24: Season 6 - First 2 hours reviewed
Review by Jack Foley
SIX days in and real-time thriller 24 shows no sign of dropping the ball or easing the strain on its central hero, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland).
After just two sweaty hours the tension is already cranked up to the max as season six begins. Jack is back from China (where he spent 20 months enduring all manner of torture) and up to his neck in another plot to blow up the United States.
Yet time appears to have taken its toll on our hero (and not just because of the beard he was sporting for the first 10 minutes). On a couple of occasions, Bauer looked a shadow of his former self; a man haunted by the demons of his past.
Firstly, when asked to die in order to serve his country, Jack looked almost relieved and told CTU director Bill Buchanan (James Morrison) as much during one of several emotional exchanges – it’s better to die for something than to die for no reason, he explained, before being handed over to more Islamic terrorists in a desperate bid to stop a new bombing campaign.
And secondly, when torturing a terror suspect in order to find the whereabouts of the latest mastermind, Jack stopped to show some mercy, before confessing that he didn’t know how to do this anymore.
Such plot contrivances serve to set up the possibility of an interesting new direction for the character – one who has finally been broken by the fallout from the past few years.
If the cracks were showing come the end of season 5, then they’re wider than ever at the start of season 6 and it’s getting harder to tell the good from the bad.
The majority of the advertising surrounding the sixth season promos focused on the fact that Jack Bauer had to be brought back to America in order to die.
His country had negotiated his return from the Chinese merely to hand him over to a terrorist named Abu Fayed (Adoni Maropis) so that he could kill him in revenge for torturing his brother to death years earlier. In return, Fayed would disclose the whereabouts of another terrorist, Hamri Al-Assad (Alexander Siddig), who was responsible for a wave of terror attacks that were sweeping the nation.
Come the end of the first two hours, however, Jack had managed to escape the clutches of Fayed and discover that Al-Assad had, in fact, been working with the Americans to bring an end to the hostilities; and that Fayed was, indeed, the main threat to national security.
In so doing, he had to rescue Al-Assad from near-certain death and go on the run in order to achieve what CTU had failed to do.
So, business as usual then? But why no one ever listens to Jack is one of the many questions that continues to place a strain on credibility.
There were others that erred on the side of repetitiveness, of course. Back at the White House, Wayne Palmer (DB Woodside) is now the man in charge, yet being mis-advised by his second-in-command Thomas Lennox (Peter MacNicol) – a man so obviously devious that he may as well have a “don’t trust me” sign tattooed on his forehead.
And there’s the usual shenanigans at CTU headquarters where Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) takes centre stage and there was even time for a blink and you’ll miss it cameo from a certain Stephen Merchant (of Extras notoriety).
Yet in spite of a sense of over-familiarity in certain elements, 24 compels for so many reasons – its uncomfortable parallels with real events, for one reason, and the power of its performances for another.
The opening moments of season 6 were particularly chilling, as a lone suicide bomber was seen detonating a device on a crowded Los Angeles bus – prompting uncomfortable memories of the 7/7 attacks in London.
Later on, there was also a subway bombing incident that again hit very close to home – even though the attempted attack was averted.
The rights and wrongs of tackling such terror were also debated at length by key characters – with detention camps and Islamic profiling looking set to become two of the season’s main talking points.
And then there’s the potential threat posed by “the man next door”, as exemplified by another of the sub-plots involving an Islamic teenager (Karl Penn) whose father was arrested by the FBI – a teenager who subsequently had a key role to play in the unfolding events.
Whether the sixth season of 24 can maintain such a high level of consistency for another 22 hours remains to be seen but the omens are good for another thrilling ride.
So while it may not have debuted with the same kind of jaw-dropping events that made season 5 so special (and arguably the best so far), it still had plenty to savour and even more to build on.
Word from America suggests that the next two hours will really set things in motion, with the death of yet another key character and a humdinger of a finale.
So best buckle up and enjoy the ride – 24 is back and still firing on all cylinders.
24: Season 6 is currently showing on Sky One on Sunday nights at 9pm (from January 21, 2007). Keep checking back for more updates on the series’ progress.
- Order 24 Season 5 DVD box set
- 24 - Season 6: Was Morris torture necessary?
- 24 - Season 6: America angered by torture scenes
- 24 - Season 6: Did Jack have a choice?
- 24 - Season 6: First 2 hours reviewed
- 24: Season 5 reviewed (with spoilers)
- Sutherland signs on for another three seasons of 24
- Read our review of the explosive Season 4
- Buy 24: Seasons 1-5 on DVD