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24: Season 5 - Review

24: The cast of season 5

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

SPOILER WARNING: Please note, this review contains spoilers, so please don’t read if you haven’t seen the show…

THE fifth season of real-time drama 24 was arguably the bravest yet. From its opening ten minutes, the show seemed prepared to take risks by dispensing with two of its most popular characters.

The ensuing 24 episodes also offered some of the most tense viewing the series has delivered so far, seldom allowing the pace to flag as in previous seasons.

The central construct remained the same, in that Jack Bauer still had to save America, but the writers had fun messing things around so that the ultimate enemy came from a surprising source.

Picking up a few months after the closing events of season 4, when Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) staged his own death to escape being taken prisoner by the Chinese government, season 5 began in explosive fashion with the assassination of former President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert).

No sooner had viewers had chance to get over the shock of that surprise opening, then they were faced with another assassination – this time at the house of former CTU agents Tony and Michelle. The ensuing explosion left the former fighting for his life and the latter dead.

The suspect in both killings was soon identified as Jack Bauer, who subsequently had to come out of hiding to prove his innocence, prevent his own demise and exact his own form of justice/revenge.

In between doing so, however, Jack was also thrust into the middle of the latest terrorist threat to America, in the form of Russian extremists and poison gas canisters – all designed with the aim of undermining a new political treaty between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

Few could have predicted the way the story would evolve, however, given that the real threat to National Security came from within and was eventually traced back to the seat of power at the White House itself, in the form of President Logan (Gregory Itzon).

Therein lay season 5’s biggest masterstroke. Having spent years protecting the president at all costs, Jack Bauer was now faced with having to bring down a world leader or face almost certain death. Yet a character who audiences regularly laughed at for looking so inept, quickly became a worthy adversary.

The latter half of season 5 made for truly riveting viewing, building towards an inevitable confrontation between Jack and Logan that literally had viewers on the edge of their seat – would Jack really be prepared to assassinate a president once he had him in his sights?

As ever, Kiefer Sutherland’s performance as the embittered CTU agent was exemplary – combining the requisite toughness of a character governed by extremes with the obvious suffering of a man close to losing everything.

Yet Itzon was equally memorable in the way that he completely deceived viewers early on to emerge as one of the most sinister and creepy 24 villains so far.

Along the way there was plenty more intrigue and quite a few unexpected casualties to keep viewers enthralled. If the show had been criticised for not taking enough risks with its favoured characters before, here it seemed to be throwing caution out of the window. No one was safe and the death toll included some surprisingly big names.

As ever, the show managed to find ways of bringing back past favourites such as Jack’s daughter, Kim (Elisha Cuthbert), as well as Secret Service bodyguard Agent Aaron Pierce, now given a pivotal role to play in proceedings (and welcomely so).

Likewise, it introduced new characters that were equally noteworthy, such as Peter Weller’s hiss-worthy villain, Christopher Henderson (a former CTU agent turned rogue), and Sean Astin as CTU advisor Lynn McGill.

Less successful was Julian Sands as another Russian terrorist and Jean Smart as Logan’s wife, who veered from feisty to annoying at the turn of a coin. As with previous seasons, there was also the odd moment when plot contrivances didn’t stand up to much scrutiny and where characters acted stupidly in support of the bigger picture.

But on the whole this was another masterful exercise in thrilling audiences that was as tough and uncompromising as it could be poignant and compassionate.

The final hour, in particular, provided truly riveting viewing and a genuinely surprising conclusion that sets things up superbly for a sixth season and another possible new direction.

Let’s only hope that future series can continue to maintain such a consistently high quality and that the creators continue to take the risks that made season 5 so striking. It really is exemplary viewing.

Get the early word on Season 6