Editor’s Note: 24 was an American show created largely in response to how we felt after 9/11. It was a show about taking action, about fighting back against the terrorists that had attacked the WTC, leaving us feeling powerless. Over the course of the show’s eight seasons, 24 morphed into a commentary on U.S. policies abroad and asked the question of whether we have gone too far, taken away too many liberties, in the pursuit of justice. Now Jack Bauer and 24 are back with a short 12 episode miniseries set in London – Will he and Chloe be doing the same old schtick? We’ll be recapping the series over the next few months so check back here to see our commentary on the show.
In case that wasn’t obvious, there be spoilers here! You’ve been warned!
“11:00AM – 12:00PM” / “12:00PM – 1:00PM”
24: Live Another Day started like an episode of Homeland, which brings up the first of several pickles in which show finds itself: in a post-Homeland world, is a show like 24 even valid? How can it make any real statements about government use of surveillance and machine-operated killing? After the double-episode premiere, eh, it’s hard to tell. But, back to that opening. A group of multiracial CIA agents are making their way through a marketplace where different languages are being spoken and women are wearing scarves. No, this isn’t Afghanistan. It’s East London. Afghanistan comes later.
Who are these CIA agents hunting, you ask? Well they’ve gotten a tip from Prague that Jack Bauer is back in London! An undercover homeless guy identifies Bauer in a derelict warehouse surrounded by homeless people. It’s not dissimilar to the opening scene of the last episode of the third season of Sherlock where we find Sherlock in an opium den high off his ass.
The CIA agents ambush the homeless encampment, only to find Bauer is suddenly on the run. Wherever he’s been for the past several years, it’s clear that, like any self-respecting sexy daddy, he’s been working out, has had the resources for a clean shave, and has had access to black hoodies. Maybe he’s just been hanging out in Silverlake this whole time? That said, he can still hop out of windows, over railings, and kill someone with his bare hands.
In the warehouse, there’s a shootout and Bauer finds himself cornered on a riverbank. They take Bauer in and preparations for his torture are set into motion. But, that age-old question rises to the surface: who gets to torture Jack Bauer? Is it going to be CIA agent Steve Navarro’s people? Or is it going to be “Special Activities” which reports directly to Mark Boudreau, the seemingly bad guy who happens to be married to the President’s vapid daughter Audrey, who happens to have once been in love with Jack Bauer, if that’s possible. President Heller, Audrey, and Mark are all in London so Mr. Pres can sort out a treaty with the British government. Incidentally, Steve Navarro is played by a very skinny looking Benjamin Bratt, and Boudreau is played by the effortlessly handsome Tate Donovan.
While the decision to sort out who gets their first crack at Bauer (Boudreau is winning by a long shot) a new character named Kate, also a CIA operative, is packing up her stuff to leave. It’s revealed pretty early on that she’s leaving because apparently her ex-husband was a traitor to the government or something. She was cleared of all wrongdoing. Still, there’s bad blood and even though she seems to be the only one who knows what’s going on, it’s time for her to leave.
Special Activities wins the torture conundrum, and they come get Bauer so they can figure out why the hell he’s suddenly popped up in London after all these years. While he’s being transported, Kate, who pretty clearly has something to prove, gets a hold of some covert info and discovers that the tip from Prague was a plant and that Jack Bauer himself tipped off the CIA about his whereabouts from a café three blocks from where he was found! Still, she’s gotta go, so security escorts her out. Is she going to go quietly? Hell no. Kate’s got a Taser gun and she’s not afraid to use it. She goes rogue, and runs after Bauer herself.
Meanwhile, Bauer takes matters into his own hands and finds his way to Chloe O’Brien, Jack’s IT wizard and only friend. She’s been drugged and splayed out for Special Activities to torture. Torture is really the big threat in this show, that and career destruction. While a bunch of lives seem to be at stake, people really just want to protect their own asses. Anyway, Jack rescues Chloe, who is very groggy. Jack then has his new Serbian friend fire a bazooka through the street, temporarily disabling Kate who finds them trying to escape. The newly formed hole works out perfectly for their getaway.
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.
And now we finally get to Derek Yates. Basher’s place, which looks like a set from Trainspotting, is pretty much what you’d expect: videogame-esque baddies hanging out with a bunch of dangerous looking computer equipment and guns. Yates is stashed in a back room with his girlfriend, a woman with a strange sounding accent who can’t help but be all over him. I can’t really blame her, except that all that guy-liner and eye-shadow make Yates look like a scared raccoon. We quickly learn that Yates is the hacker who took control of the drones that killed the soldiers and that he’s working on some equipment that will eventually assassinate the president. But, is he doing this for himself, or is he working for someone?
He’s working for someone. And not just any someone, either. Yates gets a phone call from his boss, a woman in the shadows of a Tudor estate with diamond-paned windows I’m imagining is in the countryside. Her voice is familiar. She finally moves into the light and-it’s Catelyn Stark! That is, it’s Michelle Fairely. Well, I’m glad to see she’s gotten some work after what went down at the Red Wedding. So, she’s behind it all. But, does she work for someone? Your guess is as good as mine.
Jack, who was going to ambush Yates himself, of course, is offered the help of Chloe, who for some reason is super devoted to Bauer. What’s their deal? I know she’s been on the show before, but he doesn’t seem like the nicest guy to be friends with. I mean, all that brooding and the Christian-Bale-as-Batman voice-eesh, too much. Well, they’re together, and so they’re off to get Mr. Yates.
They pull up to the giant apartment complex, fool around with some machines, and Bauer finds his way directly to the apartment with the baddies. There’s a scuffle, and Yates and his lady escape through the window. Jack sorts out the baddies and goes after Yates, only after he’s grabbed a flash drive from Yates’ computer. Just as Jack is about to get them, Kate from the CIA shows up with a whole team in toe. Surprise! Their appearance allows Yates and his gal pal to escape. The CIA is about to shoot Jack, when, from a balcony, Basher (with a bleeding neck wound thanks to Bauer) starts shooting, causing chaos all over the damn place. There’s a standoff, and Jack catches Kate, telling her they’re looking for the wrong guy. Again, Carrie on Homeland does this burden-of-truth stuff way better. Throughout the whole two hours, Jack’s dialogue was laughable: “I don’t have any friends.” “I owe him.” “There’s no going back for me.” Oy vey.
Well, Jack manages to escape with the help of Chloe who has hot-wired a car and happens to be right where Jack exits the basement of the building. They drive off, waiting for their next heart-racing adventure.
And now that he’s gotten away, Yates and his gal have stopped for a pint, because hacking into the American drone computer system is thirsty work. When Yates decides to break the seal, he takes his computer equipment to the bathroom, where his girlfriend appears. Looking forward to a little bathroom action, Yates lets down his guard. Silly boy. The girlfriend stabs him in the side of his face, takes the computer equipment, and bounces from the bar. Walking away, she pulls of her wig (she’s got red hair!) and calls someone on her mobile phone. It’s Catelyn Stark again! Actually, her character’s name is Margot, and the young redhead is her daughter! I thought her accent sounded a little funny.
And so the two-hour season premier comes to an end. Overall, it dragged. The dialogue was rough, and the conflict just doesn’t seem weighty enough to carry a whole show. The core of the conflict seems to be drones and surveillance. That just doesn’t work. In a show like Homeland, the drones aren’t the plot’s axis. Just as with the U.S. Government, the drones are tools that are readily available, a given. Of course there are drones out there; of course they’re dangerous. But, that’s what the world is now. Can Jack Bauer change that? Only time will tell. He doesn’t have long though, just about ten hours left.