It’s only been four years since 24 went off the air, but the television landscape has changed quite dramatically since we last saw Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland). When the series first premiered in 2001, just months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Bauer’s “whatever it takes” attitude was an inspiring jolt to TV viewers. The show’s unique structure of unfolding in real time maintained the story’s heightened tension throughout the entire 24 episodes, and subsequent seasons would provide plenty of thrilling twists and turns to keep audiences engaged. The show’s quality started to decline as the years went on (it topped out at a magnificent season five), but Jack is up to his old tricks again in the limited series event 24: Live Another Day, and he’s joined by some familiar faces.
The 12-episode miniseries gets off to a bit of a slow start, but the trademark double-crosses and surprises remain intact, as does Jack’s outlaw attitude. Live Another Day isn’t significantly better or worse than the show was when it left the airwaves in 2010, but given how much great TV is out there right now, the question becomes: is “same old Jack” good enough? Read my full 24: Live Another Day review after the jump.
24: Live Another Day picks up in real time from the finale, taking place four years after we last saw Jack Bauer trek into the unknown. He remains a highly sought after fugitive from the government, but as the first episode opens at 11am (yes, the show still plays out in real time even though there are only 12 episodes), Bauer finds himself cornered in London by the CIA, where he’s working to thwart an assassination attempt on the President, Jack Bauer-style. A London-based operation led by CIA Head of Station Steve Navarro (Benjamin Bratt) has tracked Bauer down, but during his capture a young operative named Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski) notes that it all seemed a little too easy. Of course, none of Kate’s superiors want to hear it, and she’s in the midst of departing the office for good when Bauer is captured.
Meanwhile, also in London, President James Heller (William Devane) is convening with his staff while dozens of protesters outside his hotel bemoan his questionable use of drone warfare. We quickly learn that Heller is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, and it’s his Chief of Staff Mark Boudreau (Tate Donovan) who appears to be more confidently running things in this administration. Moreover, Boudreau has a strong interest in the capture of Bauer, as we find out that he has much invested in what becomes of the former CTU agent.
Also playing a minor but significant role in the Live Another Day storyline is First Lieutenant Chris Tanner, played by newly cast Star Wars: Episode VII lead John Boyega. Tanner is a drone pilot who figures into the central threat facing Bauer, and writers Evan Catz and Manny Coto not-so-subtly attempt to tie the conceit to its real world implications, also bringing shades of WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden into the fold when we meet up with a Libseth Salander-influenced Chloe O’Brien (Mary Lynn Rajskub), who’s gone all “hacktivist” in Bauer’s absence.
The first hour moves a bit slowly, and Bauer himself doesn’t even speak for nearly the entire episode. But when the action kicks into gear, good ol’ Jack Bauer resurfaces with his trademark mix of brooding, screaming, and punching.
As the overall “plan” for the bad guys becomes clearer, though, the story of Live Another Day admittedly gets a bit ridiculous. The exposition is rather clunky, and it takes a while for everyone to settle back into the groove of 24. Even then, though, the “spark” of the series that made it so exciting and thrilling back during the first few seasons is absent. Yes, it’s fun to see and hear the ticking clock again, and I did get a kick out of the panel-style endings, but after eight full seasons of Jack Bauer more or less doing the same thing over and over, there’s a sense that Live Another Day is a little too familiar.
Based on the first two episodes, the central storyline and new characters aren’t yet compelling enough to make the rest of Live Another Day must-watch TV. It simply feels like a delayed ninth season instead of an “event series,” and the quality hasn’t really changed since the show closed out season eight. Moreover, in a television landscape filled with incredibly compelling action/thriller shows like Homeland, The Americans, or even True Detective, the predictable, exposition-filled, network style of 24 feels a tad outdated.
For those who were lifelong fans of Jack Bauer and 24 up to the bitter end, 24: Live Another Day will sufficiently offer the ninth season they always wanted. However, if you’re looking for a revived quality spark or unique spin on the 24 formula, Live Another Day is a disappointment. It’s not significantly better or worse than what came before it, and as a result, it’s not really enough for it to rise above the other, better shows that arrived in its wake. The second episode ends on just enough of an interesting cliffhanger that I’m curious to see how this all plays out, but my deep investment in the livelihood of Jack Bauer ended a long time ago. So far, Live Another Day hasn’t compelled it to return.
24: Live Another Day premieres on Fox Monday, May 5th, with two back-to-back episodes starting at 9pm ET/PT.