24: Live Another Day





Paul Asay

TV Series Review

And you think you’ve got it bad.

For years, Jack Bauer diligently served the Los Angeles-based Counter Terrorism Unit, saving the world on a seasonal basis. It was a hard and dangerous job—one that often seemed to require him to work for 24 hours straight.

Then pretty much everyone he cared for got killed. And he was thrown out on his ear (several times, if memory serves), eventually branded a terrorist himself by the very government he’d sacrificed so much for. By the time 24: Live Another Day reopens his wounds, Jack’s been off the grid for four years. And that’s a long time to not update your Facebook profile.

Now, despite America’s refusal to give the guy a nice hero’s medal and a cushy government pension, Jack still wants to help. So with a shadowy assassination cartel hoping to take down President James Heller while he’s visiting London, Jack pops out of hiding, springs longtime helpmate Chloe from a CIA black site and flies into action once again—a little older, a little more fatalistic (if that’s possible) but still just as willing and able to bash a few kneecaps (and brains) if he must.

When Fox first unveiled  24 in the wake of 9/11 (the first episode aired just two months after the terrorist attacks), it was hailed as one of the most revolutionary shows on television. Its real-time conceit (each season examined a single day in Jack Bauer’s harried life, dispensed in 24 one-hour episodes) was like nothing ever seen. Its split-screen motifs and ticking clock became show trademarks. And while 24 was not always great television (despite winning a bevy of Emmys, including one for Best Drama in 2006), it was reliably riveting and helped, some say, pave the way for what’s now being called television’s Golden Age. (24 showrunner Howard Gordon went on to help develop the much-lauded series  Homeland for Showtime.)

Jack Bauer, then, isn’t just one of television’s most recognizable characters, he’s practically a folk hero. As noted in my review of the original series, he’s even been called a Christ figure. And on one level, it makes sense: Jack is a guy who has sacrificed everything to save others.

But on many others, the comparison falls flat. The significance of Christ’s work on the cross was that a blameless man took on our sins to save us. Jack, conversely, does our sinning for us. He’s willing to do anything and everything to keep the country safe—and practically has. He’ll lie, cheat, hurt and murder. He’s not so much an antihero as a damned hero, haunting his own hell for the betterment of others. “There’s no going back for me,” he solemnly intones.

Jack is not a good person. He’d never claim to be. And the fact that he’s willing to get his hands dirty (and that his enemies do the same) inevitably sullies the television screen. People are tortured and shot and stabbed and choked and die. Blood falls (this time on the streets of London) like an English spring rain.

No surprise that critics of 24 have long decried its violence and reliance on torture to tell its tale. Jack alone has killed between 266 and 270 people in eight sequential seasons. Given that this new incarnation of the show has been condensed into 12 episodes rather than 24 (presumably to eliminate the need for some of the more outlandish plot twists the show became infamous for), it seems likely that the mayhem will likewise be condensed, not diffused.

We can all be glad we’re not Jack Bauer. He’s asked to do horrible things to some admittedly horrible people. And as the years have gone on, we can see the toll that he’s suffered because of it all. You simply can’t do what he’s done and not be changed by it. Scarred by it.

And, I suppose, the same could be said of watching it, too.

Episode Reviews

24-Live-Another-Day: 5-5-2014

“11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.” and “12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m.”

Jack pops back on the grid, rescues onetime co-worker Chloe and begins working to foil an assassination attempt on President James Heller.

And so we’ll get right down to it: Someone’s stabbed in the temple with a knife; bleeding to death on a bathroom floor, the hole and blood clearly visible. A throat gets slashed. People are shot and killed. Some are merely knocked unconscious or repeatedly stabled. His hands still cuffed, Jack chokes a CIA agent into unconsciousness. A hijacked drone kills a military contingent. Gun battles lead to bigger explosions. A guard is Tasered.

U.S. operatives are responsible for a torture scene featuring Chloe being injected with a drug that makes her scream in pain. Jack jabs a huge needle full of adrenaline into her chest.

A seductress bares her belly and cleavage; she wears a short skirt and fishnet-like stockings. She kisses her paramour and sits on his lap. When she walks in on him in the men’s bathroom, he says, “You love doing it in public places, don’t you?” Another couple kisses.

We see bundles of heroin. Good guys lie, mislead, threaten people and steal a car. Characters say “b‑‑tard,” “b‑‑ch,” “d‑‑n,” “h‑‑‑,” “a‑‑” and “bloody.” God’s name is misused a half-dozen or more times.

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Paul Asay
Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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