Jack is back! After a forgettable sixth season, last year’s Washington-set Day 7 was a brilliant, thrilling return to form for the real-time action series. Last night, 24 returned to Sky1 HD for the first two hours of Day 8, this time located in the city of New York.
The rest of this post, and all the others after each week’s episodes, will contain spoilers if you’ve not watched yet.
The episode begins with a series of shootings around New York. One man escapes, and makes his way to find Jack Bauer, who is with his granddaughter Terri (named after his wife), who we saw as a younger baby at the end of Day 7. She calls him Jack, because he doesn’t look like a granddad, and as he happily watches Fox News (what else would Jack watch?) and talks on the phone with daughter Kim about going with them to Los Angeles, it’s clear that for the first time in a long time, everything is sweetness and light in the world of Jack Bauer. He’s retired and he’s happy. Until, that is, the man we’d just seen arrives at his apartment. He turns out to be a contact Jack had in the undercover Salazar operation back at the start of Day 3, and he tells him there’s going to be a hit on President Hassan.
Hassan (played by Anil Kapoor, the gameshow host in Slumdog Millionaire) is the charismatic leader of an unnamed Middle Eastern country, refered to as the Islamic Republic, which seems to be a slightly messy amalgam of Iran (with it’s nuclear ambitions) and Palestine (mention of a “two-state solution”). He’s at the United Nations to negotiate a ground-breaking peace deal with President Taylor, who is still in power and still has her trusty Secretary of State Ethan by her side. What most people, except for Hassan’s brother, don’t know is that his marriage has failed and he is more interested in a blonde American reporter, Meredith Reed.
Jack calls Chloe, who is the only familiar face in CTU New York, to warn her about the attack. The new CTU building, which appears to be underground, is ever so slick. It seems that most of the money being poured into the war on terror is being spent on designer furniture, enormous video walls and fancy sliding doors. Chloe puts the call through to the new director of CTU, Brian Hastings, and of course, as usual for the people at the top, he doesn’t believe him at first. Finally he remembers the first rule of CTU – Jack’s always right – and asks field agent Cole Ortiz (played by Freddie Prinze Jr.) to bring him in on chopper.
While waiting, Jack’s and his informant Victor are found by some New York cops, and there soon follows a shoot out as they’re chased by, well, the bad guys. Jack gets away by doing something tremendously badass with a fire axe, and Jack manages to bundle his contact onto the helicopter, and walks away, reminding Ortiz that he’s retired. Suddenly, a rocket is fired from another rooftop, blowing up the helicopter, with Victor telling Jack with his dying breath that there’s someone on the inside, someone close to Hassan.
Of course, we think we know who that person is, the reporter Meredith who has been looking shifty all episode and fits the archetype of the typical 24 femme fatale. And CTU agrees, after finding some dodgy files on her laptop. Chloe, however, finds it all too convenient and quick, but nobody believes her because for some reason they think she’s slow (boo!). Chloe, of course, is completely right, as we discover that the mole is really Hassan’s brother, who we see talking to the big bad guy whose name is, seriously, Davros. He’s played by Doug Hutchison who fans of Lost would recognise as DHARMA mathematician Horace Goodspeed, but without his hippy hair. Of course, being 24, we know he’s not really the big bad guy, who we probably won’t see for another 12 hours.
There’s a little side plot with Cole’s fiance Dana (Katee Sackhoff, Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica), a CTU analyst who gets a phone call from someone who says her real name is Jenny. It seems she has a secret, mysterious past which will no doubt catch up with her as the hours tick by.
While Meredith is being questioned in a very fancy new interrogation room, Chloe asks Jack to help with the hunch she has about them having the wrong person. He refuses, wanting to go to LA with his family and enjoy his retirement, but when Kim arrives, she tells him to stay and help. Not for the first time, it looks like Jack’s going rouge, working without the knowledge of CTU and Chloe secretly helping. But then they discover him in the armory, Jack threatens to tell Hasting’s superiors about how he ignored Cole’s concerns before the attack on the helicopter, and he’s allowed to pursue his investigations. What’s more, they’re so unimpressed by Chloe that they’re more than happy to let her help Jack, just to get her out of the way. Little do they know!
The episode ends with Davros (still can’t get over that name, just waiting for the moment he says he wants to exterminate Hassan!) being revealed as a policeman assigned to provide security at the United Nations. When his “friend” says he can’t swap shifts with him, he takes his wife hostage and forces him to call in, so that he can be there to carry out the attack.
After some very explosive starts to recent seasons, it’s nice to see the show go back to basics, with an assassination plot, as was the case back in the first season. It might be a shiny new CTU, but some things are the same as ever – you don’t know who to trust except Chloe, the top brass are always idiots, and Jack Bauer is always right. The first two hours of Day 8 had lots of good twists and turns and even after all these years it still knows how to pull a few unexpected things out of the bag.
If there’s anything to criticise, bearing in mind that any fan of 24 knows it’s flaws and knows to ignore or indeed embrace them, some of the outdoor scenes looked a little off. In particular, the shots outside of the United Nations seemed to have been shot on small handheld HD cameras, as opposed to the usual 35mm film, giving a cheap, overexposed look. I can only guess that they didn’t have permission to do a full film shoot on that particularly sensitive location, and instead had to get their shots with a very small crew. If, however, this was a purely stylistic decision, then it was definitely a bad one.
Overall, though, there was much to enjoy in these opening two hours and it looks like, once again, it’s going to be a very exciting 24 hours.