*some mild spoilers may follow for the first two hours of 24: Live Another Day*
Ladies and gentleman, synchronize your watches and take those bathroom breaks now, because Jack Bauer is back in 24: Live Another Day. It’s been four years since Kiefer Sutherland’s rogue CTU hero went dark after becoming a fugitive from both the American and Russian governments, and this new 12-episode event finds Bauer resurfacing in London to combat a new threat.
Although only four years have passed since 24 left the airwaves, it feels like much longer and now a show that was once a pop culture sensation, strangely enough, is barely mentioned in casual conversation. So it’s a bit strange watching the first two hours of 24: Live Another Day, because somehow it already feels dated. The show has done almost zero updating to its format or its character portrayals and even sticks with the real-time format, even though this limited event doesn’t have the 24-episode length.
While the show has done little to touch-up its paint job, this will certainly be a positive thing for the massive amount of fans that watched the show when it originally aired, because this is the exact show they remember, right down to the smallest detail. Which, as you might guess, is a good thing and a bad thing. Kiefer Sutherland still has that magnetic charisma that won him an Emmy for this role, even though he is getting older and it shows a bit. The action scenes are still quite solid for television and definitely maintain the ridiculous fun of the latter seasons of 24.
The first hour deals mostly with Bauer coming out of hiding and being tracked down by a british installment of the CIA that is, for all intents and purposes, the CTU of this story. Kate Morgan (a frumpy Yvonne Strahovski) is finishing her last day on the job at CIA: CTU, when her expertise gets her entangled with her boss Steve Navarro’s (Benjamin Bratt) hunt for Bauer. Kate’s storyline in these episodes feels very repetitive of the subplots of every 24 season and is boringly predictable most of the way through the first two hours.
In the meantime, fan favorite James Heller (William Devane) is now the acting American president and happens to be visiting London at the time of Bauer’s resurgence. Hmm. He’s accompanied by his Chief of Staff Mark Boudreau (Tate Donovan) and his daughter (and Bauer’s ex) Audrey. Mark Boudreau is played with a nice mix of sleaze and likability that Donovan has gotten quite good at in the later years of his career, making it tough to figure out whether to love or hate the character. Devane and Donovan have good chemistry and should be interesting to watch going forward.
The end of the first hour has an exciting climax with some welcome reunions and an action-packed escape sequence that is the pinnacle of both hours. Overall, the first hour has a lot of classic 24 nostalgia while being an easy jumping-on point for anyone who has never watched the show. Exposition is given for the returning characters, but very little is needed to get into the new plot as the season (thus far) seems to be mostly stand-alone.
The second hour starts to unpeel the larger threat and sees the lovably odd and short-tempered Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) in the center of things for a bit. I’m keeping this review purposely vague, but needless to say she’s still tops with a computer and looks pretty good in her new british-punk look. Nerd fans will even get to see the newly announced cast member of Star Wars: Episode VII John Boyega as US Drone pilot Chris Tanner, who plays heavily into the central conflict of the episode.
While the action isn’t quite as big during the second hour, there’s definitely some nasty combat as well as character twists being revealed that are the trademarks that fans of the show have come to expect. The supporting cast also expands with the awesome Stephen Fry as British Prime Minister Alastair Davies and Catelyn Stark herself, Michelle Fairley, as the shadowy Margot Al-Harazi. I never realized how creepy her voice could be, but her predominantly phone-oriented role in hour two certainly sold her as menacing and I look forward to seeing more of her character.
24: Live Another Day is no doubt a momentous television event, building off a very rich history as one of the most influential shows ever to hit the airwaves. This new incarnation maybe doesn’t shake up the formula enough, providing the twists and the thrills that fans have come to love, but might not feel fresh enough for new viewers to jump into and understand what all the hype has been about. The renaissance of television the show helped create has now eclipsed the show when compared to more recent TV greats, but the first two hours of 24: Live Another Day pack enough nostalgia and action to be solid enough viewing.
24: Live Another Day premieres with a special two-hour television event Monday, May 5 at 8pm ET/10pm PT, exclusively on FOX.