Warning: Spoilers ahead!
’24: Live Another Day’ premiered last night with a 2 hour back to back rollercoaster, simultaneously reintroducing us to the action-packed world of 24 and setting the stage for a compelling contemporary thriller. The Place, London England. The Sit-Rep, amidst a contentious treaty on the extension of a US Navy base in the UK and vehement protests against drone warfare by the Heller administration, Jack Bauer, notorious ex CTU agent and international criminal resurfaces for mysterious reasons and CIA London HQ tracks him down and brings him in.
This exhilarating chase all happens before the classic ’24′ timestamp declaration and reminder that “events occur in real time”. It also shows us that Bauer is still at the top of his game, out maneuvering and subduing a whole squad of CIA field agents before he is finally cornered on a beach by a gunboat and from all sides by agents.
This introduces us to our new (not) CTU Office crew which includes Steve Navarro, Erik Ritter and Yvonne Strahovski’s Kate Morgan, who handles her American accent well, however much fans might miss her native English. Navarro is under a lot of pressure to ascertain Jack’s purpose for his return before he’s transferred to CIA special interrogator, an intelligence outfit that everyone on the show speaks ominously about, so you know it’s shady. And we get a glimpse of an interrogator administering some painful intravenous drug to Chloe O’Brien(that’s the sound of the fans gasping and screaming for blood), so you know it’s going to be important.
Turns out, that’s exactly where Jack wants to go. Using a combination of a sub-dermal transceiver in his hand and outside tech help, Jack lets himself get transferred to special interrogation only to knock out his two captors, including Ritter, in a timed blackout. All throughout the first 45 minutes of the series’ first hour, Jack has remained silent, through capture and interrogation. It makes his first ambush line to the CIA special interrogator all the more powerful when he says “Take me to her. You know who I am. If you sound and alarm, I will blow your head off.” Classic Jack.
Jack frees Chloe and tries to escape but is momentarily stopped by Morgan, the only one at CIA London who started to figure out that Jack meant to get caught so he could spring Chloe. Morgan had been previously relieved and was about to be transferred after her husband had been convicted of selling intelligence secrets to the Chinese. We see that she’s got some Jack Bauer determination and disregard for the rules when she tazers her escort and gets her tech buddy to dig up info on Jack while she goes after him.
But of course, Morgan doesn’t have the seniority to foil Jack’s plans this early in the series, so even while she manages to confront Jack, his outside help ensures he and Chloe escape. Which also marks the first instance of our office getting attacked. Jack causes a gas line to explode, setting the CIA back for at least 20 minutes before they can get back on his tail.
Meanwhile, at the White House delegation, Heller’s Chief of Staff Mark Boudreau is closely monitoring the Jack Bauer situation. Mindful of what the US and the Russians still want Jack for, Boudreau believes that Jack may be planning to strike against President Heller, of course. It wouldn’t be 24, without some self-concerned, self-righteous authority figure mischaracterizing Jack and pinning the bad guy’s idea on him. But Boudreau might be a bit more sympathetic than he firsts appears. Audrey Raines, Jack’s old season 4 flame is still on as the head of the delegation and as Boudreau’s wife. He’s so desperate to make Jack go away because he knows how much Audrey had suffered while she was involved with Jack, and so does the audience.
It’s also heavily implied through scenes between President Heller and Audrey, his daughter, that Heller is suffering from early stage Alzheimer’s or Dementia, which is leading to some on his staff questioning his competence during these critical negotiations.
It certainly doesn’t help the Heller’s case for extending the US naval base when drone pilot, surveying for an allied convoy in Afghanistan, suddenly has control of his drone hijacked away from him. The pilot, Chris Tanner, is forced to watch helplessly as his drone launches a missile at the convoy killing 4 British and American soldiers.
That’s where the first hour ends. In the second hour of the premiere, Jack tricks Chloe into leading him back to her new crew of hackers because he has intel that one of their former members may be behind the hijacking of the drones and an imminent assassination attempt against Heller. The scene is one of the few down times we get in the premiere and ‘Live Another Day’ takes full advantage of these moments to establish the familiar but tense relationship between Chloe and Jack. Before Jack tricks Chloe, his new guy says to him, “You could have asked for her help, you said she was your friend.” Jack replies, “I don’t have any friends.” Cold, Jack. Cold. The guilt on Jack’s face is readily apparent when Chloe later tells him that she would have helped if he had asked.
The leader of Chloe’s hacker group, Adrian Cross, is surprisingly accommodating for Jack, even though Jack shoves him into a wall and threatens him at gunpoint. Apparently, the person Jack is looking for, Derek Yates, started doing things with government information that even the Hackivists deemed unethical and they dismissed him. Making his disapproval of the gang’s mission clear, Jack sets out to find Yates and Chloe volunteers her technical support. Just like old times.
The CIA is in hot pursuit of Jack, led by the reinstated agent Morgan. Both he and Chloe and the CIA catch up to Yates hideout in a heroine dealer’s apartment, where Yates is brushing aside his simpering foreign girlfriend while making a report on his drone hijacking to Michelle Fairley’s Margot Al-Harazi. It’s such fun to see Fairley on the giving end of the diabolical scheming, as opposed to being at the mercy of conniving bastards like Walder Frey and Tywin Lannister.
