In an extra blog for this week, I’m reviewing the latest series of action-oriented conspiracy thriller 24, which aired earlier this year. Spoilers for 24: Live Another Day and 24: Day 5 ahead.
For those who enjoy conspiracy thrillers, 24 is a must. All nine seasons have been pretty consistent in entertainment value, and Day 5/Season 5 is a particular highlight. That’s when they bravely killed off four main characters and one recurring character, two of those in the first episode (I’m counting Tony in that – even though his ‘death’ was retconned two seasons later). Season 5 also featured a conspiracy storyline that went all the way to the top, revealing the primary orchestrator to be none other than the President of the United States himself.
24 hasn’t been quite as strong since, but it generally doesn’t disappoint (though Season 6 was a bit of a lowlight). Live Another Day is one I did expect more from, though. Given that it came after a four year gap. (The original plan was to make a movie after Season 8 ended, but that got scrapped.)
The big changes in Live Another Day were the setting (London), no CTU (again) and some new cast members, but plot-wise it was business as usual. It could have done with something really unique for the terrorist plot. I’m not sure what, but Muslim extremists conspiring to kill the President and attack high-profile targets are things we’ve seen many times before. The terrorists were a family unit again, like the Araz family in Season 4. Characters who initially appeared innocuous were revealed as terrorists or moles. And most frustratingly, no one was listening to Jack Bauer again – even though, as usual, he turned out to be right.
Even the change of setting didn’t have much impact. There were no Brits in the main cast, and the Prime Minister, played by Stephen Fry, could have been given a much bigger role. And why a CIA branch in London? Why not MI5 itself? I know it’s an American show but I know of an MI5 agent who’s pretty big in the US. He’s called James Bond.
There were certainly plenty of highlights. While not particularly inventive, the revelation of Simone as a terrorist and CIA leader Steve Navarro as the one selling intel to China were unexpected. And given the show’s willingness to kill off its characters, I really thought President Heller had died in Wembley Stadium. The video recording trick was a great twist. These sequences showed that 24 still has moments of unpredictability.
Talking of Heller, very good choice to bring him back. William Devane is an excellent actor and always captivating in the role. Giving Heller Alzheimer’s was also an interesting development. Great to have Chloe back, too, even though very little work was done to advance her character. I appreciate that 24 is a plot-driven, not character-driven show, and I like that about it. But the main development with her – the heartbreaking death of Morris and her child – should have been given more airtime.
Freshest thing for me was finally having a female ‘big bad’. Terrorist leader Margot Al-Harazi was the first female big bad in nine seasons of 24. We had a few female villains – Nina Myers, Mandy, Dana Walsh, Sherry Palmer – but they all worked for someone else. All the principal monsters and string-pullers were men. In Live Another Day, evil Margot was at the top of the food chain, and Game of Thrones’ Michelle Fairley played her fantastically. She also got my favourite type of death for a villain – defenestration!
I did think bringing back Cheng for the season’s ‘second act’ was a bit tired. At least Jack chopped his head off so he can’t come back again. I was surprised that the 12-hour jump literally had no impact on the plot whatsoever, and was just an afterthought. They should have done the jump half-way through and had us all guessing as to what was going on. Also, while Audrey’s death was sad, killing off at least one main character a season – particularly Jack’s lovers/former lovers – is becoming a bit of a cliché on 24 in itself.
This Wednesday: A time travelling fraudster?