TV Review: Jack Bauer Says The Magic Word On ’24’

So, let me begin with a warning: in order to write about tonight’s episode of 24, there will be minor spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.

We’re now into the third hour of a day in the life of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), and nothing gets any easier for the gruff, driven fugitive. But this is 24, so did we really expect his day to improve? Jack and Goth Chloe are hot on the trail of Derrick Yates and his girlfriend, arriving at the pub the couple took refuge in moments too late. Of course, Derrick’s girlfriend was far more than she pretended to be, something that probably didn’t come as much of a shock to fans of the show.

Far more than some horny Russian girl, she’s actually the daughter of the (hopefully) Big Bad in Live Another Day, Margot Al-Harazi, played extremely creepily by Michelle Fairley, who it’s always great to see after her fantastic stint on Game of Thrones. Now Margot’s daughter is in possession of the drone controller, and heading it on back to mummy.

24 still relies heavily on its old bag of tricks, mainly using plot obstacles to service the real time premise of the show. For instance, when Margot finally gets her hands on the drone device, it turns out Derrick fitted the unit with a custom port that’ll take oh, about an hour or more to fix. Or when Jack finally manages to grimace through a civil conversation with Adrian Cross, the show’s version of Julian Assange, Jack’s double crossed (no pun intended) just as he nears success. These basically work to buy time for the story, and it’s a commonly used device especially in espionage thrillers. Still, any mention of time gives us a glimpse behind the curtain of the show’s mechanics. I can’t help but think of that ticking clock when I hear or see something like the above.

But is 24 hindered by its format/structure? I don’t think so. There’s enough intrigue, tension, and action to bring us right back into the folds. How is Jack going to get into that embassy now? Will Audrey and Jack cross paths? Just how evil is her scumbag husband Mark really? While they may not all be the most deeply developed characters, we mostly know what to expect from them or the anticipation of their actions has enough “wait and see” loaded, that we stick around.

Which brings me around to character. So far Live Another Day is treating Jack Bauer with a bit of distance. I cannot imagine how many more layers or character reveals they could mine from him. Jack tells us he came out of hiding to prevent a plot aimed at President Heller, and that’s enough for us. On a side note, the look on Jack’s face when Cross forces him to say “Please” is a look of pain so excruciating, it did give me some glee. Still, there’s plenty of mystery around everyone else. When Chloe gets distracted at a crucial point, thinking she sees her family, it’s the first we learn of a deeper conspiracy that could exist toward Bauer’s old associates. Kate Morgan again proves her outstanding resourcefulness and skills at getting intel out of stonewalling suspects. Morgan is definitely a character I want to know more about. Now, Ritter on the other hand, still comes across a bit too whiny for me, even as he gains a little respect for Morgan.

And again, Ms. Fairley’s Margot is shaping up to be very interesting indeed. We may still be somewhat unclear on her agenda, but the more we’re exposed to her, the she comes into focus. Her manipulation of her daughter and son in law is full of menace and worthy of Tywin Lannister, but then we see her hidden cameras in her daughter’s bedroom and things get more uncomfortable. I don’t normally shine on stories where the villain is far more interesting than the hero, but Live Another Day is balancing this dynamic well.

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