It takes a long time for Jack Bauer to say anything in the premiere of 24: Live Another Day. The former CTU agent, whose day-saving missions took one awful turn after the next, is now on the lam. He has been out of sight for years, but officials have closed in on him in London, where President James Heller is about to meet with the U.K.’s prime minister. We first see Bauer turn up on a surveillance video observed by CIA agents. His face, framed by a black hoodie, is instantly familiar. A battle ensues. Bauer quickly—and some think, intentionally—loses. He is questioned by Steve Navarro, who heads up the office. Navarro points out how dire Bauer’s situation is: “They’re just going to see you as a man who snapped!” He tells Bauer that he’s going to be transferred for “enhanced interrogation.” Navarro claims he can help put a stop on that, and that he can get Bauer in touch with his daughter, Kim, who just had her second child. Bauer still won’t talk. The silence continues when he’s confronted by Kate Morgan, a semi-disgraced agent who is out to prove that she’s one of the best. She knows that Bauer put himself on their radar, and that he’s in their custody because he has other plans.
When Bauer finally does speak, we know who he’s trying to free. His former trusted colleague and pal, Chloe O’Brian, has been tortured. While Bauer has been in hiding, she joined a group of hackers and leaked tons of documents. Tension is wrought between the two for reasons that will likely become clearer as the season progresses, but they still have each other’s backs. Bauer may swoop in and rescue Chloe when she desperately needs the help, but it’s not a one-sided relationship. She can, and does, do the same for him.
After a four-year absence, 24 is back, and its return couldn’t be more welcome. It was a game-changer when it launched in 2001, and it wasn’t simply the subject matter—a rebellious federal agent takes matters into his own hands during dire situations—that made it so. It wasn’t the novelty of a TV series that ran in real-time, with 24 episodes documenting one horribly long day. It was that a network television show could rival the best action flicks, where the chase scenes and explosions only accented the immense personal drama that stuck the characters’ lives.
In 24, we had a hero whose losses were greater than his wins. By the end of the final season of the original series, Jack Bauer had lost so much—family, friends, love—that it’s only normal to wonder why he keeps getting sucked into these terrible situations. What was obvious by the last episode of the first season was that 24 was as much a tragedy as it was an action show and political thriller.
The biggest strength of 24 was, and is, the writing. Somehow, the writers managed to succinctly cram a ton of information into each season. The show never dragged, and it never felt rushed. With this new “limited series,” the writers have a bigger task at hand, with only twelve episodes to work with, and a four-year lapse since the final season of the original show. No one would expect Bauer to have four years of peace and quiet.
Essentially, Live Another Day needs to create something that will appeal to people who remember Bauer’s departure at the end of 24. It must also make sense to those who never saw the original series or didn’t follow the later seasons. And soo far, the writers are doing an excellent job.
Within the first hour, we get the gist of what happened off screen: Bauer is a wanted man, considered a terrorist by those who may soon need his help. Chloe is in deep trouble, too. James Heller, formerly the Secretary of Defense, is President, and it’s complicated. Audrey Raines, Heller’s daughter and Jack’s former love, has recovered from the incidents of the sixth season and is now married to her father’s Chief of Staff, who despises Bauer. Over at the CIA’s London office, we meet agent Kate Morgan, who is about to be transferred back to the States, presumably as punishment after her husband was caught selling information. Morgan, in many ways, resembles Bauer, and her instincts are stellar: if she sees a job that needs to be done, she won’t let bureaucratic nonsense get in her way. Authority doesn’t mean anything when she knows she’s right.
To add some weirdness to the situation, Morgan bears a resemblance to Bauer’s daughter, Kim. There’s a definite sense that she is someone who is so much like Bauer that she will become a formidable adversary. It will be interesting to see how the relationship between the two plays out over the course of the season.
As we head towards afternoon in London, we learn that James Heller’s presidency may be affected by his own serious health problem. Early in the episode, he makes a mistake in a meeting and appears confused when he is called out on it. Shortly thereafter, Chief of Staff Mark Boudreau and Audrey discuss the issue. Audrey notes that President Heller’s doctors say that he shouldn’t become “symptomatic” for another year. Further along, Heller admits that something is wrong, that this disease is taking its toll on him quickly. “It’s terrifying,” says the commander-in-chief. Without saying what exactly is afflicting him, we learn that his memory is gradually deteriorating.
But there are problems even bigger than the President’s health here: in true 24 fashion, there is word of a potential assassination attempt. For Bauer, Chloe, the CIA agents and the President and his staff, this is going to be one hell of a day. While all this is going on, drone pilot Chris Tanner realizes that someone has hacked into his system. He cannot control the drone, and it’s heading towards troops in Afghanistan. He tries to warn them, but it’s no use, and both American and British lives are lost. This is exceedingly bad given that the President is in London meeting with the Prime Minister and has been greeted by protesters. President Heller wants to be up front with Prime Minister Alastair Davies, and is advised otherwise.
Tanner is now in serious trouble. Try as he might, he cannot convince his superiors that there is a hacker at large. The young pilot is now trapped in a situation that so many others in the 24 universe must handle. He’s considered a criminal when he isn’t. He knows that there is a much graver situation at hand, but those around him refuse to look deeper into the problem. Back in London, Bauer is in pursuit of Derek Yates, who he suspects is the hacker ready to turn a drone on the President. At the same time, the CIA is in pursuit of Bauer.
All of this comes together in the final hour of the premiere. Of course, no one gets their guy, and this is where Chloe ultimately comes to Jack’s rescue. Yates succumbs to an unexpected foe in a gruesome fashion and we quickly learn that his boss, Margot Al-Harazi, and her daughter are the ruthless foes.
It’s a lot to digest for a season premiere, but that’s how 24 works; there are no calms before storms, now “wait for it” moments. You just have to dive into the show and keep up with the current.