Posted on Tuesday, January 13th, 2009 by David Chen
[The following contains spoilers for the first 4 episodes of 24: Season 7]
It’s been a little bit over 18 months since the last season of 24 (not counting 24: Redemption) and after the general awfulness of Season 6, I was quite concerned that one of my once-favorite television shows had lost its magic for good. With the first four hours of the current season now past us, I wondered: Does 24 still have it? Kind of.
The new season has ex-special agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) being forced to testify before a Senate Committee to answer for his questionable counter-terrorism tactics. After giving an impassioned defense of his interrogation techniques, he’s whisked off to the FBI by agent Walker (Annie Wersching) to help stop a major threat to the country’s technology infrastructure. The man behind the threat? None other than Jack’s old colleague Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard), believed to have been killed in Season 5 [Update: Corrected]. In the meantime, newly elected President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) is readying an invasion of fictional African country Sangala to stop the genocide being perpetrated by General Juma, who has a few world-ending tricks up his sleeve, all while her husband, Henry, is trying to get to the bottom of his son’s supposed suicide.
Despite a drastic change in setting – after 6 years in LA and a 2-hour TV movie in Africa, the new season is set in Washington D.C. – this season so far still has all the staples of the 24 we all know and love-hate: The petty office bickering, the nonsensical computer terminology, the relentless and constant revelations of moles in both criminal and governmental organizations, and of course, the badass action scenes. If you weren’t fan of these things before, you won’t be fans of them now, but die-hard 24 fans such as myself feel like an old friend has finally come home for a visit after an 18-month exile.
What’s more, I’m finding myself a fan of the new elements that this season has introduced. Wersching is convincing and spellbinding as Agent Walker, a Dana Scully for the 21st century, although her turn to the dark side seems to a bit too quick for my taste. (After taking a strong stance against torture initially, she was basically signing off on Jack’s extreme techniques within an hour of meeting him for the first time!). I don’t know if her character will have a plausible arc but I’m content to just watch her do her thing. Remarkably, Tony’s return from the dead actually makes a modicum of sense, as much as anything else in this show at least; after all, 24 once literally killed off its main character, only to bring him back an episode later. I also love the use of Washington D.C. as a location for the new season. The D.C. area is beautifully photogenic and while the constant presence of landmarks occasionally seems like the producers are shoving it in our faces, the non-LA setting and the way it’s vividly rendered makes this new season seems more alive, exciting, and unpredictable than any other season in recent years.
In addition, I actually found myself appreciating the show’s views on torture this time around. While it’s been said before that 24 has actually influenced how our real-life troops interrogate enemy combatants (almost unquestionably for the worse), this season actually presents opposing viewpoints on the matter, with Jack outwardly defiant but inwardly believing that the American people deserve an accounting for his actions. It’s a duality that has a lot of potential, but knowing 24 that means we probably won’t hear about it again until the end of the season, if we hear about it again at all.
The end of the fourth episode has Jack and Tony suiting up undercover to take down the terrorists-for-hire from the inside, while Buchanan QB’s the situation from his attic somewhere. In any other show, this would be a compelling, edge-of-your-seat development but at this point, 24 has put Jack Bauer in so many outlandish and preposterous situations that undercover terrorist takedown seems like old hat. Maybe, though, for one redemptive season, doing what comes naturally and delivering on the promise of its earlier years is all that 24 needs to get back on its feet again.
Discuss: What did you think of the 4-hour season premiere of 24? (Spoilers for first 4 eps allowed but please don’t reveal any information on future episodes)