The President is having some personal problems. He's losing his mind. He can't remember numbers, and he's starting to forget names. It's never specifically stated what he has, but it's pretty clear it's some form of degenerative cognitive disease like dementia or Alzheimer's. These are some of the toughest scenes in the two-hour premier. You want to believe he's a good guy, and seeing him stumble embarrassingly is like watching your dad forget how to tie his own shoes. Of course, his son-in-law Mark is all over this, constantly reminding him that he's losing it and gunning to get him away from any actual power or work. President Heller may be losing it, but he's not ready to give anything up. He's still confident, still a strong speaker. Besides, in a show like 24: Live Another Day, it could all be for show. He could be behind the whole thing.
The show's second pickle: it tries to do what Game of Thrones does in terms of character development. On Game of Thrones, no one is truly good or bad. Everyone occupies a self-serving gray space. It works on GoT because the writing is so good, the characters are given time to develop and reveal their desires and histories. 24 tries to do this, but the writing is bad so often that all the characters read painfully flat. The core of the show is Jack Bauer, and with his near silence throughout the episode, it's hard to believe that he's with the good guys. Where's the basic philosophy that Carrie on Homeland is always spouting off? Where are the principles? Instead of principles, we have action sequences that begin to feel repetitive.
Anyway, in an Air Force base in South London, a pilot named Chris Tanner is mad at his boss for not being allowed to spend a weekend with his wife. Just his luck, Tanner happens to be on the clock when a hacker takes control of the drone under his charge and uses it to kill said boss during a mission in Afghanistan. Of course, everyone thinks Tanner did it, and much like Jack now, his truth-based protestations fall on deaf ears.
After they escape the CIA black site, Jack dumps Chloe on the streets of London where she wanders around looking like an extra from a musical adaptation of The Crow. She soon finds her way back to her hacker lair, where a bunch of punks populate a graffiti-splattered den filled with computers and pinball machines. It looks like a reject set from Tank Girl. Her boss is scary as hell and isn't convinced that during her three days with the CIA she hasn't given up their secrets. Before anything awkward can happen, Jack bursts in with his new Serbian friend, wielding guns and demands. He questions the boss about the drone attack, and they all quickly figure out a dude named Derek Yates, who used to work with Chloe at the hacker lair (which is definitely not supposed to be Wikileaks, wink, wink), but was let go for selling information, is behind an assassination attempt on President Heller, but an assassination may not be necessary seeing how he's portrayed so painfully it's not even clear he'll remember he's the President by the end of the twelve hours.
They begin to formulate a way to get to Yates, who is holed up in an apartment owned by a stock scary lookin' dude named Basher. As they sort all this out in their tech lair, Chloe gives some diva-worth side eye and Jack reveals he can speak Serbian, leading one to believe that he's been chilling out these last years in Serbia. Cause, as you all know, Serbia isn't an actual country with its own government, culture, cities, and economic prowess. It's where American emo operatives go to hide. Maybe they meant Siberia?
During this time, President Heller goes to a party to meet the British Prime Minister, played by gay icon Stephen Fry. Mr. Pres is informed of the assassination in Afghanistan, and when he goes to tell the Prime Minister, he sees British soldiers telling him already. Mr. Prime Minister doesn't look very pleased. That's all, for now, that we see of Mr. Fry. If this is as far as his role reaches, he is being grossly underused.
To make amends for the drone attack, which included British soldiers, President Heller decides that he'll give over Chris Tanner (Check his flight key! He was hacked!) to be questioned by the Brits, and that he himself will speak before parliament. His son-in-law thinks this is a bad idea, of course, and is proven right when President Heller first can't remember how many people died and then can't remember name of the British casualty. Painful. So painful.