both the US and Russians put him in their crosshairs. So why does it feel like a lot longer?
Across 8 seasons of 24 Bauer did things by his own rulebook. His methodology was always questionable, he tended to shoot first, ask questions later. But always with his patriotism firmly in check if not necessarily the most legal means to defend it.
Now the CIA finds him in London, hidden in a warehouse four years later at a time when the US President James Heller (William Devane) is visiting the British PM (Stephen Fry) to negotiate US bases. Heller, who has previously appeared as Secretary of Defense is also father to Audrey (Kim Raver) who was at one time romantically involved with Jack.
But now Audrey is married to White House Chief of Staff Mark Boudreau (Tate Donovan) who is determined to keep the fugitive Jack out of the picture when he is discovered by the CIA.
The London-based CIA, which more or less replaces CTU, is headed up by Steve Navarro (Benjamin Bratt) and its key field operative is Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski) whose instincts go against her Director, but with good reason. She appears to have read the Bauer rulebook but is suspicious about whether Bauer has allowed himself to get caught by the CIA, and why.
24 favourite Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) is also on the outer, working as a “free information hacker” with an underground London group prior to inevitably reuniting with our Jack.
While conspiracy theories and action scenes are central to 24, there are always much bigger gameplays afoot and in Live Another Day we find parallel storylines in Afghanistan involving a Lt. Chris Tanner who controls drones for the military.
The bad guys in London are working with computers in housing commission flats, and appear to have the US President in their sights.
Initially our Jack doesn’t say too much but it isn’t long before the adrenalin is pumping and the testosterone kicks in. We don’t really know why he appears to be behaving like the bad guy, but with 8 seasons under his belt, we know that he has the US of A running through his veins. Whatever crazy stuff he gets up to, it’s for a good cause. And Kiefer Sutherland doesn’t appear to have aged a bit.
24: Live Another Day will comprise 12 episodes, but it still functions in real-time with split-screens and the famed ticking-clock. London is depicted as gritty and grim, with a colour palette heavy in blue and grey. The Americans behave as if they own the turf.
The first two episodes contain a satisfying mix of action and jeopardy even though you’re aware they are only really setting the scene. Tate Donovan, as the man sandwiched between the President and Bauer’s former flame, looks to be one of two strong additions -the other being Yvonne Strahovski as an agent chasing a deepening mystery without ever really knowing where it will lead.
Pleasingly, all the behind the scenes names long associated with the show, are back: Howard Gordon, David Fury, Robert Cochran, Brian Grazer, Jon Cassar, Evan Katz and Manny Coto.
24 will still require viewers to suspend disbelief. It doesn’t look like Jack has found any time for a toilet break or cup of coffee and characters appear to be set to embark on a rollercoaster of emotions more befitting of 12 weeks than 12 hours. But who cares? We love 24 for it’s heart-stopping action, U-turn plots and grand scale stakes, dammit.
While the show has had some thrilling seasons, and some that could not sustain 24 episodes, I’m encouraged by this strong start. I have faith Jack will be able to save the President. Whether he is able to save Channel TEN in the process is another matter altogether.
24: Live Another Day airs next month on TEN.