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24: Season 7 - 8am - 10am (Season opener reviewed)

Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer in 24

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from current television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we take a look at the two-part Season 7 opener of 24 entitled 8am – 10am (as aired on Sky1 on Monday, January 12, 2009).

What’s the story? While standing trial for alleged human rights violations, ex-CTU agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is called away by the FBI when an old friend is discovered to be involved with terrorists. He quickly finds himself immersed in a critical situation involving threats to National Security.

In the White House, meanwhile, President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) must juggle the imminent threat to the country with plans to invade an unnamed African country and rid it of a genocidal dictator.

Was it any good? Hell, yes! Barring some clunky plotting details, which included the Lazarus-style resurrection of another fgure from Jack Bauer’s past, as well as a segment that seemed lifted almost wholesale from the plot of Die Hard 2, the seventh season of real-time drama 24 got off to strong start.

Opening with a stunning kidnap that resembled the heist sequence from Heat, the opening hour set a cracking pace as the latest threat to US National Security was put into play.

Jack, meanwhile, attempted to answer for his actions before a US Senate hearing, explaining that he felt no regret for the decisions he made in the field. Sutherland’s portrayal of Bauer is as intense as ever. The man is like a ticking bomb about to go off – angry, disappointed and even confused, he’s very much someone struggling with his own demons, yet willing to strike out at anyone who would question his commitment (and sacrifice) to his country.

While defiant in the face of his inquisitors, Bauer did admit to a sympathetic colleague that the American people deserved to know what he did, and to decide how far they are prepared to let him continue to go. It’s an interesting point – made as much in reference to the dynamics of the world he is operating in, as it is to the criticisms levelled at the show during the much-maligned Season Six.

The Senate Committee had barely sunk their teeth into Jack, however, when he was plucked from the hearings to assist in the latest threat hanging over the country. And there was an immediate surprise in store…

Could the man pulling the strings be former friend and CTU colleague Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard)? The same man apparently killed as part of the Season 5 cull? Apparently so…

Almeida’s return was the one real blot on the copy script. It stretches credibility that he survived the events of Season 5 and even though his presence put Jack through the emotional wringer once again, he has never really seemed like a really worthy adversary. Of course, we could be wrong.

By the end of the second hour, Jack had tracked Tony down, fought with him in a dockyard and held him at gunpoint, demanding to know what had happened. The episode ended before we had time to find out whether Almedia has really gone rogue, or is part of an unknown covert operation.

Indeed, we’re still very much in the dark about the latest mission facing Jack and company. We know it involves a machine that can control government firewalls and, possibly, the nation’s energy supply and water. As evidenced last night, it also has the power – theoretically – to crash planes (although the demonstration of that capability ran a little too close to the events of Die Hard 2 for this reviewer’s liking).

The plot is also linked to America’s imminent decision to invade the African nation that Jack Bauer was last seen hiding out in on stand-alone episode Redemption

But just how big and how far the threat is remains a secret. The first two hours were mostly about scene-setting, and character introducing or rebuilding.

Prominent among these was Jack’s new ally, FBI agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching), a hard-kicking free-thinker who sympathises with Bauer’s attitude in the field. The dynamic between them looks interesting, particularly as it could soon form a triangle of sexual tension between herself, Bauer and Walker’s clearly smitten FBI boss, Larry Moss (Jeffrey Nordling) – another new character who seems to have some smarts about him.

Strong, too, was the latest US President – a tough, but fair-minded woman who clearly has the ability to make difficult decisions on the go. The show’s writers appear to have learned from the mistakes of the last season, when the White House sub-plots strained for credibility because of the inherent weakness of the man at the seat of power. Or have they decided to embrace the current sense of optimism and faith in politics exhibited by the American people in real-life?

As ever with 24, there are numerous sub-plots developing. President Taylor’s husband, Henry (Colm Feore), is clearly on a mission to solve his son’s apparent suicide, while there’s certain to be intrigue involving the supporting technicians at the FBI (Rhys Coiro and Janeane Garofalo included).

But for the moment, season 7 has decided not to overload the situation as it seeks to cleverly set the principals into play. And, as ever, the twists and action came thick and fast, while the tension was as layered as ever.

An impressive start, then, for a season predictably described by Sutherland as “the best yet”. Could the two-year hiatus afforded by the writers’ strike (and current political events) have enabled the show to re-charge its batteries and come back stronger than ever? The omens certainly appear encouraging at this point…

What did you think?

  1. Jack Bauer truly jumped the shark with day six. So far, so good. But then we did say that about day 6’s beginning. Salvation was an improvement, so who knows… I’m excited again though.

    Steve    Jan 13    #
  2. I think you guys summed it up in your earlier review of Redemption. Jack is back – officially the three most exciting words on TV right now!

    Paul    Jan 15    #