Back at the treaty negotiations, news of the rogue drone attack reaches President Heller, who decides on the spot that he has to tell Prime Minister Alastair Davies (played by the delightful Stephen Fry!) before he hears it from anyone else, but his well-meaning transparency isn’t fast enough. With his political position about to crumble under his feet, Heller decides to make an unscripted appearance before Parliament, apologize for the tragedy and urge both sides to continue the negotiations.
Audrey and Mark pitch him questions that the angry Parliament is likely to throw at him. Heller seems like he could handle them until he makes the horrifying mistake of mentioning 3 deaths instead of the actual 4, a mistake that could cost him everything if he makes it in the chambers of Parliament. Audrey gets upset with Mark over pushing her father after that mistake, but Mark is adamant that this is the kind of fire he’s going to have to take. We’ll have to see how Heller’s condition plays out in the events of the day.
Jack infiltrates Yates’ hideout with CIA hot on his heels. In the ensuing Chaos Jack is forced to evade the CIA and Yates escapes with his drone hacking module, but not before overhearing some pretty legitimate combat skills from Jack. Convinced that Margot had grown impatient for his device and had sent an assassin to collect it, he tells his girlfriend that they’ll find a new buyer. The girlfriend, corners him in the bathroom under pretense of messing finally messing around, except for the knife hidden in her sleeve, which pops out and into Yate’s earhole like a hidden blade from Assassin’s Creed. Simone, the girlfriend is actually Margot’s protégée daughter, send to keep an eye on Yates and ensure that he delivered on his nefarious technology.
With Yates gone and his hacking prototype now firmly in the Big Bad’s hands, Jack and Chloe’s mission to find the culprit is at an appropriately desperate and disadvantaged state for the next episode with the CIA playing catchup and choosing sides, Heller trying to keep his treaty alive, and the framed drone pilot en route to talk to President Heller himself.
There’s plenty of things in the episode to speculate on and discuss, in no particular order;
There was plenty to remind us of the near memetic in-universe badass reputation of Jack Bauer in the premiere. Perhaps the smallest detail that hit the point hardest on the nose was the shot of Boudreau looking at the Confirmed Kill list next to Jack Bauer’s intelligence profile, a whole other page, including Curtis Manning. Besides the enormity of Jack’s adventures, that particular name on his kill list jumped out at me because it was one of Jack’s co-workers at CTU in season 6. Jack felt he was forced to kill him because Curtis was going to kill a now cooperative terrorist whom Curtis had a deep personal grudge against. It was a multi-tier reminder of just what kind of person Boudreau was dealing with and a dark reminder for fans.
Jack and Chloe have changed and their relationship has changed. We know that Jack is not above using people to do what he thinks is right, but freeing Chloe and tricking her, his oldest, best friend, especially when she tells him later that she would have helped if he’d just asked, is especially uncomfortable. Chloe questions his motivation for reemerging now to save Heller and his family (especially Audrey). We have to wonder just how much Jack still cares about her and if there may be anything else driving Jack here. Based on the original show, Jack’s motivations aren’t usually complex, he’s driven by a defining sense of right and wrong and fierce protection of his family, so he may be telling the truth, but I’d guess not the whole truth. We’ll undoubtedly hear more about what each of them have been through in the intervening years as the series goes on.
’24′ has never been shy about incorporating contemporary issues into its setting and themes. The flavor of the day here is drone warfare, and clandestine government surveillance and secrets. So far the handling of both issues seems to be thought provoking and balanced enough, given the hyper-moral dynamic of its central character and its thriller format. Drones can be a way to minimize human loss in war, on the invader’s end, but perhaps they are not as fool proof or humane as we want them to be. Government secrets aren’t a new thing to ’24′, but with real life events like the exploits of Edward Snowden and Wikileaks, it seems only fitting for the new series to raise questions about where the line is drawn between public ignorance being necessary to keep the peace and public ignorance letting governments get away with criminal behavior. Chloe summed it up best, “Governments keep secrets because what they do is criminal. Besides, in ’24′, someone on the executive hill is always involved in the terrorist plots, ALWAYS.
Which brings me to my biggest “concern” about the show at this point. Throughout the show, Jack, and his single-minded rule-disregarding heroism has always turned out to be right. Jack’s regular deployment of torture, intimidation and guilty-until-proven-innocent mentality always working has sometimes been cringe-worthy. Authority figures representing a more levelheaded approach to fighting terrorism always end up being wrong, acting too late or turning out to be the bad guys on the show. Jack is such an impressive and sympathetic hero that the audience can’t help but root for and agree with him even when he does deplorable things.
So far in the series, there hasn’t been anything really questionable in this regard. The CIA playing catch up and getting in Jack’s way is a fine way to increase the suspense, especially given his international criminal status. I’m more interested in the difference in opinion the show has set up between Chloe and Jack on the issue of Government Transparency. So far, Jack’s stated pretty clearly that he thinks disseminating government secrets is wrong, but Chloe sees it as exposing crimes of people who think they are unaccountable to anyone.
We’ll have to see whose opinion the series vindicates. ’24′ is much more a thriller than a platform for intellectual debate on real world politics, but it could really make its audience think critically if the events of the season have Jack turn out to be wrong. Not wrong about the exact nature of the terrorist threat or about his lack of real friends, but in such a way that leads him to seriously reexamine his deeply ingrained views about governments and terrorism in the modern world, which is far from black and white.
Maybe I’m hoping for too much, but it would be something truly new for the series and a real bit of character development for Jack, the indomitable, morally stark, consummate hero who we’ve rooted for all this time.