26 August 2014

24: Live Another Day

 24: Live Another Day

12-episode miniseries, FOX, 2014

Reviews are a comprehensive analysis of the entire aired season. Therefore, if
you haven't watched the entirety of 24: Live Another Day, read no further. 

Four years ago, I wrote extensively about the great, the terrible, and the bad of 24's eighth and then final season. 24 was a series I wholeheartedly loved from Senator David Palmer to President Allison Taylor, from Nina Meyers' betrayal to Jack Bauer's rampage of revenge and near assassination of an ex-President. It was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to the series, but with such a whirlwind of a generally bad season in Day 8, that miraculously - and thankfully - concluded on one hell of a stellar high note, it seemed there was no better time to call quits, and what better way to end it. 

And then 24: Live Another Day was announced. With a killer premise - Jack Bauer in London! - and the promise of everyone's favorite non-superhero superhuman who isn't Batman returning from exile, man, I was stoked. A 12-episode miniseries, touted out as a "event" in every bit of press around . . . excitement was building! The potential awesomeness of this compact season could be. No filler, no loose ends going nowhere, no ridiculous melodrama, and best of all, the writers would be rejuvenated with creative ideas and renewed enthusiasm!

Ultimately, what 24: Live Another Day became was more or less the same of what we've seen before.

Typically, that's not a bad thing, but with all the pre-launch press, the sameness can't help but be a bit underwhelming. There is plenty of pleasure to be taken from that, to be sure - Jack Bauer's new rogue status allows him room to do things that he otherwise wouldn't necessarily be able to under government control, and that becomes highly, highly riveting drama. But the hope was that whatever was planned for these 12 episodes would justify the return, and, in a way, spoil the spectacularly appropriate and fulfilling ending Day 8 concluded on.

Things get off with a rocky start as the opening chapter, "11:00AM - 12:00PM", fails to really capture tension. Jack is back, indeed, badass-ly maneuvering a prison escape for himself and Chloe O'Brien that is thrilling, but the build-up, not so much. Aided by a Bad Guy in the form of Margot al-Harazi who has a vendetta against President Heller (last seen in the closing minutes of Day 6 in a brutal verbal sparring exchange with Jack) and commandeers U.S. military drones to exact her revenge against him and the UK. And there's this super awesome kickass agent Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski) who's on Jack's trail, but soon becomes an ally. With Strahovski, who already has street cred as the spectacularly brutal Sarah Walker in NBC's late and great comedy series Chuck, it was a sure bet that her presence would add another layer of awesome to the proceedings. Overall, sounds pretty cool, right?

Unfortunately, those pesky subplots that was hopefully to be eliminated rear their ugly head. A mole inside CTU that propels the second subplot in a new direction! A President with a problem they're trying to keep hidden! A cool character with a sad history that's mentioned at least once per episode! The President's aid scheming behind his back! The bad guy is batshit crazy, and acts batshit crazy to their subordinates! Coupled together, these are all grievances that detract from making Live Another Day a solid installment in the series' overall pretty damn great history.  These are annoying problems that could easily have been avoided, or, at least, handled with a more delicate care.

What does work is Jack and when he's allowed to be Jack. With such a short time span to deal with, Jack's status as fugitive of the United States is dealt with a rather welcome speed, and soon becomes President Heller's only real line of defense against Margot. Making Heller President seemed like a contrivance at the beginning - and for the most part, the whole idea rather is a contrivance - but the benefits reaped by having this character in a position of power, especially one with a civilian history with Jack, is more than worth it. The early scenes between these characters as they become reacquainted are deeply rich, nuanced and compelling (as are Jack's interactions with Audrey, which is bursting with electricity and restraint). As the day progresses and a genuine feeling of trust - dare one mention it, friendship - is fostered, that's when the series really shines. Particularly "6:00PM - 7:00PM", where Heller makes a decision regarding Al-Harazi that he entrusts only Jack in executing. It's a brilliant hour of television, and portrays the Jack/Heller dynamic beautifully. 

And best of all, it results in one of the series' best lines, spoken by Heller to the CTU head, regarding Jack needing Kate Morgan's assistance in a mission:

"Jack wants her, Jack needs her, Jack gets her."

That also leads to the following hour, "7:00PM - 8:00PM", where that Rogue Jack status really gets to shine. Throughout the season, Jack's patience level has evaporated entirely, smarting off against anyone in his way, and refusing to take gruff from anyone he doesn't have to (namely, the President). It's also allowed him certain liberties, like dealing with problems any way he sees fit, as he does with Margot in one hell of a cold and amazing sequence involving large heights. The season finale, "10:00PM - 11:00AM" also features such a moment between Jack and Cheng Zei, who makes a wonderful return to the 24 after the largely misguided Day 6, to tie up another series-long storyline. The ultimate resolution between these characters didn't entirely reach the epoch of emotional intensity as it should have, given everything that's transpired between the two men, but regardless, having these two scarred characters face off again was a delight.

Chloe O'Brien's arc was less than interesting, as she removed herself from government employ and turned cyberhacker against her country, exploiting government secrets and working with a underground UK cyber operation. Her return works both as a emotional thread for Jack to hold onto, but also helps for plot purposes, as she helps solve Jack's problems all easy peasy and helps move the last subplots into place in the final episodes. Overall, however, it was probably one of the better uses of Chloe in the last handful of years, but like many things this season, failed to really resonate.

There are lots of pros and cons with this miniseries event, with more or the same, less of the new being a problem, but there were also amazing moments, like Jack's confrontations with Margot and Cheng, or Morgan's handcuffed murder of her torturer in episode 6, or the Jack-drone attack in the streets of London. Ultimately, it was an average season of 24.

In the end, the question becomes: what's the point? 24: Live Another Day didn't push as many boundaries as it should have, nor did it offer anything really fresh or exciting to really make the adventure worth it. Yes, it was beyond gratifying to have Jack Bauer back onscreen again doing his thing, but the way he came back - despite a real riveting episode or reveal here or there - just didn't reach the levels of excellence it should have.

The note the series ends on has is a frustrating one. Day 8 ended on such a poignant, beautiful note, so perfect for the character of Jack Bauer, that this new potential series ender just doesn't quite ring the same tone. Jack sacrificing his freedom for his only true friend is completely within the character of Jack Bauer, and in that sense, it's an appropriate ending, sure, but subjectively, Day 8 concluded with more resonance and power.


Screencaps from Screencapped.net.

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